CHU Strata Community Awards 2018; PICA Group winner of Excellent in Innovation

Winner of Excellence in Innovation Award, PICA Group with Rachel Lynn, SCA (NSW) General Manager

The never-ending search for skilled strata managers continues to impact the industry and needs strategic approaches to challenge conventional thinking on staff recruitment and retention.

This year’s winner of the Excellence In Innovation Award at the 2018 CHU Strata Community Awards may have the answer.

Late last year PICA Group launched an intensive onboarding initiative called Project Owl, and the leading property company is already reaping the rewards – attracting good quality candidates from other industries and reducing employee turnover, especially in workers with less than 12 months of experience.

PICA Group’s Executive General Manager of People & Culture Kirsten Terry says something different was needed because the demand for experienced strata managers outstrips supply.

“This is a challenge that every agency is facing, not just PICA Group,” Kirsten says.

“The common response from agencies has been to offer higher and higher salaries to lure strata managers from competitors. This is not good for the industry and it’s not sustainable,” she says.

“A few years ago, PICA Group made the decision to invest more heavily in ‘growing our own’ rather than pushing up salaries to unrealistic levels.”

The company’s traditional resourcing model was to recruit junior staff into assistant positions and place them directly into a branch for on-the-job mentoring by experienced colleagues.

“Once they completed their Certificate of Registration, the new entrant would work as an assistant for the next 2-3 years before promotion to the role of strata manager,” she says.

“The extreme shortage of experienced strata managers in NSW meant this model was no longer working for us. We need new employees to reach greater levels of competency more quickly.”

Project Owl features an intensive two-week classroom-based training program, followed by a 10 week in-branch mentoring program. Program participants are equipped to assist with the management of strata schemes as soon as they complete the classroom training, and gradually work up to managing a small-sized portfolio under the direction of a team leader by the end of 12 weeks.

The commitment to excellence is just what the industry needs to attract, develop and retain talent.

Angela Capri is one of PICA Group’s most experienced branch managers. The Senior Leader, Strata Learning & Development played a key role in the successful roll-out of the program.

“We approached SCA NSW with the idea of combining their A100: Introduction to Strata course with the Certificate of Registration course, so that within five days, attendees gained a thorough understanding of strata management and the role of a strata manager,” Angela says.

“Already we’re attracting more mature candidates from other industries, as they get training from the ground up which gives them the best chance of succeeding,” she says.

“We’re proud of the initiative because even if our Project Owl graduates eventually decide to move on from PICA, we are populating the industry with educated professionals.”

And the question on everybody’s lips: Why call it Project Owl?

“Owls are traditionally used as a symbol for knowledge – and our new strata managers are full of knowledge after they go through our program,” Kirsten quips.

Flexible Working Day – 22 May

The nine to five grind is increasingly not possible and certainly not desirable for a lot of people, yet this is how our working day is pretty much structured. But it doesn’t have to be.

Flexible Working Day on 22 May is an opportunity to try other ways of working that may produce better results by increasing productivity and benefitting the workforce.

The Flexible Working Day website provides employers and employees a number of ways in which they can work in a way that suits them.

The site says: “Making the most of employees means supporting innovative and diverse work arrangements – from the night owl starting and finishing late, job-sharing and part-time work, to name a few.”

Participants in Flexible Working Day are encouraged to share their stories on the website about how they find ways to be more flexible.

A free kit is available for download each for employers and employees. Give it a go and share your stories.


Strata basics for Chinese speakers (Strata101讲座: 关于公寓式住宅维修和管理需知)

The City of Sydney runs practical programs for owners and tenants on living in strata. This year it is offering Chinese speakers a workshop on living in strata.

If you live in an apartment, or are thinking about living in an apartment, and don’t know what the word ‘strata’ means, then this workshop is for you.

Come along and find out about apartment living – the people you need to know, the committee, meetings, by-laws, and what to do if something goes wrong.

It’s the 101 workshop for successful city living!

This is a unique opportunity to gather information and learn some new skills for strata living.

Whether you own or rent, this seminar has something for everyone.

The seminar is free so come along and bring a friend.

You can keep up to date and subscribe to the Strata Skills 101 workshop database by visiting


Strata101讲座: 关于公寓式住宅维修和管理需知


主题包括: 物业委员会的运作      (Committee)

住户会议的召开与流程  (meetings)

物业管理条例及法规      (By-Laws)

投诉处理及调节服务      (Complaint Handling & Mediation Services)




地址: anything room, Green Square 图书馆  ,  355 Botany Rd, Zetland 2017


Be aware there’s a tram there

Sydney’s newest light rail which will operate between Circular Quay via Moore Park to Randwick and Kingsford has started tram testing.

