qldwater Awards

qldwater Young Operator of the Year and Operator of the Year – Civil/All-Rounder 

qldwater is proud to sponsor the Young Operator of the Year and Operator of the Year (Civil) awards to recognise the outstanding operational performance of Queensland water industry employees. The 2023 winners were announced at the 47th WIOA Queensland Water Industry Operations Conference & Exhibition held at the University of Southern Queensland – USQ Stadium in Sippy Downs on 19 & 20 July 2023.

Young Operator of the Year

The 2023 Young Operator of the Year is Mitchell Gormley from North Burnett Regional Council (NBRC).

Mitchell has grown to become a much-valued member of the team at NBRC. Mitch completed his traineeship nine months early, showing great drive and aptitude for the role and associated learnings.

Indeed, Mich went further to explore additional areas of interest and will shortly embark on another qualification to further develop his skills and knowledge.

At work Mitch has initiated improvement measures, providing useful feedback, asking thought provoking questions and undertaking extra research without instruction, leaving his manager with no hesitation in nominating him for this award. 

Another impressive example cited by managers, was Mitch’s ability to determine the reason for falling plant performance as early ageing of lamellar settling due to exposure to UV radiation. In carrying out investigations, using information gathered from previous WIOA conferences and trade shows, Mitch arranged quotes and fitting of the replacement parts and improved plant performance.

Operators at NBRC work across all aspects of water, wastewater and networks, requiring prioritisation of workloads and application of their own initiative to get the most pressing and valuable work done. 

Mitch balances those needs with excellent customer service which manifests in direct interactions with customers and ensuring work sites are always left safe on completion. Mitch’s relationship to the local community is further evidenced in his work as an Assistant Scout Leader.

The runner up for 2023 was Anthea Fernando from Redland City Council, who holds the position of Process Engineer and is currently undertaking her Certificate III in Water Industry Operations, having been with the Council now for one year.

The judges were particularly impressed with Anthea’s efforts to look widely across improvement of all processes and operating procedures at all the Council’s facilities, playing an active and supportive part in team roles. 

We congratulate Mitch and Anthea for the recognition they have received from their managers, and especially Mitch as our Young Operator of the Year for 2023. Mitch received a trophy and a professional development trip worth approximately $2,500.

We encourage all organisations to recognise their people for these prestigious awards next year.

Operator of the Year (Civil / Allrounder)

The very worthy recipient of the 2023 Queensland Operator of the Year (Civil / Allrounder) Award is John Sebasio, Senior Operator from Veolia Water

John embodies so many of the principles and work ethic that set our industry sector apart from others. From demonstrated attention to Occupational Health and Safety and other regulatory responsibilities, initiative and innovation to improve operations, overall customer service focus and continued education and training achievement, John stood out in all elements.

John developed a minor capital works program to bring the local Water Treatment Plant (WTP) back to nameplate production rate, thereby ensuring continued supply at a sufficient rate to five local communities in the Northern Peninsula Area. 

He also regularly identified and implemented safety improvements across the plant and network. For example, John eliminated the need for confined space access to reservoir valve pits through modifications to the lids by drilling access holes to enable the valve wrench to be operated from above the pit. 

Due to the remote location and nature of the plant, John demonstrates continuous innovation in the delivery of work - managing extremely limited resources (both people and materials) in a remote and often difficult to access region. John takes personal responsibility and often performs critical, out of hours repairs, assuring continuity of supply and water quality for the community. 

John also manages the challenges associated with the availability of trained and competent contractors and resources, cultural impacts on water use and distribution, and balancing community perceptions of the water network with regulatory and operational requirements. 

John single handedly operated the Bamaga Water Treatment Plant and network for a period of 6 months, maintaining a safe water supply throughout the period while managing significant water quality incidents, a regular occurrence during annual heavy rainfall at the start of the wet season which causes very high turbidity and colour in feed water with potential to compromise disinfection processes. This can be managed through significant effort in manual sampling and disinfection of reservoirs.

John also took responsibility for repairing fire hydrants at the NPA hospital. His prompt actions ensured that the fire safety infrastructure remained intact and functional, providing a safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors.

Outside of work John runs weekly gym training sessions for the community, volunteers at cultural festivals and other community events, coaches local basketball and rugby teams and operates as a community health advocate and role model for remote, indigenous community members. John received a trophy and a professional development trip worth approximately $2,500.

Watch this great short video about the integration of John and the Veolia Water team in the local community - demonstrating the continuing and important connection to water through the lens of a local NPA man and a passionate water treatment operator: Bamaga’s Water - A Veolia Story.

qldwater TRG Industry Contribution Awards 

Three awards were presented at the 2023 qldwater Annual Forum to recognise outstanding contributions to the Queensland Urban Water and Sewerage industry.

