Remodelers are coming into their own down under, where the first-ever "National Remodelling Conference" (spelling deliberate) was held July 11-13.

Sponsored by the Master Builders Association of the ACT -- the Australian equivalent of the National Association of Home Builders -- and inspired by the U.S. Remodeling Show, the Australian event was "the first in which remodelling has been recognized as a specific construction industry sector here in Australia," says Peter Shands, owner of Professional Home Improvements P/L and a leading player in creating the conference.

In the past, remodelers had "always been seen as the poor cousins of the housing sector, effectively under the influence of market and regulatory conditions of the greater construction industry," he writes. As every U.S. remodeler knows, "there are numerous specific circumstances where the remodelling sector must be independently considered."

The Australian remodeling market is expected to grow 50% over the next five years, according to the Construction Forecasting Council.

The conference was small by U.S. standards, with around 200 attendees, no exposition, and a dozen or so workshops, most of them led by U.S. consultants. But Shands says it was significant, considering that most construction training in Australia is of a technical nature and focuses on rules and regulations.

Not only did the workshops impart "critical management skills that propel business owners to new heights," Shands says, but the event brought out "a genuine spirit of camaraderie...that I do not think can ever be lost."

Shands expects the conference to become annual, with larger crowds each year. He adds that the conference coincided with the formation of Master Builders Remodellers Australia. The ultimate hope is that the new group becomes "the logical industry association for all remodelers...and from which all consumers will select their remodelling contractor," Shands says.

"The big thing was education," adds presenter Tim Faller, founder of Field Training Services, author of The Lead Carpenter Handbook, and a columnist for REMODELING. Most Australian labor is subcontracted, making it somewhat more difficult to create a culture of service and culture, Faller and Shands note.

Want to read more about the Australian remodeling experience? Visit the Remodeling Online Editors' Blog. Also, don't forget to register soon for the The Remodeling Show, to be held this year in Las Vegas Oct. 9-12. Learn more at