In May 2019 Scott Johnson, North Shore Plumbing Group’s Director of Business Development, and apprentice Chris, together with a few helpful volunteers, travelled to far west NSW to complete a community project at Menindee Central School.
Menindee is a small town located on the Darling River with a population of approximately 500 people. Due to its rural location and small population, Menindee has a high unemployment rate and the local school, Menindee Central School, used to have issues with low Year 12 completion rates.
In 2010, the principal of Menindee Central School had the idea of converting two reclaimed train carriages into a motel and restaurant. They called this project ‘Minintitja’ and it would provide funds for the school as well as an opportunity for students and the wider community to gain valuable hospitality and tourism skills. Since then attendance and Year 12 graduate rates have increased and Minintitja has been able to attract tourists and inject money back into the local economy. However as time has gone by the facilities have begun to age.
Scott’s wife has regularly been involved in excursions to Menindee with Killara High School, and after visiting himself, Scott wanted to help. The Menindee Central School had already started raising funds to upgrade the train’s facilities with the help of some sister schools. After learning more about what they were trying to achieve, Scott decided he wanted to join the initiative.
After speaking with the community and coming up with a plan of action Scott reached out to a few local businesses and friends. He was able to secure a $15,000 Reece Plumbing Grant and received several other offers of help. The project was ready to go ahead.
Scott’s community project involved a comprehensive renovation of the bathroom facilities at Minintitja. The renovations included increasing the number of showers from two to six and installing a second wash basin in each bathroom. A new toilet block was also added to an existing space which included three toilet cubicles and two wash basins. Ultimately these changes would not only provide the bathrooms with a facelift, but also decrease waiting times for the shower and bathroom amenities.
The sleeping carriages used as accommodation on the 1920s train have beautiful old wash basins. These basins had never been made operational since Minintitja’s opening. The team connected a water supply to these wash basins, this increased functionality and added another level of authenticity to the experience.
The experience was not without its hiccups though, including a 10 hour detour on the way there due to road closures. Overall the team travelled 3000kms and spent over 30 hours on the road. The team stayed positive and managed to get the project completed after 2 weeks of hard work. Some of the highlights from the trip were being able to see lots of our beautiful country while travelling, being able to spend time in Menindee’s wonderful community, and witnessing all the planning, collaboration and hard work come together to provide a final product that Scott and everyone involved can be proud of.
Scott says the he will remember every minute of the project and hopes the team at North Shore Plumbing Group can be involved in further community projects in the future.
A special thanks goes out to the wonderful community of Menindee, Forefront Group Australia who had a builder support the project, Butchers Delight in Lindfield for supplying a week’s worth of food, the Reece grant, and all the friends and family who volunteered or donated.