Sydney’s current operating light rail system, the Inner West Light Rail, mostly uses a dedicated rail corridor with very few interactions with pedestrians, cyclists or motorists. Not so the CBD and South East Light Rail (CSELR) which will run trams along busy CBD streets – George Street and Eddy Avenue – into Surry Hills along Devonshire Street before heading through Moore Park and splitting to either travel along Alison Road to Randwick or Anzac Parade to Kingsford.

So how do you interact with the trams? Transport for NSW has launched a safety campaign “Be Aware, There’s A Tram There” to educate road users, pedestrians and cyclists about how to safely operate and move about near the light rail during the testing and commissioning phase of the project which is now underway.

The safety campaign will continue to be expanded when testing ramps up in other areas along the alignment in coming months, targeting busy pedestrian precincts such as George Street in the CBD.

As testing expands across the alignment, strata owners, residents, managers and strata service providers need to be on the lookout for trams and remember:

  • Road conditions may have changed
  • Trams cannot stop easily or quickly
  • Trams are quiet, pedestrians should look out (both directions) before they step out
  • Bicycle riders are not permitted to ride in the tram lanes, and when travelling through an intersection must cross the tracks on an angle

For those living along the light rail route, be mindful that hazard zones are established during the testing and commissioning phase to help identify areas of increased risk including electrical hazards and tram movements. For strata committees intending to do maintenance or remedial work around their buildings a Permit to Work near the rail corridor is required before proceeding. Make sure your strata service provider is aware of this requirement.

It’s important to remember that there are live overhead wires along the alignment, except for the section from Circular Quay to Town Hall, and that there is a three-metre hazard zone around the wires. The following are examples of the types of activities that may require a permit when working in or near a hazard zone:

  • Erecting ladders or scaffolding
  • Establishing work stations
  • Tree pruning
  • Operating excavators, cranes or any other plant equipment
  • Operating forklifts or any other heavy machinery
  • Delivering equipment/goods from large or oversize vehicles

Consider if there might be maintenance such as window washing, exterior painting or other remedial works that might require an elevated work platform, cherry-picker or crane and please contact the project team before proceeding. The project team will assess the works to determine whether a Permit to Work is required.

Permit requirements will change once the light rail route is operational, however they may still be needed so always check with the operator.

Remember, trams are being tested day and night, so be aware, there’s a tram there.

For more information, including how to get a Permit to Work, visit the Sydney Light Rail website:



The lift that goes up must also come down

If you have a lift or even if you use one regularly, it’s likely you can imagine what life would be like if it broke down. How many stairs would you need to climb up and down? With groceries or the rubbish or with children or an elderly person – it becomes a daunting thought.

A recent story in the Domain section of the Sydney Morning Herald “Growing number of people getting trapped in NSW elevators, data shows” succinctly illustrates this point.

The story cites data from NSW Fire and Rescue about the number of people having to be rescued from strata lifts in the past 12 months. There is an 80 percent increase in lift rescues since 2014 according to the story.

Sure the number of high rise strata apartments has increased exponentially during that time but likely too has the number of buildings where plant maintenance, including lift mechanics, has not been adequately undertaken.

As the story notes, there are also a number of lifts that have reached their use-by date. SCA (NSW) President, Chris Duggan is quoted in the article about this issue. As a strata manager with a great deal of experience, he says that lifts installed in the 1960s and 1970s are reaching the end of their lifecycle but upgrades are being put off. The reasons for this are twofold – cost and the time the lift is off line. Having a lift out for a few weeks is not something that people are necessarily happy about.

Importantly there have been very few reports of people being injured and lifts continue to be one of the safest forms of people mover. Of course new lifts are expected to perform better than old ones and also have to comply with more safety requirements that might not have been in place when the older lifts were installed. The main concern with lifts is that there are now some smaller players in the market who might not be complying with all the safety or maintenance requirements.

If you have concerns about your lift – either its maintenance, age or whether it meets safety regulations – talk to your strata manager. They will know which experts are best to get in to check everything out. SCA (NSW) also accredits Strata Service professionals, so make sure your expert is an SCA (NSW) Strata Services Specialist.




Community can also be vertical

Creating a sense of community and how to go about this is a topic that is very important to SCA (NSW) as illustrated through our commitment to research in this area in conjunction with City Futures at the University of NSW and the annual SCA (NSW) industry award dedicated to community.

So when an opinion piece appeared in the Fifth Estate titled “Why we need community in high-rise development” we knew we had to share it with you.

