“Established in 1988 primarily in response to the dissatisfaction of Australian Defence Force members who were seeking out appropriate housing options, Defence Housing Australia (DHA) is now an industry leader in both quality and innovation. Supported by nearly twelve thousand investors while receiving approximately five hundred investor enquiries monthly, DHA has developed a strong reputation as a provider of good quality homes for members of the Australian Defence Force and their families.
DHA engages with a wide variety of construction industry-specific organisations such as the Urban Development Institute of Australia, the Planning Institute of Australia, the Master Builders Association of Australia, the Housing Industry Association and the Real Estate Institute of Australia.
As a Government Business Enterprise responsible for providing adequate and appropriate housing for Australian Defence Force members, DHA operates via three main activities: purchasing properties outright, leasing properties from owners, and building and developing new properties. Each year, DHA receives a rolling forecast of housing needs from the Department of Defence so that it might plan out its future purchases, leases, and construction activities in each region for the next four to five years. Approximately two thousand new leases are commissioned each year.
Funding for these various activities is provided through DHA’s sale and leaseback program, whereby investors are afforded the opportunity to purchase properties managed by DHA, to be leased as Defence housing. The company typically aims to strike a lease agreement with its investors for a period of ten years, which is sometimes extended to fifteen or even twenty.
“We’re a very unique organisation,” comments Peter Howman, Chief Operating Officer of DHA. With a national scope to its business, DHA is largely immune to many of the issues which affect developers at the local or state level. “If the construction or the housing market is not so good in a particular area… but we’re still required to deliver housing there, we can do that because we may have houses in our portfolio in other states such as Queensland where the industry is going very well.” DHA can then balance out its portfolio by selling properties in the more lucrative markets.
In this way, Peter Howman says DHA doesn’t see itself in competition with developers, despite currently holding well over a billion dollars in development projects. Most typically, DHA only engages in development projects in areas where not enough retail land is available to meet its specific requirements at the time.
“It ebbs and flows, depending on the market at the time,” explains Mr Howman. “Post-GFC, a lot of developers are finding it difficult to get funding to finish their developments, so consequently we’ve had to step into the market.”
Being a Government Business Enterprise, DHA must operate in a commercially active way. As such, it aims to provide housing using the best commercial practices not only so that it may deliver a quality product for both its clients and its investors, but also to provide satisfactory shareholder returns.
“We try wherever possible to engage with local suppliers and contractors. We feel it’s important for us to do that because the locals prove time and again to be absolutely invaluable with the specific knowledge that they have. They understand the regional and the local planning guidelines and the community expectations. When we deliver a development, we’re delivering it into a community and we want that community to take ownership of the whole development.”
This community appreciation arises out of the organisation itself, as emphasised by Mr Howman, who says: “The organisation really hinges around our people. We have what we think is a very good workplace culture and a very strong focus on work health and safety. They are motivated, engaged employees who like coming to work – that’s important for us.”
All DHA staff work under the Australian Public Service Act and so are public servants although the majority have heralded from industry, which enables the DHA to harness those essential practical skills. Says Mr Howman, “It’s a good way to actually get that mix where people come from industry and join DHA, spend some time with DHA and get to understand how the government works. So we get a good cross flow and pollination of staff and ideas.”
DHA offers a variety of professional development opportunities for its staff so they may keep abreast of the current issues affecting the industry. Working for DHA also offers a very wide range of job opportunities within the construction, development, and real estate industries.
Explains Mr Howman, “We’ve got a fairly large property management business where we manage nearly nineteen thousand properties, and then of course we’ve got a sales program where we raise around three hundred and fifty million dollars per annum. Overall, it’s quite a complex business, so it’s a great company for those who want to get in right across the breadth of the housing industry.”
“It is very difficult and challenging to orchestrate, but I think that’s why we are able to attract staff into our business – because of the coordination and the interaction between the different businesses. It’s quite an exciting and dynamic business, because the challenges that you face in the Northern Territory, for example, are different than those you face in Adelaide or Sydney or Melbourne, and you’ve got to be dealing with all of these issues simultaneously.”
