The name of Phil Wilkinson, F.AIRAH, looms large over the recent history of AIRAH. Indeed, during his considerable tenure with the Institute, Wilkinson became synonymous with the organisation.
A master networker and a natural “people” person, through his work as CEO and later in advocacy, Phil served as AIRAH’s main point of contact with like-minded organisations such as NABERS, ASBEC, The Property Council of Australia, and others.
A Brit by birth and engineer by training, Wilkinson migrated to Australia in the late 1990s. He joined AIRAH in the early 2000s, serving several roles during his almost two decades with the Institute.
Reflecting back over your 18 years at AIRAH, what stands out for you?
Putting the “I” back in AIRAH. Challenging members to realise that they are AIRAH … and they are the ones that can make a difference.
The people – the exceptional people I’ve got to know. It’s always humbled me that I was able to serve a broad and deep membership and fascinating industry of people that provide services to make places and spaces to play, live and work for the community at large. I often say that I have over 3,000 bosses.
It’s also been a constant challenge to “tell the story” of the industry because it means different things to different people without them realising it.
Oh, and turning up to the same office building for 18 years, and observing the constant change in the city around it and the great staff that have served AIRAH and its members over the years.
Any reflections on the HVAC&R industry that you’d like to share?
I could write a book on this – would anyone read it though!?
We have an incredible opportunity to help reverse global warming and we need to accelerate our emission-reduction pathways.
I’m staggered that we are still using the mechanical vapour compression cycle to provide the majority of our services.
We have amazing stories to tell – our industry is full of adventure, variety, helping people, and we go about it invisibly.
I’ll always remember a story an AIRAH trainer once told me about working on a chiller in a war-torn country. He had a security guard with him while he was doing his thing under the equipment. Long story short – there was a burst of machine-gun fire and he whacked his head as he sat up quickly to see what was going on. The security guard was bored and was shooting at a stray cat!!
What were your most satisfying achievements?
I loved seeing the people I work with and for grow in their careers, and having had a bit of a hand in that. The help I’ve had from all of them is important to me.
At a macro level, being the person that brought the trusted AIRAH voice to leading forums such as the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, National Construction Code, NABERS, Standards Australia, local, state and commonwealth governments, and overseas organisations.
At the micro level – every conversation that I have had with the people I’ve met and got to know over the years – their stories, their passion, and being able to help them make a contribution where I could.
Could you pull out a single highlight?
One in particular comes to mind – and it wasn’t my achievement – it was the industry-driven Flammable Refrigerant Safety Guide development.
This was a very disparate group of industry, government and first-responder stakeholders who cared about the safety of people and came together for the good of the industry and its people and created the guide. I was the one fortunate enough to be given the role of advocating and promoting it to key stakeholders.
What are your thoughts on AIRAH and its role?
AIRAH is a very special community where everyone is included and has a shared purpose of providing services to people in one way or another.
And everyone has an equal opportunity to be part of where the community goes.
We are trusted because we are not driven by commercial agendas, we are driven by people who want to contribute towards a better future.