The author, Richard Gibbs from Urbis, starts with the premise that high-rise has a poor reputation in Australia because we are not good at seeing its potential. Cities like Singapore where high-rise living is more normalised are much better at creating some sense of community.

Australia’s sense of community is vertical in the form of the quarter acre block at street level so communal space is much easier to identify and access. Living in high-rise apartments makes it necessary to rethink the communal space and its uses. Gibbs notes that “in Singapore, elderly family members tend communal gardens for the younger generations to enjoy in the evenings and on weekends”, generating this sense of community.

Developers need to be encouraged to see the value in not just building another high-rise apartment but in creating spaces where residents can socialise and build the community themselves. Developers therefore are responsible for the physical space but people are the ones who turn it into a community. 

Gibbs also says that there can be greater value in developments that offer a good lifestyle for buyers and residents.

He says, “Community-centred developments based on engagement and evidence-based decisions tend to leave a more positive imprint on our landscape as people become part of the process and feel in control of their environment. With more buyers looking to live in apartments and townhouses there’s an expectation that community is worth something.”

Certainly SCA (NSW) has a number of stories about strata committees encouraging residents to work together to create a community. Read the most recent of these stories which features Generation W the winner of the 2018 Strata Community Environmental and Engagement Award.

The 2019 SCA (NSW) Strata Community awards are now open with submissions closing 31 May 2019. More details on how to enter your strata scheme are available here.




New Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation

Following the 2019 NSW State Election, as expected a new Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation, the Hon Kevin Anderson, MP, has been appointed.

The Minister is the Member for Tamworth and has been in NSW Parliament since 2010. According to his biography he has a strong interest in community issues and has spent time as a Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Transport. The Hon Matt Kean, MP, has moved into the Energy and Environment Ministry and we continue to have strong support from Minister Kean from his extensive experience and exposure to strata during his time as Minister.

SCA (NSW) has written to the new Minister congratulating him on his new portfolio and outlining who we are and what we represent. A meeting with him has been sought as soon as possible to enable SCA (NSW) to detail its five-year vision for the NSW strata sector.

The organisation continues to reinforce that it wants to see the NSW Government deliver dedicated policy on priority issues affecting millions of residents during this next term.

SCA (NSW) has pointed out that it is vital for the two million NSW residents living in strata properties that issues like flammable cladding, building defects, imported building materials and urban regeneration are met with some forward-thinking plans.

The key policy objectives are to seek:

  • a 5-year plan from the State Government to progress strata property and consumer rights in NSW
    • Recent rapid growth has hamstrung quality control processes
    • Needs a specific focus on ensuring development doesn’t come at a cost for those involved, with a key focus on reducing the cost of defects on consumers
    • Root and stem review of the development life cycle, with a focus on consumer and lot owner rights involving a total review of the legislative regime of building construction, compliance and ongoing rights
  • the creation of a new portfolio specific to issues of Sydney’s urban renewal
    • Portfolio tasked with enforcing major design, liveability and quality mandates
    • Key responsibility from development through to post completion consumer rights
  • provide a subsidised loan scheme for cladding rectification
    • A $100Million loan package. Government backed loan scheme to ensure affected buildings can cover rectification costs
  • undertake a supply chain audit, imported products
    • SCA (NSW) wants State Government to push Federal counterparts to introduce stronger import controls
    • Too many unsafe products slipping through the cracks- cladding, wiring, building materials

SCA (NSW) has said that it supports industry working groups being formed and education initiatives established over the coming months to address these important issues. Further SCA (NSW) has indicated the belief that it can be instrumental in achieving the best outcomes for the sector.

Further, as part of its broader government relations and engagement strategy SCA (NSW) has written to all MP’s in high density strata electorates and provided the same overview of SCA (NSW)’s objectives, seeking meetings and ensuring the momentum we have built over many years through close collaboration with the NSW Government can continue.

SCA (NSW) will report back directly to members and via the website once a meeting with the Minister has occurred and what the next steps are.

Calling all residential building managers – a free course is on offer

The City of Sydney is offering a residential building managers course free (but only for a limited time).

This course is popular so if this has your attention read on and quickly register.

This training course aims to give managers the skills, knowledge and operational know-how to lead in the management of the buildings and communities now and into the future. On offer is the opportunity to:

  • Understand the new energy and water star rating – NABERS and how this is integral to your role as a BM
  • Lead on energy and water efficiency and drive down costs for your buildings
  • Ensure best practice operations, schedule good maintenance, facilitate upgrades, contribute to monitoring and record keeping and be proactive with capital works planning
  • Future proof your building, work with owners to ensure good governance to meet expectations of your building community

Who should attend?