Affordability is one of the big challenges affecting the housing sector as a whole. Across the nation, retail land is scarce and the time it takes in planning and rezoning brings up the costs. To succeed in the face of these challenges, DHA is aiming to develop innovative cost-effective construction methods.
“Our main aim is pretty simple – it’s to provide high quality sustainable housing that meets the needs of the Australian Defence Force. We want to be leaders in the housing industry, and part of why we say that is because the volume of what we build and the type of clients that we have provides us with the ability to assist the whole industry with moving forward using some of the newer innovations. We spend a lot of time and energy looking into modern architecture and design functions that really push the envelope of the standard housing and development construction of today.”
Article was sourced from Australian Construction Focus Online, http://www.australianconstructionfocus.com.au/index.php/2012/04/05/defence-housing-australia-2/
A Few Interesting Points About This Article:
There are a few interesting things revealed in this exert, listed below
– They mentioned that they can build in any area as “If the construction or the housing market is not so good in a particular area… but we’re still required to deliver housing there, we can do that because we may have houses in our portfolio in other states such as Queensland where the industry is going very well.”
– This means, ideally, that you will be sure there is a constant level of employment in a firm such as this, and also a steady level of advancement capability. This makes it an ideal company to work for, with steady and rewarding jobs.
– They also stated “We spend a lot of time and energy looking into modern architecture and design functions that really push the envelope of the standard housing and development construction of today.”
– The work is obviously new and ‘different’ as seen in this quote, so construction for the defense force is not really as dull as it first may seem (you aren’t even given orders!).
This next article is more to do with a traditional construction and engineering firm. The interesting thing is that this firm combines engineering and construction to deliver “the whole package” as they say. Still note though, that both engineers and construction workers need to complete their white card courses online! Check it out below:
“Brunton Engineering and Construction Pty Ltd was founded in 1996 to service industrial organisations with specialised civil engineering requirements. Building on proprietor Geoff Brunton’s extensive industrial and engineering background, the company aims to provide a complete structural, civil and mechanical engineering, design, implementation, manufacturing and project management capability. Operating from a modern office and factory complex in Somerton on Melbourne’s northern fringe, Brunton Engineering is strategically situated in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, close to all major highway connections.
Geoff told us that Brunton Engineering’s core advantage is the fact that “we can do the civil work and the mechanical work. You have got a combination of talents and experience that can look after the complete project.” This means a client does not have to engage first a builder, then a mechanical contractor, and then an electrician or plumber. “We can do the whole show.” Brunton Engineering carries out a lot of factory relocation work. “In the past we have done a lot of relocations of machinery and plant and the refurbishing of sites to prepare for a move.”
The company has an extremely useful brochure for clients who want it to prepare for a move. Geoff says it’s all about the little things – no-one ever gets a move 100 per cent correct but taking account of less obvious but nevertheless important items makes the move go smoother. He recounts a tale of a client who had failed to notice that his new premises featured gates too narrow for semitrailers to enter. Other tips that one might expect to be taken into account (but often aren’t) include making sure the fire regulations are in order and that there is sufficient power, gas, water and compressed air. “Sometimes it is the most obvious thing that no one looks at, but usually it is not the big things that get messed up but the little things, and no matter how many times you do it there is still something that will go wrong, I can assure you.”
As you can see, this article demonstrates the more classic issues that clients have with projects, and details exactly what it is that their construction workers and engineers do. One more interesting thing about choosing this company type for employment is that it incorporates a lot of teamwork into the processes as they state “we can do the civil work and the mechanical work. You have got a combination of talents and experience that can look after the complete project.” The combination of talents would make this an interesting work environment, but the employment might not be as constant as those working for a defense construction firm. There will always be a need for the defense forces, but civil and mechanical engineering is a volatile industry!
Before you can even START applying for jobs in any of these firms, you first need to go online and apply for white card online, to get your oh&s white card. This will allow you on any site in Australia, and is very crucial for construction.
As a final note, another industry that you might want to look into in Australia is the mining industry where there is a reasonable skill shortage. You might have to travel a bit but I’m sure it would pay off. Check out the video below on it: it’s a bit old but it still applies.