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Life achievements

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John Dastlik has contributed so much to our industry and members. To thank him, he was recently awarded HIA Life Membership

Madeleine Palm

Communications and Media Coordinator, WA

It was a Saturday morning thirtysomething years ago when John Dastlik received a phone call with a familiar voice on the other end gauging his interest in applying for the position of executive director for the WA region of HIA. By that afternoon, John had an interview. And by dark, he had been offered the job. The rest is history.

Coming from an engineering background, he evolved into a well-rounded leader during his career with HIA. This spanned a total of 30 years – a legacy that speaks for itself.

In 2021, his contributions to the Association were formally recognised when he was awarded HIA Life Membership. This is a recognition reserved for very few and awarded to those who contribute outstanding service to the Association over a significant period of time.

John's effortless, relatable nature has always been well received by so many figures within the industry. For instance, HIA national president Alwyn Even recalls how meticulous John was in his daily routine. He recalls his use of spreadsheets for almost every pressing issue, and his impeccable hosting manner at industry events.

Alwyn is just one of John's many former colleagues who takes great pleasure in reciting all the qualities that made HIA's Life Member a pleasure to work alongside. We spoke with John to reflect on his career and catch up on what he's up to now.

At the 2021 HIA-CSR Western Australian Housing Awards, John Dastlik was presented with HIA Life Membership
John Dastlik with his family at the 2021 HIA-CSR Western Australian Housing Awards

Q: Where were you working before HIA?

As a qualified civil engineer, I worked for John Holland Constructions for eight years, doing various engineering projects across WA. I requested more commercial building work to expand my knowledge rather than staying in the engineering sector. Unfortunately, my state manager at the time denied my request, so I resigned that day. The following day I got a call from the Concrete-Holland Joint Venture; they were building the new Parliament House project in Canberra.

There's a funny story behind all this. I was flown to Canberra to have an interview with construction director David Chandler, the current Building Commissioner in NSW. David's interview consisted of one question: Do you know how to hang a door?

As there are thousands of doors in the building, I figured it was a strategic question. As an engineer, my response was clearly ‘no’. His response was: At least you are honest. When can you start?

So began my role as project manager. I was responsible for building the Senate zone of the project in two years. The House of Representatives component, which had been going for six years, had two more years to be completed. So, in short, I had two years to complete what would take eight years on the Reps side to finish.

When the project was completed in 1988, I returned to WA, once again with John Holland.

Not long after my return, I received a phone call from a consultant recruiting for the HIA WA region's executive director position. The interview was held on that same afternoon. I was invited to dinner with the interviewers and offered the role that night. Hence began a 30-year career with HIA – albeit over two separate stints.

Q: What are the most significant changes you've witnessed within the building industry over the past 30 years?

Here are three important changes I’ve seen in the industry over my 30-year tenure at HIA.

The introduction of the Home Building Contracts Act has seen consumers and builders work together to ensure that the contractual relationship between the two is equalised to a large extent. The building contract relationship is complicated for consumers, and their knowledge of it was, and probably still is, lacking.

While it was difficult for builders in the early stages, the building community eventually got on top of it. In many respects, it resolved many problems. For example, the collapse of one of WA's largest builders at the time (Mansard Homes) was exposed.

The introduction of Home Indemnity Insurance was another good example of major change to the industry. While initially run by HIA as a voluntary scheme, this program eventually became a compulsory requirement across Australia. It has seen many thousands of homeowners be able to complete their homes when their builder has collapsed.

While it has made life difficult for builders in certain circumstances, I hope the majority have seen it as a positive for the industry. It created a safer environment for consumers to build their dream home.

Unfortunately, there are always some negatives when looking back, and mine is the reduction in our formally qualified trade base. Apprenticeship training has always been a passion of mine, but I'm disappointed to see that only a few in the industry take the time to ensure their trade base will be maintained into the future. I am forever grateful to those who have taken the time to give young people a chance to learn a trade.

To those who haven't, I would encourage you to do so. As we are currently experiencing, the industry is crying out for skilled trades. This shortage will continue to occur and cause disruption if we don't invest in the next generation of builders.

L–R: HIA national president Alwyn Even with HIA Life Members Laurie Kruize, John Dastlik, Pino Monaco and Ron Dwyer
At the 2021 HIA-CSR Western Australian Housing Awards, John Dastlik was presented with HIA Life Membership

Q: You've felt privileged to help builders, contractors, manufacturers and suppliers. How do you measure the impact you had on so many members?

The fact that WA members were prepared to allow me to undertake my role on their behalf for so many years must say something.

Transforming the Association in WA, with the help of many members, from 'a club' some 30 years ago to a strong industry force – working with all sides of politics – is something I look back on with pride.

The need to work with the government is critical for any Association to succeed. Sure, there will be times when the views of the Association will be different to the governments', but the need for the Association to have an input to minimise the impact on the industry is crucial. This is the most critical part of a director's role. Hopefully, WA members have seen my time at HIA as having contributed to their wellbeing and the broader industry

Q: Will your time spent on the golf course increase now?

Since finishing up at HIA, my golf handicap has improved significantly (down 12 strokes), which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Michelle and I have also enjoyed hooking up the caravan and exploring our great state with family and friends.

Finally, I would like to thank WA members for their support in granting me Life Membership of HIA. I will treasure this forever, and I'm honoured to have served you for more than three decades.

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