We’re a better country than this – Rick Jamieson

Rick Jamieson owner of Harry the Hirer "We’ve got to learn to live with COVID" - "But the damage that’s being done now, to support the current health policy, is actually killing everyone. It’s a joke and its bloody terrible"

Over the past 35 years Victorian based Rick Jamieson and his team have built up one of the most successful event & exhibition supplies company in the business. Now mostly retired, he has built a second career in the racing world and is responsible for producing the legendary Black Caviar.

He’s famous for avoiding the spotlight and usually is a man of few words. But Rick agreed to take some time away from his beloved farm, to talk with Event Organisers about the opportunity he had to ‘have a go’ that future generations may not get. Here is his account.

 

I wanted to buy some tents to hire out for the weekend, so I went to the bank for a loan. I hadn’t even thought about a business name, but the bank manager demanded I had one. So, ‘Harry the Hirer’ seemed about right because I was going to be a ‘hirer’. It was a bit of joke really, but after a lifetime in business I can see how it helped build the profile of the business.

That led to an enquiry for a tent for an 18th birthday party for thirty kids and of course, that got a bit of interest. So, we started getting more enquiries. That was the place we started from and it’s grown from there.

We just worked hard I suppose – every weekend – and we loved what we were doing. We started to get interested in building bigger & better marquees and one thing led to another. That took us into what is now seen as corporate entertainment and after a few years we diversified into the exhibition and conferencing industries. We’ve grown our business over 35 years, from a start-up to, by February this year, having 754 full timers, and 250 casuals working through the peak season.

I’m not trying to be smart, but we were really good at what we did. We were a bunch of people who always took up a challenge and always looked to be better than everyone else. And that’s always really been the driver to us. We always try to be the best at what we do.

I don’t think there was a point early on when we realised ‘we’re on to a winner here’. We’ve never been focused on the dollar, we just always wanted to be able to do bigger and better work. That’s the Australian dream I suppose, and it’s only been in recent years and that I’ve looked back and thought ‘well, it’s been a great run’. But it’s never been a focus.

There has never been a point when we thought that things might go belly up. We’ve never been quitters ever, we’ve always been fighters. And I think that underpins the whole culture in the business. It’s not just me and the directors. We’ve got the best bunch of people – we’ve all been together for so many years. Most of these guys and girls have worked their entire lives with us. And we’re all in the same boat together. We just get on with it – a fantastic group of people.

The events & exhibitions business is a game of scrambling. We solve peoples’ problems every day. That’s what we do and the way our minds are set.

COVID – Restrictions in Victoria

I have a business and I employ people. We’re at the coalface and we can see the damage being caused and people who have lost jobs. In the events industry alone, up to 10,000 jobs must have gone. And in Victoria I think there are probably a million people on the scrapheap now. That’s the underlying problem behind depression and the personal problems people are facing. How long can we keep doing this for? To me its nuts!

We’ve got to learn to live with COVID and everything else needs to be put aside until we do.

A lot of our staff can’t even pay their mortgages – how unfair is that? It breaks my heart to see what’s happening to Victoria.

I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career and I can’t believe this has been allowed. I understand, like we all do, the tragedy around COVID. But the damage that’s being done now, to support the current health policy, is actually killing everyone. It’s a joke and its bloody terrible.

The people supporting this [the restrictions] in Victoria haven’t been affected by it yet, even the people making the judgements and rules, they haven’t been affected. They aren’t taking a 20% or 50% pay cut, they haven’t lost their jobs and they aren’t stuck inside a small apartment. I understand; they don’t see it, they aren’t dealing with it every day. But the local corner shop is trying to deal with it.

Everyone is entitled to provide for and support their families. It’s been taken away from them now and it doesn’t get spoken about enough.

We’re a better country

When I first started everyone had a go, regardless of the problems. Today, I’d like to see us open up as a country of opportunity again. Give everybody a chance. Australia is a fantastic place but we’re being held back. COVID is one of those things, but we can find a way around this, just like we always have done.

Allow us to go about our lives, let the kids go back to school. We’re not designed to be living in an apartment 24 hours a day are we?

We’re a better country than this.

Protect the old, protect the vulnerable but let everyone else go

Rick”