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Clancy Harrip
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Celebrating the auto industry at the MTAQ President's Ball

The automotive industry community came together on October 28 to celebrate another year gone by as MTA Queensland held its annual President’s Ball at the Hilton Brisbane hotel.

More than 200 guests from across the state and country attended the event, including MTA Queensland members, industry stakeholders, representatives of other state and territory MTAs, corporate partners of the Association, and friends and family of the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year nominees.

The President’s Ball, which this year had the theme of ‘Advancing Industry’, was once again hosted by Shane Jacobson, the award-winning actor and writer who made such a lasting impression as MC at last year’s event. Once again, Jacobson proved himself to be the master entertainer, keeping guests laughing as he guided the evening through introductions, award announcements and auction presentations, and even conducting an impromptu interview with the evening’s special guest speaker, motorsport legend Craig Lowndes.

The evening began, however, with an address from Dr Brett Dale, CEO of MTA Queensland, who reflected on the work of the Association in the past year and what work was being planned for the next 12 months.

Chief amongst these was the establishment of MTAiQ, an innovation hub based at MTA Queensland’s HQ at Eight Mile Plains in Brisbane. Australia’s first innovation hub to focus on the automotive industry, MTAiQ is designed to cultivate a community of entrepreneurial minds that can come together, collaborate and develop their ideas into a viable business proposition.

The hub’s creation comes as a direct result of the Association’s continuing drive to offer direction, leadership and support to an industry facing intense technological disruption. To highlight how far technology had already advanced, Dr Dale introduced a holographic version of himself to deliver the MTAiQ presentation. The effect was astounding.   

Already with a roster of clients in possession of a variety of ingenious ideas and concepts, MTAiQ will, said Dr Dale, be at the centre of the automotive industry’s evolution and help businesses, both new and established, find their feet and adapt. It was, he added, a proud moment for him to announce the launch of the hub.

“We have achieved much this year and there is much more to be done as our industry continues its advance,” he said. “And it is a privilege to lead MTA Queensland during this time of digital and technical revolution.”

Of the Association’s other accomplishments during the past year, Dr Dale highlighted the Carmageddon symposiums, the establishment of the MTAQ Racing Team, the deeper engagement and advocacy on behalf of members, and the embracing of technology that had seen MTA Queensland and the MTA Institute launch the My Profile digital training system for apprentices.

The evening’s special guest speaker was Supercar driver and Australian motorsport icon Craig Lowndes.

The Team Vortex legend, in an on-stage interview with Shane Jacobson, spoke at length about his career and achievements and the trials and tribulations of motor racing at the highest level. He offered some insight into the life of a driver, the physical side of the sport, the need to keep fit, and touched on the future of the sport including the move to a V6 twin turbo engine – an engine that is already being tested.

Set to make its competitive debut in 2019, the 640hp engine is, Lowndes said, a pretty remarkable piece of kit.

“It is impressive,” he said. “There are a few things we have to work on, but I can tell you that when the turbo kicks in on cold tyres it is pretty exciting!”

Asked about his future plans, Lowndes said he had no intention to go into team ownership but was keen to stay involved and offer his experience and advice to young people coming into the sport. A trained mechanic himself, he also offered some good advice to the young MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year nominees in the room as he spoke about striving to be successful.

“For me, it is about giving it your all,” he said. “This room is full of bright young kids and we need you guys in our industry because you are the future of what we do. So, for me, it is all about giving it a red hot go and believing in yourself.”

A major part of the President’s Ball is the acknowledgement of the tremendous work of MTA Queensland members. Through the Community Award and the Innovation Award, the Association highlights the work done by member businesses within the communities they serve and the creative ideas, concepts and processes they initiate to advance their businesses.

This year, the Community Award was won by Mark Dodge Motors from Cairns for their long-standing and wide-ranging support and involvement in their community, while the Innovation Award was presented to EV North from Townsville for their cutting-edge work in electric vehicle and battery development.

The Association also uses the President’s Ball as the stage to recognise those preparing to enter the ranks of the industry through the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year Award.

This year, there were eight outstanding nominees from across the state and the award, and the title and prize of $2000 was won by Elliott Lemmon, a 20-year-old light vehicle apprentice from Greg Tunstall Automotive in Ormiston, southeast of Brisbane.

An outstanding nominee, Elliott has shown a great passion for the trade that has been proven in the work he is doing both in the workshop and in his training. He already has great skill and technical knowledge – attributes he has used to great effect, including as a member of the MTAQ Racing Team Support Crew.

“This year’s nominees defined what we expect to see from anyone working in the industry – a committed passion to be the best in their field,” said Paul Kulpa, General Manager of the MTA Institute. “It was a close race between all nominees and it only came down to a few additional activities outside of his apprentice work that got Elliott over the line. It’s this additional effort that makes him a worthy winner of the MTA Institute Apprentice of the Year.”  

The 2017 President’s Ball was a truly memorable evening, and a reminder that while the Queensland’s automotive industry is comprised of thousands of small, hard-working businesses across a variety of disciplines, they are all part of a larger whole – one championed by MTA Queensland.

“As our industry’s peak body, the MTA Queensland has the responsibility to represent the industry, our members and our students. And we work diligently at that task,” said Dr Dale. “We will continue to do that and ensure, through developments such as MTAiQ, that the Association participates vigorously at the heart of our industry as it continues to evolve.

“The President’s Ball is that one night when we can sit back for a moment, reflect on what has happened, ponder what might happen and acknowledge the achievements of some truly outstanding businesses as well as the talent of our apprentices – the future leaders of our industry. MTA Queensland thanks our guests, friends and sponsors for making the evening so memorable and we look forward to a challenging and exciting year ahead and celebrating again in 2018.”

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The Motor Trades Association of Queensland (MTA Queensland) is the peak body representing the interests of over 2,500 employers in the retail service and repair sectors of Queensland's automotive industry.

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