Features, News

Branching out in IQA committee roles – an opportunity for professional development, growth


The IQA is encouraging members of Australia’s extractive industry to network, learn and build their personal brands within the industry through its branch committee roles. Nickolas Zakharia spoke to two industry veterans about the rich experiences of volunteering with the IQA. 

Australia’s quarrying industry is part of the lifeblood that allows the nation’s major infrastructure projects to flourish. 

With the onset of COVID-19 reaping unprecedented and unexpected circumstances throughout 2020, it has been vital for industries to come together to plan, educate and navigate the pandemic.  

This is particularly important as state and federal governments ramp up their spending on infrastructure, which requires a strong supply of local aggregates. 

And while the country’s quarries continue to keep the lights on, it has been vital for industry members to stay ahead of the curve with COVID-19 – knowing how to respond, where to seek advice for your quarrying business, and how certain restrictions will change the way the industry operates.  

The IQA has fostered an important role in keeping the industry on its feet this year but it too has had to succumb to the many changes the entire world faces. Some events have seen a shift from in-person to online, and many national events have had to be reworked in light of border restrictions. The IQA’s members and branch committee teams have continued to demonstrate persistence in these challenging times.  

With branches located across every state and territory in Australia, the IQA is made up of a team of passionate individuals who are active in the industry and all share a strong vision for the growth of quarrying in Australia while pushing the envelope forward. 

IQA branch committee roles open up a wide array of benefits to members – all of which are relevant to improving their skills as professionals within the industry. Volunteering in an IQA branch committee position is not burdensome, and usually requires just a handful of hours per month. 

There are a number of reasons why an individual would want to become an IQA committee member, including:  

  • Passion for the industry 
  • Professional and personal development 
  • Personal brand building 
  • Leadership opportunities. 
  • Networking with other people in the industry. 

 A committee role enables individuals to develop leadership and strategic skills alongside other IQA members. This also opens the door to networking and promoting your personal brand in the industry. Committee members will attend meetings to share ideas on what type of events and education is needed in their local branches 


Like any industry, networking is paramount to growing quarrying businesses and staying in the loop with what’s happening.  

Phillip Harris, the chairperson of the IQA’s Western Australian branch, told Quarry this remains a key aspect when considering taking up a position at the IQA. 

“I think the opportunity is that you get to network with people that have varying levels of experience on a broad spectrum,” he said. “It’s not just quarrying personnel per se, there are suppliers and competitors. 

“It’s not just a opportunity for networking but it’s also a chance to make new friends.” 

Harris first joined the Institute of Quarrying at the age of 20, when he was working in the UK 

“My ambition at that time was to become a quarry manager,” he said. “To become a quarry manager in the UK, part of the requirement was you had to be a member of the Institute of Quarrying (IQ) and to be a member of the IQ you had to sit a professional examination.” 

By 23, Harris was a quarry manager and continues to remain in the industry after 35 years. 

When he arrived in Australia, Harris’s inclination to join the IQA’s branch committee was based on his desire to meet new faces in an entirely new country, while also giving back to the industry. 

“The motivation for me to join the committee was to meet new people in a new part of the world but it’s also so I can put something back into the industry that has served me well for most of my career, and to help other people,” he said. 

“When I came to WA I didn’t know anybody so going on to the committee was a chance to meet other people that were in the same industry as me, both suppliers and competitors. 

“There are also opportunities for suppliers to join the committee because they get to meet and grow their network of customers.” 

According to Harris, his current positions as chairperson of the IQA’s WA branch and as a member of the IQA’s board of directors both came unexpectedly. 

“I didn’t think I’d become the local chairperson but I’ve been in that position now for four years. Then two years ago [immediate Past President] Clayton Hill asked me to nominate for a position on the board and I’d never considered doing that,” he said. “I gave it some thought, he persuaded me and here I am.” 

Harris is currently working as Boral’s general manager of quarries and logistics for the Western Region. As a general manager in the quarrying industry, it is important to develop strong leadership skills – something that Harris has acquired with some help from his involvement in the IQA. 

