The next 12 months are favourable for manufacturing

CEO of the South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance Honi Walker looks towards 2024 and what it will hold for manufacturing.

CEO of the South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance Honi Walker looks towards 2024 and what it will hold for manufacturing in Melbourne’s south east but also manufacturing more broadly.

The Southeast of Victoria is now considered to be the manufacturing hub of Australia, according to Bernard Salt, Australia’s most well-known demographer. “Four of the largest manufacturing regions are located in the South East of Melbourne – employing a total of 29,900 people and Melbourne is forecast to be Australia’s largest city at 7 million by 2040,” he said.

Finding the right people, investment, growth, cutting red-tape and taxes, the narrative is enough to keep any CEO or SME business owner awake at night. But what are the things we can look forward to in 2024?

Recent figures from the Victorian State Government affirm that Victoria’s $33billion manufacturing industry is a driving force of the state’s economy, made up of over 24,000 businesses, supporting 260,000 jobs and exporting goods worth $23.9billion#.

Indeed, it is refreshing to see the Victorian and Federal Government working together. The recent announcement of the National Skills Agreement (NSA) which will take effect from January 2024 hopefully means a coordinated effort to not just fill these skills gaps now but ensure we have a pipeline of skilled people for the foreseeable future.

Never has this been more important as we continue to stress the need for our sovereign capabilities to be recognised and protected –  we believe our rail industry needs to be part of this consideration, and SEMMA will take up this conversation at AUSRAIL in Sydney this November.

SEMMA is doing what it can to help develop a pipeline of skilled people. Earlier this year we launched our SMART SECURE SUSTAINABLE – Manufacturing has Evolved – So have our Careers campaign promoting the range of new careers emerging from advanced manufacturing while encouraging secondary students to consider the benefits of apprenticeships, traineeships and VCAL programs through the TAFE sector.

We are working closely with one of our founding members – Chisholm TAFE to bring a new generation of people into manufacturing. We have a Meet the Graduate event at Chisholm on Thursday 23 November, linking employers and recent engineering/fabrication graduates seeking a role in manufacturing. We are also working closely with Monash University to engage their interns within our industry, and we have joined with Federation University’s Industry Co-Op model to ensure work experience and skills align.

New partnerships are in discussion – so I urge you to do your part and talk to any young people you know about considering a career in manufacturing, the roles are vast and I firmly believe the opportunities unlimited.

Victoria is the powerhouse of Australia’s manufacturing, but what is keeping SEMMA members awake at night?

The recent increases to Workcover premiums have been a nasty surprise for most of our members. Some of our members say their premium has increased by 67 per cent and up to 83 per cent. These increases are unsustainable, especially when members have not made any claims for many years.

This is an area SEMMA will continue to press the Government on as we move into 2024 and while having it rewound is unlikely, we can look for other ways to assist our members by reducing red tape.

According to the ABS Manufacturing industry earnings grew $7.6b (17.8%) in 21-22*.

How’s ‘23 looking so far? According to our members, despite rate rises, the housing crisis and inflation, it’s steady as she goes.

So, the pulse is strong for manufacturing – what are the growth areas and what are those issues that threaten manufacturing? What can we do, as an industry association to help our members grow?


Ai, Robotics and the renewables sector will continue to see business investment and jobs growth and as we look to opening up the regions and new projects come online (see SUSTAINABLE below).

Industry input into university and TAFE courses will shore-up our talent pipeline.

Partnering with organisations like Australian National Nanofabrication Facility (ANFF) and Swinburne University Smart Hub means our members can be at the forefront of testing their technological capabilities.


Transport: Some sectors within manufacturing seem to be softening while others are ramping up – Alstom are gearing up for major production of the new train and tram fleet out of their Dandenong and Ballarat sites.

Specialty Additives: This sector is continuing to grow, and with the increasing need to supply to Defence, this sector will continue to perform well.


The growth corridor of Officer South/Thompsons Rd will be essential if Victoria is to maintain our position as the hub of manufacturing in Australia. This region needs the road upgrade to open the vast amount of land for commercial, industrial and residential use.

Port of Hastings and the Sale New Energy Hub are in planning and offer a multitude of opportunities and SEMMA will be there connecting our members to the next wave.

I encourage you to become a SEMMA member – if not already as we continue to look for those collaborative opportunities. We will continue to advocate on behalf of members and develop key partnerships as we strive for our vision that SEMMA is the leading representative body for manufacturing across Melbourne’s southeast region, recognised for its influence and collaboration.

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