March 11 is World Plumbing Day! A special occasion to high-five all the plumbers you know, and recognise the plumbing industry for keeping people safe with clean water. The event was started in 2010 by the World Plumbing Council as a way of focusing on plumbing’s contribution to sustainable, healthy housing and cities—both in the western world and developing countries.

To celebrate, we thought we’d take a look at plumbing in Australia, the perks of the job and the industry’s (sometimes) surprising history.

Plumbing the suburbs


It’s a little-known fact that many homes in the outer suburbs of Sydney, Brisbane and New South Wales lacked indoor toilets until the late 1960s. It seems unbelievable now, but in the middle of that decade, 45 per cent of Australians lived in houses without a connection to the sewerage system.

In 1967 Gough Whitlam won the federal seat of Werriwa in western Sydney, and started championing the needs of people in outer suburbs. First item of business: sewerage connections and indoor toilets.  In later years, former New South Wales premier Neville Wran remembered: “It was said of Caesar that he found Rome brick, and left it marble. It will be said of Gough Whitlam that he found the outer suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane un-sewered, and left them fully flushed.” Thanks, Gough!

One of Australia’s most-wanted jobs


There are 92,200 plumbers working in Australia today. They work a 40-hour week, and earn good money. On average (depending on skill level), plumbers take home $1,002 gross weekly income.

In 2014, the Midyear Economic and Fiscal Outlook report showed that 1 million Australians were in the process of changing jobs, and that plumbing was one of the most-wanted new careers. It’s easy to see why: plumbers earn great pay and there’s still lots of work available. At the time, Plumbing Trades Employees Union boss Paddy McCrudden said, “If you are unemployed as a plumber in Australia there must be something wrong; you’ve either got a bad work ethic or are charging too much. There is always work out there for a plumber.”

Recently, a report commissioned by the South Australian government showed that plumbing is one of the most high-priority skills among employers in the state. The only trade skill that pipped it was bricklaying.

21st century problems


If you know a plumber, you’ve probably heard them say ‘don’t flush baby wipes’. But unfortunately most Aussie’s haven’t caught on to this important message. A quick search of the hashtag #KeepWipesOutOfPipes reveals the effect of thousands of wet wipes entering our sewer systems each day. They’re called ‘fatbergs’: congealed lumps of fat, wet wipes and similar items that don’t break down like toilet paper.

Not too long ago, a one-tonne cluster blew out a pumping station near Lake Macquarie. The Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Three-quarters of the one-tonne cluster of sewage and wet wipes was removed with specialised equipment from the station at Eleebana. But the rest, 300 kilograms, was removed by hand, one bucket at a time, according to Hunter Water Corporation spokesman Nick Kaiser.”

The good news? Fatbergs have been identified as a potential fuel source.  Well, that’s something.

Grants for Australian plumbers

Both Reece and Rheem recognise achievements by Australian plumbers through their annual grants programs.

Rheem’s Apprentice Plumber Grants are designed to “reward dedicated future plumbers of all kinds.” These have been awarded to 25 apprentices since the grants were launched, including former shearer Julyan Sumner from Western Australia, who started his apprenticeship at 64 years of age!

The Reece Grant aims to help overseas communities in need by improving water supply and sanitation. Last year, three Australian plumbers were awarded a total of $25,000 to work on water projects in India, East Timor and the Phillipines. You can read more about their travels here.

Interested in a plumbing qualification?


If you want to run your own jobs, start your own company or get licensed across more plumbing classes, we’ve got a few exciting updates for prospective students in our CPC40912 Certificate IV in Plumbing and Services.

Visit our course page to register your interest or give us a call on 1300 LEGEND.