“In the IQA, I’m not just working with my employees where I’m the boss as such, I’m working with like-minded people with similar experience who I get to collaborate with.” 

A major highlight for Harris as branch chairperson was overseeing the first inaugural Women in Quarry event in WA.  

“I had a committee who had been there for a long time and at first were a bit concerned that we could pull it off and make it successful. However, we persuaded everyone to get on board and give it ago and it was probably one of the most successful events we’ve held.” 

In Harris’s extensive quarrying history, he noted there has gradually been a wide range of positive changes in the industry. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement for sure,” he said. “I’ve have ladies who are driving dump trunks in frontline operation roles, not just the traditional admin roles.  They are also working in logistics compliance, health and safety, and environmental.” 

The weekend seminar, held in November of most years, has always been a highlight of the Tasmanian branch’s social calendar.


Ben Palmer has been involved on and off in the quarrying industry for 25 years and today is the chairperson of the IQA’s Tasmanian branch. 

Twenty-five years ago I was involved in the family sand mining business, I had a break for 10 or so years and I then got back into it,” he told Quarry. My family has been involved in sand mining for 50 years so I’ve always been exposed to some degree but more hands on, particularly in the last 10 years. 

For Palmer, the IQA not only offers development opportunities as a professional but the rewards of building new friendships and relationships with people in the industry through a wide range of activities. 

“There’s an opportunity to network supply,” he said. “We supply to other colleagues in the industry so it’s always good to have a chat and banter in not just formal but informal circumstances.  

“We’re a fairly social chapter down here in Tassie. As much as we convey all the other virtues of the IQA we do enjoy our social gatherings as well.” 

Palmer said being on an IQA branch committee also provides a chance to be more in-tune with what’s happening across the industry. 

“It certainly offers a greater awareness of your colleagues and members and greater awareness of their business and what they do,” he said. 

As Tasmania’s IQA branch continues to grow, Palmer said he appreciates what has been established by past committee members.  

“Early in the piece I wasn’t as involved,” he said. “I was very grateful for the organisation being in place and the hard work that our former committee members had achieved in growing the organisation in Tassie.  

Becoming chairperson wasn’t something I was chasing,” Palmer continued. “But I felt it was very important to pull my weight and continue on what prior committee members had built up over the years. 

“What I noticed in my earlier years of membership is that the committee members tended to be on the mature side and they’d done their various stints in the committee multiple times. The baton has now been passed to the more middle aged group of the membership which is very important because we value what the older branch members have done for us and we want to be able to build on that hard work.”  

Palmer nominated the Tasmanian branch’s technical weekends in years gone by as major highlights of his time with the IQA and a testament to the hard work of his predecessors. “Our former national IQA president John Stanton did an outstanding job on those technical weekends and exposing us to other sides of the mining and quarrying industries in Tasmania, along with the social element to meet with other colleagues in the state and interstate for that matter.” 

Despite the onset of COVID-19, the Tasmanian branch was still able to proceed with its annual general meeting on 18 August, which included a guest speaker from Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT). Palmer added that while the prospect of hosting future face to face meetings has become more challenging, thanks to COVID-19, there have been upsides in terms of each Tasmanian branch member’s workload. 

“I would roughly spend about eight hours a month on branch committee work,” he said. “It would be two hours one week, another week it might be nothing, the next week might be three or four hours.  

“We’re still hoping to run the technical weekend again in November, depending on what the status of COVID is at the time so we certainly have a lot of phone calls between ourselves as committee members, and a few nationally between [IQA CEO] Kylie Fahey and Lisa Stromborg [the IQA’s events and marketing manager]. 

“In some respects COVID has enabled more regular meetings from a committee perspective because you don’t have to factor in the time to travel or overnight stays just to enable a meeting. So there are positives there but nothing can replace the social side that’s in Tassie and I’m sure is in the other states too.  

To learn more about branch committee vacancies and roles, contact Lisa Stromborg, tel 0403 291 996 or email marketing@quarry.com.au 

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