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Australia Part 3 - Queensland Calling; Bob Nuss and the Snake; Allied Pickfords Australia

Nov 15, 2013
Tony and Majella Oro are the owners of what is arguably Australia’s oldest removals firm, Whybirds Removals incorporating Whybirds International.

Queensland Calling

The small family company was first established in 1857, when the infamous Ned Kelly was only two years old. It was bought by Tony in 1995 when the Whybirds family wanted to move out of the removals trade.


Educated at The Queensland Institute of Technology in Brisbane, Tony graduated with a degree in Industrial Psychology. Following on from a HR career with Castlemaine Perkins and Queensland Independent Wholesalers, he bought a furniture transport business in Cairns, North Queensland.  This was back in 1986 and since then he hasn’t looked back.


Sometime later Frank Aspinall of Movements International joined Whybirds as a partner. He swiftly went about setting up the international division.  These days Tony and his wife, Majella, own 100% of the company after they bought Frank’s third ownership share back when he retired due to ill health. They all continue to enjoy a very close relationship. Tony told us that Frank has been so ill recently that he had not been able to pop into the office on a weekly basis to keep current with his friends and colleagues. He remains dear to many International Movers and misses them immensely.


Along with Whybirds, Tony is also managing director of A&R Removals and Keffords Removals. Between the three companies, they cover most of the major cities in Queensland.  This has been a necessary development because the populations of each city demand a constant presence. For example, Tony explained, “Mt. Isa has a high population turnover because of the active mining trade in the region; Townsville is the territory’s military hub; Cairns, where the company headquarters is based, is the gateway to the remote communities on  the Queensland Peninsula, with its flow of officials such as teachers, police, fire and rescue and medical staff. Also a strong presence is needed in Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane.” More recently Tony and Majella have acquired a third share in Aussiemove International with offices in Adelaide South Australia and Darwin in the Northern Territory.


With an active eye on the larger picture, Tony sought to link with other companies across the nation by becoming a Partner of the Australian Movers Group in 1993. It has worked since then as a co-operative network that includes Whybirds associated companies: Keys Brothers (Western Australia), Aussiemove International (Northern Territory and South Australia), Nuss Removals (New South Wales and Victoria) and King & Wilson (Australian Capital Territory).


Tony surmised that his background in human resources (HR) had been of great benefit because it has given him a greater understanding of how people work and how to run a company.  When asked to share his thoughts on why he thought Whybirds and its associated companies were different from other removal firms in Australia, he spoke about the importance of giving every job a personal touch. He elaborated by saying that employing good people and the need to treat them right was key. “A good business comes down to having good people around you. We get a better understanding of our staff by arranging effective training programmes, smart routines and structure. We have regular meetings where we’ll spark up a barbecue, for instance. I believe communication remains ever important.”  He emphasised the importance of taking pride ‘on-the-job’. Smart appearance of drivers and porters is another crucial ingredient.


“In Australia, the name for a removals man is a ‘bug shifter’. I’m afraid it’s the Australian way to come up with a funny name for everything, but jokes aside, I want to move away from that old cliché. We’re no longer ‘bug shifters’, we’re professionals.”  Through the international end of the business, Tony stressed that in many cases when somebody migrates to Australia, the removals men are often the first ‘natives’ they’ll encounter.  “The impression that our staff make on somebody moving to the country must be positive because on a small level they’re representing Australians. We’re part of the welcoming committee, if you like,” Tony continued.


Tony also went on to talk about the high staff turnover in the trade. “There’s not a lot of access to skilled labour in Australia at the moment because of the continuing mining boom.” He mentioned that on average, people stay in the removals trade for around three years. “The pay can be very lucrative in mining so it’s a big draw for men and women within a certain age group. We can’t compete with that.” Tony does have a strong working backbone within the group as a number of his own and Frank’s family members hold senior positions throughout Queensland.


The future looks very bright for Whybirds, Tony even spoke about the possibility of joining EUROMOVERS. Sadly, the conversation about the future was coloured by his clear concern for his long-time pal and colleague Frank’s health, whom he referred to as a brother. He also went on to share with us that he missed travelling with him to conventions and that he’s looking forward to Frank being up and about in the near future.