  • Training is designed for building managers or those that are involved in the day-to-day management of buildings
  • Priority will be given to attendees that are located within the City of Sydney

 Your commitment

  • Attend all five half day modules (includes lunch) held in Sydney CBD
  • Obtain building records and information for practical exercises
  • Implement what you learn in the building/s you manage.

 Course outline

Session 1 Wednesday 1 May 12:30 – 16:30 ·       Fundamentals for Sustainability and NABERS

·       Energy Management Basics

Session 2 Tuesday 28 May 12:30 – 16:30 ·       Managing Energy in a NABERS World (Part 1)
Session 3 Wednesday 26 June 12:30 – 16:30 ·       Managing Energy in a NABERS World (Part 2)


Session 4 Wednesday 24 July 12:30 – 16:30 ·       Managing Water in a NABERS World

·       Maintain your NABERS ratings

·       Solar & Renewables

Session 5 Wednesday 14 August 12:30 – 16:30 ·       The War on Waste for Apartment Buildings

·       Electric Vehicle Charging

·       Best Practice Operations

Participants that attend all sessions will receive a Certificate of Recognition endorsed by the City of Sydney and NABERS. 

Training venue:

Level 14, Tower Three, International Towers Sydney

Exchange Place, 300 Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo NSW 2000

Register now:  Eventbrite

Any questions:;  9246 7608 – Sarah


Insurance Commissions in the Spotlight of ACCC

The national body, Strata Community Association has consulted with members to ensure the response to the recent ACCC Northern Australia Insurance Inquiry reflects a fair representation of current industry practice in relation to Insurance Commissions.

SCA (NSW) had member representation during the consultation to provide information and assist with reviewing feedback. It’s now our members turn to support your industry’s views and submit a response no later than 12 April 2019 (midnight) to

To assist SCA (NSW) members a draft letter has been prepared which you can place on your letterhead, sign and send to the ACCC. Strata Community Association also suggests you consider sending this to your local Member of Parliament so that the misconceptions around Strata Manager Commissions are clarified and understood before policy decisions are made.

You are welcome to amend the template letter as you see fit. Strata Community Association has an interest in bettering the strata industry for all stakeholders, including strata managers and consumers alike. But our strength lies in our numbers. The more submissions reflect the administrative component of insurance contracts, the less likely it will be that policies are made that disrupt the sector. Make our voice count by submitting a supporting letter to the ACCC by Friday.

Executive Summary of the SCA Submission:

  • Strata insurance is a specialised product that is specifically tailored to the needs of owners corporations;
  • The efficiency and effectiveness of strata managers helps strata insurers keep the costs of insurance lower than it would be without their assistance;
  • The income received by strata managers from insurers is compensation for the work performed, including, obtaining quotes, liaising with insurers on behalf of the owners corporations and assisting owners corporations in making claims;
  • If strata managers did not receive this income, then the cost of those services would be borne by owners corporations in the form of additional service fees under the strata management agreement;
  • The most likely net result would be an increase in the costs of insurance to the consumer as well as an increase in their strata management fees as it would result in less efficient and more complex insurance processes;
  • A regulatory regime founded on a principle of full transparency and disclosure, rather than prohibition, would be a better and fairer approach as it would enable consumers to make an informed decision on to the value of the service of the strata manager.  Each owners corporation could then elect for the strata manager to receive a commission from the insurer or pay higher body corporate management fees.
  • This would underpin current best practice while minimising disruption to the market and provide a mechanism for dealing with conduct that is not in line with ethical business practices and consumer expectations.

Access the SCA Submission

Earth Hour – Our actions today can change our tomorrow

Earth Hour was started by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Sydney in 2007 when it presented the idea to City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore who agreed to support the event. The idea is to mobilise the community for just one hour on one night to turn off their non-essential electric lights.

Earth Hour soon spread around the world and now engages 7,000 cities and towns across 187 countries and territories.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of Earth Hour which is still a great way of getting people to think and act on reducing their energy consumption and their impact on the environment.

This year Earth Hour is scheduled for Saturday 30 March from 8.30pm to 9.30pm. It’s a great way of getting friends and family together, switching off the electricity and doing something that can make a difference at the very least to our behaviour.

There are also community events organised so check out the WWF website and see if there is something you can get involved in. You can also register your event for your building, school, workplace or community organisation with Earth Hour through the website.

Additional resources such as Connect2Earth stories, photos and videos, information packs and posters are available.

If you want to post your activities on social media before or during Earth Hour please use the hashtag The Earth Hour 2019 #Connect2Earth.