The qldwater Government Stakeholder Contribution Award went to Chris Mooney from the Department of Environment and Science. Chris is a longtime supporter of the Directorate through her involvement in regular informal meetings with the Directorate, and more formally through involvement in SWEAP. She can lay claim to being the “most capped” government stakeholder to participate in qldwater’s Water Connections Tour to regional and remote communities, with 5 trips under her belt commencing in 2015. Despite not being able to attend the past two tours, she has been an enthusiastic supporter of the tour, resulting in three representatives from her Department attending in 2023. Through her involvement in SWEAP Chris is willing to front up every three months for a grilling from SWEAP members. This sort of engagement is deeply appreciated by the sector, where fostering good working relationships between the regulator and the industry are a cornerstone of effective regulation.

The qldwater Industry Recognition Award went to Terry Fagg, Water Treatment Principal at Western Downs Regional Council. Terry has been a strong supporter of qldwater, always ready to share his experience and knowledge whether at local schools or through our Fundamentals and Essentials Webinar Series where he has delivered presentations on a wide range of topics from media filter backwashing, chlorine disinfection, E.coli testing, jar testing, pumping fundamentals and enhanced coagulation in practice. Terry is also a valued member of our Strategic Priorities Group.

The 2023 Supplier Contribution Award went to Zak Floyde Smith, Products and Service Manager at Aquatec Maxcon. Go to any water industry event in Australia or New Zealand and you will more than likely find Zak there. Zak has been a steady and active supporter of qldwater, supporting our regional events, as a QLD Committee member for the AWA and on the Water Industry Operators Association of Australia Queensland Advisory Committee. Zak is responsible for educating the market about innovative new technologies like Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactors to biologically reduce nutrients from wastewater. He is valued for his interest in promoting fit for purpose solutions for smaller and remote locations, an interest that is greatly appreciated by the sector. Always keen to share his views and experience with qldwater staff and members, Zak deserves a big pat on the back for a job well done.

Other Industry Awards

A number of other organisations offer awards that celebrate the achievements of the Queensland urban water industry and qldwater encourages members to submit nominations. qldwater is happy to provide assistance with your nomination(s), please contact Neil Holmes on skills@qldwater.com.au or 3632 6850.

Australian Water Association Awards

The AWA offers awards at both state and national levels that recognise outstanding achievements in a range of industry and individual categories. Awards are open to AWA members only. 

Details and conditions of entry for the 2023 Queensland Water Awards is available online at https://www.awa.asn.au/awards. Winners are announced at the Queensland Water Awards Gala Dinner and go on to compete in the National Awards which are announced each year at the Ozwater Gala Dinner.

Award Categories include:

Individual Awards
  • Water Professional of the Year
  • Young Water Professional of the Year Award
  • Student Water Prize
  • Regional Service Award (State based award only & nominated by the QLD Committee)
  • Distinguished Service Award (State based award only & nominated by the QLD Committee)
  • QLD Operator of the Year for 2020 will be announced at the WIOA Conference in June
Organisational Awards
  • Infrastructure Project Innovation Award
  • Infrastructure Project Innovation Award (Servicing under 250,000 end users)
  • Infrastructure Project Innovation Award (Servicing over 250,000 end users)
  • Program Innovation Award
  • Program Innovation Award (Servicing under 250,000 end users)
  • Program Innovation Award (Servicing over 250,000 end users)
  • Research Innovation Award

For more information visit the AWA website.

IPWEAQ Excellence Awards

The Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia Queensland (IPWEAQ) annual awards program places a spotlight on the projects and people who deliver exceptional outcomes for Queensland communities.

Nominations open in March and close in July 2023. Winners are announced at the Gala Awards Ceremony and Dinner to be held on the Gold Coast - details to be confirmed. 

Award Categories include:

Project Awards
  • Innovation
  • Projects under $1 million
  • Projects under $2 million
  • Projects $2 million to $5 million
  • Projects $5 million to $10 million
  • Projects over $10 million
  • Asset Management
  • Environment and Sustainability 
  • Innovation & Sustainability in Water - projects under $5 million
  • Innovation & Sustainability in Water - projects over $5 million
People Awards
  • Engineer of the Year
  • Woman in Engineering
  • Young Engineer of the Year
  • Team Member of the Year (non-engineers and includes Supervisors, Works Officers and other support staff)
  • President’s Award – chosen by President
  • Futures Challenge – chosen by delegates

For more information visit the IPWEAQ website