Tony has proved that being the oldest company around hasn’t had to mean that they’re not able to evolve and change with the times.  Whybirds has seen Australia change dramatically over since 1857 and they’ve weathered the changes where others have faltered and given way to war, industry change and global recessions. We might only ponder what the next 156 years will bring.


On a lighter note Tony offers a friendly and jovial persona as some of the readers would attest to.  He loves to play golf as often as he can and is proud to be the 2013 FIDI Golf Champion held in Greece as well as being in the winning team of the PMA of South Africa tournament in 2012.  He looks forward to defending the FIDI tile in Singapore next year as well as the PMA tournament at Fan Court in South Africa in August.


Photos: Top left - Tony Oro at the IAM conference. Top right - Tony and Frank Aspinall; Centre - Tony with the 2013 FIDI golf Championship trophy; Right - Part of the Keffords fleet.

Bob Nussssss and the ssssssnake


Bob Nuss of Nuss Relocations Australia has met some deadly creatures during his time in the removals trade, especially snakes. His home country, Australia, is inhabited by ten of the world's deadliest snakes all of which can live in the suburbs Australian cities.

Bob lives in such a suburb, adjoining a National Park, and he has a new friend living in the roof cavity of his home: a 10ft long python. He is yet to give his new ‘lodger’ a name but given the circumstances he’s allowing the snake to live up there rent-free. “It’s a known fact in Australia that having a Python hanging around is a good thing as they eat vermin and have even been known to eat the odd venomous snake from time to time,” said Bob. 

Bob is no stranger to snakes having been bitten by a red-bellied black snake in his garden 25 years ago. It was touch and go for a while as to whether he’d pull through but after spending four days in hospital Bob survived to tell the tale. Proof that Australians are tough.

Not all snakes are venomous. Bob’s mate, the python (see photo) kills its prey by strangulation through constriction of its coils. The picture was taken by Bob’s wife, LouAnne three months ago when she noticed it from a window, slithering around on their roof.  

Snakes are not the only dangerous creatures in Australia. Touring British cricket and rugby teams, that attack Australian egos, are also known to be extremely hostile. International removal competitors can also fall into this category. Spiders can also kill humans and visitors to Bob's home are generally advised to wear shoes when walking around outside. Bob wouldn’t say if Australian competitors were given the same advice.

Nuss Relocations is one of Australia’s oldest and largest privately owned moving and relocation companies. It has offices in both Sydney and Melbourne and operates throughout Australia.

Photos: Bob Nuss; the python

Allied Pickfords Australia: Quarantine Measures.


Allied Pickfords Australia’s Chris Killick spoke to The Mover about his observations regarding shipment traffic in and out of Australia.  In recent years there has been a substantial increase in shipments from popular destinations across the globe including: the UK, Europe and Australia’s major cities.   This increase has seen a corresponding need for tighter controls on which particular materials are allowed into the country to protect its natural environment and ecosystems.


“When moving to Australia, it is important to know that there is very strict BioSecurity Legislation,” said Chris. “All commodities arriving in Australia are subjected to very stringent quarantine inspections before they are delivered to the customer.” Pickfords Allied Pickfords Australia has its own ‘Customs and Quarantine’ approved depots to facilitate the process.


The list of items and considerations for inspection for Australian Government Quarantine includes: outdoor furniture, bicycle tyres, golf clubs and shoes – all of which must all be completely clean and dirt free. Particular attention is paid to any wooden furniture that may contain the ‘borer’ insect. “The general rule of thumb, that we share with our customers is that if they want their household goods to gain smooth passage into Australia – they need to ensure that all their items have been thoroughly cleaned,” added Chris.


Pickfords was established in Australia 80 years ago and now has 40 locations across the country. The company was recently awarded the Asia-Pacific International Moving Company of the Year, at the 2013 Expatriate Management and Mobility Awards (EMMA).

Photo: Top - Allied Pickfords Australia's purpose built facility in Canberra


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