Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Opportunities

Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Opportunities

Scholarship Recipient Reflects on Opportunities
Date: 15-Jul-2021

Elizabeth (Liz) O’Chin from Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council was recently awarded a qldwater Scholarship, through the Queensland Water Regional Communities Innovations Program (QWRCIP) to cover her costs of attending the 45th WIOA QLD Water Industry Operations Conference & Exhibition in Toowoomba and a visit to Toowoomba Regional Council’s Pechey Water Treatment Plant. Thank you to Toowoomba Regional Council for kindly showing Liz around. Here Liz reflects on her visit:

"I started working for Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council (CASC) in 2017 as a Trainee Receptionist. I had been with CASC for just over 3 years when other positions were becoming vacant within our organisation. I thought this was my chance to progress further in my career, and I am now an Assistant to CASC’s Operations Manager (Civil Engineer) - Darren Lonergan.

In my time as an assistant, I have seen the issues our council faces with maintaining our water and sewage treatment plants. I attempted to assist our Water Operators in any way that I could, starting with basic administration tasks and data entry. On occasions I go out with our operators to the testing sites and observe, and I have also completed various training courses and attend meetings with Qld Health, Contractors etc.

I enjoy helping the team and started to ask about how I can become a water operator. My employer was happy to assist and I am starting a Certificate III in Water Industry Operations. I will be attending my first block of training in Cairns in August 2021.

When I heard that I had received a scholarship to attend the 45th WIOA Qld Water Industry Operations Conference & Exhibition, I was nervous but excited that I was given the opportunity to get an insight into the Water Industry. Although a lot of the information was over my head, I found it quite interesting.

The keynote address presented by Ms. Narelle D’Amico (Bundaberg Regional Council); “What’s Culture change got to do with operators?” was close to home. Half our water team are less than 5 years away from retirement and our CEO, Chatur Zala (since Dec 2019) has openly expressed CASC’s culture and how things need to change moving forward.

I enjoyed Kent Weeden and Ben Pennell’s (Gold Coast Water) presentation, “Raising the profile of a frontline field operator, the struggle, triumphs and everything in between”. I see it with our field workers in the Operations department. My frontline experience has only been as a receptionist and hospitality worker, but I feel that they are similar in the way that the public view and treat us.

The exhibits, just like the information sessions, were a little advanced for me.  One that I do remember taking notice of was an automatic Turbidity tester. I think it was the ‘Aqua Master’ by Prodetec, I can’t recall its exact function, but I thought that it would be useful device to have at any Water Treatment Plant in that it measures and records almost everything you need in water testing e.g. turbidity, pH, temperature etc.

There was a paper called “Enter the Matrix: Using virtual reality and 360-degree video to improve stakeholder engagement”. I don’t know if there was an exhibit but I think that virtual reality is a very efficient tool in water treatment. Our Council’s pipelines are pretty old and with the current upgrade to our WTP, having virtual reality or 360-degree videos would have been a significant benefit in contractors being able to see what they were actually working with. 

My visit to the Pechey WTP was at the least remarkably interesting. I was very warmly welcomed by the Toowoomba Region’s Water team who were very pleasant and supportive. Jared (Pechey Water Treatment Operator) was my tour guide and has great knowledge on Water Treatment Operations. I remember Jared saying that one of the reasons he entered the Water Industry is to feel like he is making a difference in the community. This stuck to me because that is all I ever wanted; to know that I making a positive difference in my community.

Attending the 45th WIOA Qld Water Industry Operations Conference & Exhibition and my visit to the water treatment plant has just made me want to push myself and I am so excited to start my Certificate III in Water Industry Operations. If there were any doubts about starting a career in The Water Industry, they are now distant memories. 

I would like to show my appreciation to qldwater, Toowoomba Regional Council and Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council for allowing me these opportunities and look forward to being more involved in the Water Industry in the future." 

Image below: Liz O'Chin with operators from Toowoomba Regional Council's Pechey Water Treatment Plant.

Feature image: qldwater CEO Dave Cameron, Carlie Sargent, Liz O'Chin and Rob Fearon at the WIOA Conference.

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