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Unsung Heroes: The humble Harvey plumber dedicated to his craft

Headshot of Shannon Verhagen
Shannon VerhagenSouth Western Times
Harvey plumber Nigel Monk and his wife Emily, with their two boys Jordan, 5, and Bradley, 2.
Camera IconHarvey plumber Nigel Monk and his wife Emily, with their two boys Jordan, 5, and Bradley, 2. Credit: Shannon Verhagen/South Western Times

Your typical plumber may fix a leaky tap or your blocked drain, but out in the rolling hills and farmlands of Harvey, plumbing takes on a larger — and somewhat more quirky — scale.

Imagine receiving a call for a water leak on a farm in the middle of winter, rain battering down overhead, and trudging through sodden paddocks to find the spot responsible along kilometres of pipework.

Such treacherous tales are the reality of dedicated Harvey plumber Nigel Monk, who behind the tools, is a loving family man keeping true to his rural roots.

The 34-year-old was born and raised two hours inland of Geraldton in the small farming town of Morawa — growing up with his two brothers on his grandfather’s 8000ha farm, but he never had his heart set on joining the industry.

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Graduating along his seven classmates at Morawa Senior High School, Mr Monk was quick to take up a change of scenery — relocating to the South West in 2005 to join family in Waroona.

The seasoned plumber admitted he never intended to fall into the trade, but once he did he “never looked back”.

“I just flicked my resume out to 20 different people, and it just landed an apprenticeship in plumbing,” he said.

“It is an interesting trade, it’s a massive field so you can branch out and do nearly anything — you’re not just stuck doing one thing, the diversity of it’s pretty good and that’s probably the biggest attraction.”

Starting his career with J & H Fielders, the Harvey local loyally serving his community for a decade and working hard at his craft which, believe it or not, led him to the literal doorstep of the love of his life and now wife — Emily.

After crossing paths at the local post office a few times, one day, she received a message from Nigel.

“I thought, ‘who the hell is Nigel?’” she laughed.

“It turns out we actually had a plumber come to our house and as I was walking out for work, I looked at him, and then mum sent me a message and was like, ‘oh look there’s a hot plumber here.’

“It turns out it was him, and he’d sent me that message earlier.”

Before long the pair brought their first child, Jordan, into the world and decided to embark on a business journey together to allow Nigel to spend more time with his family.

Harvey Plumbing and Gas was then born.

Working tirelessly to kick start the business, Mr Monk continued to work five days and week with his former employer and two days a week building his own personal clientele.

Two years in, when their second son Bradley was born, he went full-time with his personal venture, enjoying the freedoms of being his own boss.

“It’s a lot of give and take,” he said.

“I got to have the afternoon off today, but last night I worked until 7pm in the office.

“I think it’s worked out though, I get to see my family more than if I was working somewhere else because I don’t have to travel.

“I get to have breakfast with the family every morning and have tea every night ... when I was working for someone else I was at work before anyone, leave in the dark and come home in the dark.”

With Nigel on the tools and Emily working behind the scenes doing the books, the couple have recently taken on a 17-year-old apprentice to give him the same career start Nigel first experienced when breaking into the industry.

Looking to grow, they hope to expand the business to a team of five — allowing Nigel to step back from labouring and concentrate on his preferred aspect of the job, connecting with his clientele.

“We make sure everyone’s happy with everything before we start, so everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into,” he said.

“I don’t just walk up to a job, do it, and then they end up getting a bill ... there’s more to it.

“You go to someone’s house and they go, ‘you want to stop for coffee?’ ‘Do you want a drink of water?’ You know, ‘we’ve got vegetables — do you want to take some vegetables home?’

“We do have a really good relationships and we get really good reviews from our clients, so at least we know we’re doing the right thing.”

It is clear this rapport has shone through with Harvey locals, with the business recently winning the Home Based Business Award at the South West Business Awards, as well as receiving a Judge’s High Commendation at the Western Australian Master Plumbers Awards for Excellence.

And behind these accolades, an evident passion for the trade echoes throughout — his wife singing his praises, too humble to confess it himself.

“More than the flexibility of (the business) he actually loves being a plumber, he loves helping people,” she praised.

“Particularly what he loves here in Harvey is that client relationship ... I feel like he gets his cup full from those people like he’s going to fill their cup ... it’s like a really nice thing.”

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