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Meet CPSU Delegate Owen Hutchinson

OFTEN you find Delegates are people who just have an instinct to go above and beyond.

They’ll put up their hand for roles around the workplace, whether it’s fire warden or first aid officer, and have a fundamental drive to help others and give back.

This is definitely the case for CPSU Delegate Owen Hutchinson. As a volunteer firie, Justice of the Peace, first aid officer, OH&S officer, warden at his work and a union Delegate, he obviously doesn’t shy away when it comes to helping others.

On his role

Owen’s a Property Officer in Roads and Traffic at the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources. He specialises in looking after proclaimed limited access roads. As Owen explains,

“These are generally state roads with a higher amount of freight and higher speeds. It’s all about keeping the state road network safe and efficient.

“With land there is an old common law right that the land owner is allow to access the road wherever their land abuts the road, but this right can be extinguished a number of ways including Engineering Solutions, Deeds, Planning Schemes and Planning Permits. Under the Roads and Jetties act if this right is removed we compensate the land owner, at the time of proclamation, for that right with an access licence and/or monies as payment for that loss and locate the licensed access point at a specific point and for a specific purpose.

 

“Say in the case of the Midlands Highway where a farmer might have twelve gates, we might say that’s too many gates, you only need eight, seven of which will be agricultural and one residential. We’d locate the gates in the best spots we can according to standards and issue a licence. Those licence conditions can be changed under the Act by the land owner undertaking a Traffic Impact Assessment.”

There are thousands of access licences for roads in Tasmania, Owen points to file after file in his office. “I’m pretty busy with licences – I think I’m a couple of years behind. It’s the manner of the beast – it’s always busy.”

“Most of our major highways are now classed as Limited Access, particularly with highways where we’ve bypassed, such as Dilston, the Midlands and the Brighton Bypass.

“We’d prefer landowners use the local road network where possible because the speed limit and traffic volume would be lower.”

Owen’s been with DIER for 33 years. “I started as a labourer putting in traffic signals down at 1 Collins St, which was the old Transport Commission. Through a bit of study I became an Engineering Assistant with the Traffic Engineering Section. About five odd-years ago I needed a change so I came to the Land Asset section for about six months but ended up staying.”

 

On being a union member

Owen’s been a CPSU Member since 1997, and says it’s about strength in numbers and helping each other out.

“It’s the old philosophy of one for all and all for one. I’d been doing my family tree for a while and I was thinking about where my father and grandfather came from. They were staunch unionists.

“We tend to forget what was fought for and what was won. We seem to be losing so much ground so quickly. I suppose I’m a bit fearful as an employee that there might come a day when the government introduces individual contracts. I’m totally against that idea, I think we have to stand together.

“The majority of my family were ex-military, so again it’s that unity that made me think about unionism and standing as a group rather than an individual – as a group you’re stronger.

“I’ve seen quite a few changes in my time. The biggest change was probably outsourcing of the technical group to Pitt & Sherry where we lost all our drafting people and a lot of engineers. That was really scary for a lot of people.”

 

On being a Delegate

A Delegate for about a year, a colleague suggested him for the role.

“(CPSU Organiser) Ruby’s predecessor was wandering the building and there weren’t many Delegates at that time. One of women up the hall said “Owen probably would be a Delegate”, and when I was asked I said yes. I enjoy challenges and generally take too much on – but that’s me.

“I took part in the two-day Delegate training course when I first started. I walked around my workplace and asked people why they believed or didn’t believe in being part of a union, which was important. It was good to understand this, so I could think about the benefits of being part of a union that we could show people. A lot of people in the public service, particularly younger people, don’t see the benefits of being a union member. As a union member you have the power of the group behind you.

“What non-members tend to forget is they can’t go anywhere for help when they get into trouble. There are a lot of decisions being made where people could end up in strife. There are times when you need the strength of the union behind you because sometimes one person just isn’t strong enough to stand up to the government.”

 

On life outside work

Not surprisingly, Owen likes to keep busy when he’s not at work, helping out his community in a number of ways.

“I’m a Justice of the Peace. A lot of it just requires you to witness documents. To become a JP is a very slow process but it’s something I just wanted to do. I’ve always had an interest in community. I used to be a scout leader but stopped after I had children. Now I’m a volunteer fire fighter at Midway Point. We were fairly busy this year with all those horrible fires.” Owen helped out at the Meadow Bank and Peninsula blazes.

“In the next couple of weeks my beard’s going to come off for the first time in six or seven years. I have to do a breathing apparatus course with the fire service and you can’t have a beard. A few people might not recognise me!

Owen’s also a keen motorcyclist and religiously rides his Triumph from Monday to Friday. “There was only one day last year that I didn’t ride my bike. I’m not what they call a fair weather rider – I’ll ride in anything. Sometimes the rougher the weather, the better the challenge.” Owen said hopping on his bike was a great way to unwind at the end of the day.

“There’s nothing within reason that I won’t try. I tend to forget how old I am, but  these days the recovery time after an activity takes longer than it used to. I do forget sometimes that I’m a middle aged citizen rather than a young person. I love keeping busy and helping out where I can although sometimes I wish I had more time to sleep. I take the attitude that the community’s provided me with a house and a job so I need to give something back.”

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