After many COVID related delays , TABMA Australia at last hosted their first National Conference in a very long time, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

In what has been the most difficult year in recent memory for many of us, TABMA and their sponsors really wanted to provide an opportunity for the industry to come together in celebration and we really want to thank them for their generosity in making this happen.

Belated birthday celebrations, learning how to understand Gen Z, timber supply industry forum, recognising industry icons as well as trainees and apprentices, the conference was jam packed.

‘We started planning the conference in 2019 and was due to launch in March 2020 but we all know what happened then. We crossed our fingers and ran with June this year, and boy were we lucky!’ reports TABMA’s CEO David Little.

The conference kicked off on the Wednesday evening on the lawn of Oaks Cypress Lakes under pretty lights and a few rain clouds, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. There were delegates from NSW, QLD, and a few very determined Victorians and what a pleasure it was to finally get to see each other face to face.

The evening was very casual, focussed on catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. The next morning everyone gathered around the coffee cart waiting for the conference doors to open.  The day kicked off with a welcome from TABMA’s President Peter Hutchison, followed by another welcome from the CEO David Little and a quick speech via video from the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business the Hon Stuart Robert MP.

The Conference program was packed with informative speakers including the keynote speaker Claire Madden, who was able to give an insight into the next generation entering the workforce, Gen Z and delegates walked away with tips on how to manage and better understand the generation.

Other speakers included Jason Howes discussing sales technologies, TABMA’s WHS Officer Dean Wilson discussing the importance of WHS inductions and how to successfully implement them into the workplace. Gow Gates discussed tips for navigating the insurance market, Briana Graydon from Pink Cow Social discussed the effectiveness of social media and how to use it in the business and WorkSafe NSW made a presentation also.

For many the highlight of the conference was the facilitated panel discussion about the timber supply shortage. The panel was made up of delegates from ADM Global, Tilling Timber, Hyne Timber, Belmont Timber and NCI discussed the state of the industry currently, what challenges are around the corner and suggestions of how we can move forward and what TABMA can do to assist the industry.  TABMA looks forward to working with industry associations and keeping members informed as they follow through on the suggestions made in this session.

After a really great productive discussion, the program moved to the last speaker of the day, Justin ‘Jonesy’ Jones, who left all the delegates inspired and motivated to tackle current challenges in their own businesses.  Most of us have experienced a number of motivational speakers, but Jonesy was truly special.

Ending the day was TABMA’s annual Gala Dinner. This one was particularly important as TABMA introduced an inaugural new category in which they recognised industry icons. The first to be recognised and needed no introduction, Norm and Judy Tilling.   We were so grateful they were able to attend the dinner and the audience all joined in a standing ovation. Norm and Judy had the delegates laughing as they said a few words. Norm thanked the industry which has been their lives. They thanked their suppliers who have supported them, their customers, and their people.

Next to be recognised was the Hyne Family. This family business has been well known throughout the timber industry for approaching 140 years, and it was really special to see Sam Hyne (sixth generation) accept the recognition on behalf of his family. Sam said ‘It is an honour for the Hyne Family and (he is) very proud to be representing the family and its people. The heart of Hyne is it’s people.’

The final industry icon to be recognised John Walker who was Director of Belmont Timber up until the day he passed away at the age of 91. His son Gary Walker said a few words. ‘John was a wonderful man and mentor. We worked together for 30 years’. John was awarded the Order of Australia in 1996 for services to the Australian building industry.

TABMA also presented their Andrew Bone TABMA Member of the Year. This was awarded to Swadlings Timber and Hardware, a founding member of TABMA and have been members for 81 years, using many services.  

Danny Gattone accepted the award and reminded everyone in the room about the importance of industry associations and encouraged to the delegates to support the industry associations to have a collective voice. ‘TABMA has been a part of our growth and prosperity over the years’ said Danny ‘and it is a privilege to accept the award.’

Final proceedings for the evening were TABMA’s trainee and apprentice of the year.  This is always a difficult award to pick a winner, and TABMA is confident the industry is in safe hands with the next generation coming through. Trainee of the Year went to Rachel Leicht from ForestOne VIC and Apprentice of the Year went to Timothy Gillies of Artarmon Joinery, NSW.

Friday morning the Women in Forest and Timber Network (WFTN) met. TABMA members have approached TABMA to support WFTN in Sydney and the morning tea at the conference was a workshop to discuss what members would like to get out of the group and how to move forward. Members of Brisbane and Melbourne’s WFTN were also in attendance and shed light on what has been successful through the network for its members.

 Some lucky delegates that were keen to stay a little longer were treated to some of the fun activities that the Hunter has to offer which included day spa, golf and a very satisfactory wine, distillery and cheese and chocolate factory tour.

The TABMA Team are grateful to the sponsors who sponsored the event, and all the delegates that gave up their time to attend in tough times. By all accounts, the conference was a tremendous success and delegates are already looking forward to the next one!

Alicia Oelkers

General Manager Membership

TABMA Australia

Gold Sponsors