Business leaders driving cultural change in construction are among the biggest winners of the 2022 NAWIC Awards for Excellence. NAWIC Co-President, Elizabeth Brookes says the NAWIC Awards for Excellence celebrate the contributions that women make to the construction industry at all career levels and in all sectors. But this year a common characteristic has emerged, and many of the recipients have made it their mission to build businesses that support diversity and inclusion.
“This year we have recognised several leaders taking great strides forward to create the cultural change necessary for women to thrive in construction,” adds NAWIC Co-President, Harriet Oldmeadow. “We were thrilled with the calibre of this year’s entrants and in many categories our judges found it difficult to pick a winner. We congratulate all nominees and thank our award judges and sponsors.”
Dominique Gill was presented with the night’s most prestigious award, the Lendlease Crystal Vision Award for Advancing the Interests of Women in the Construction Industry. A qualified architect and former NAWIC Project Manager of the Year, Ms Gill established a boutique fitout and construction company, Urban Core, to grow female representation in the construction industry.
“As Founder and Managinging Director of Urban Core, Dominique has made it her mission to create new employment opportunities for talented women. Dominique has grown a $20 million business in just five years, delivering outstanding projects and empowering women to embrace careers in construction,” Ms Brookes says.
Two new awards were added to the list for 2022: the ADCO Champion of Change and the Acoustic Logic Regional Woman of the Year.
“These new awards recognise sustained commitment to women in the construction industry despite the uncertainties and challenges of the last two years, and honour emerging female talent in regional areas,” Ms Brookes says.
Stephen Surjan, Head of Operations at Roberts Co, took home the inaugural ADCO Champion of Change award. Mr Surjan is responsible for meeting the Tier 1 builder’s 50:50 gender diversity target, and negotiated a landmark enterprise bargaining agreement with the CFMEU in 2020 which includes a five-day working week.
“Stephen has championed flexible working, removed recruitment entry barriers and set new standards for safe sites. Through his passion and leadership, Stephen has increased female representation at Roberts by 7 per cent in just one year, and importantly set a new benchmark that is being followed by other Tier 1 contractors,” Ms Oldmeadow explains.
Emma Muller, Founder and Managing Directror of Maliyan Horizon, was named Acoustic Logic Regional Woman of the Year. Ms Muller established her civil engineering company to grow employment opportunities for regional Indigenous communities.
“Emma has delivered contract values of up to $25 million across diverse construction projects, and is supporting jobs and local businesses in towns from the Pilbara to the Riverina regions. Her passionate approach to skills development is a demonstration of reconciliation in action,” Ms Oldmeadow notes.
Other winners include a plumbing apprentice who travelled the breadth of the country to land a job, a skilled project manager working on Australia’s 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail, a team challenging the industry to think differently about affordable housing, and a business woman overseeing the development of the largest intergenerational campus in the southern hemisphere.
“The last year has been a challenging one, but the construction industry has not stepped back from its commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the extraordinary individuals and teams recognised tonight are a testament to the depth of talent across the industry,” Ms Oldmeadow says.
“While we are making great strides forward in driving the cultural change necessary to promote diversity, inclusion and work-life balance, we still have a lot of work ahead. Just 12 per cent of employees in our industry are female and Infrastructure Australia predicts a skills shortage of more than 105,000 jobs by 2023. Securing a pipeline of female talent is mission-critical for our nation,” Ms Brookes concludes.
All category winners
AWARD 1: Transport for NSW Tradesperson Scholarship
Winner: Sarah McArthur, Rab’s Plumbing Service
With a passion for physical work, experience in residential maintenance and some VET training under her belt, Sarah McArthur was determined to pursue a career as a plumber. But after facing dozens of knockbacks in her hometown of Perth, Sarah travelled across the country to take up an apprenticeship with Rab’s Plumbing Service in Sydney. Now working with a Tier 1 construction firm, Sarah continues to grow her skills and network, and aspires to pursue further qualifications in hydraulic design. The judges applaud Sarah’s enduring interest in her trade, her deep attention to detail, demonstrated focus, hard work and consistent ethics.
AWARD 2: Probuild Award for Project Manager of the Year
Winner: Caroline Dénès, Willow
With more than a decade’s experience working on complex construction projects, Caroline Dénès was the Senior Delivery Manager for the City of Sydney’s $100 million Gunyama Park Aquatic and Recreation Centre. Delivering Sydney’s largest aquatic complex since the 2000 Olympics demanded skilled stakeholder management and a commitment to collaboration and inclusion. Caroline’s visible leadership impressed the judges, as did her approach to managing issues under pressure. Caroline applied her proactive approach and adept problem-solving to navigate the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. She successfully handed over the project in February 2021 and is now applying her talents to champion construction technology with Willow.
AWARD 3: CPB Award for Contribution to Sustainability
Winner: Elham Monavari, Green Building Council of Australia
A sustainability leader committed to transformational change, Elham Monavari led the creation of the new Green Star Homes rating tool for the Green Building Council of Australia. This revolutionary rating tool promises to drive down emissions by 70,000 tonnes over the next decade. Elham’s 20-year commitment to sustainability in the built environment has delivered many other dividends: a liveability survey for Mirvac, ambitious waste targets for local government and higher sustainability standards for high-profile projects in the United Arab Emirates, for example. A collaborator, dedicated professional and powerful role model, Elham is now focused on ensuring the Green Star rating system is ready for a digital future.
AWARD 4: Roberts Co Award for Contribution to a Project’s Development
Winner: Melanie Elms, Australian Rail Track Corporation – Inland Rail
As Australia’s 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail project takes shape, Melanie Elms has navigated the challenges of delivering major infrastructure while championing the interests of local communities. As Stakeholder Engagement Lead for the project’s Narrabri to North Star section, Melanie managed 100-plus stakeholders – from landowners to local councils, members of parliament to the general public. Her determination to leave a legacy in local communities delivered $18.4 million in funds with 107 local businesses. Her skills and understanding of complex infrastructure projects, such as flooding, hydrology, noise modelling and telecommunications, ensured community members could contribute their feedback to the development of Australia’s new freight backbone.
AWARD 5: Unispace Scholarship for Future Leader
Winner: Kelly Pham, Star PMCA
A skilled quantity surveyor and contract administrator, Kelly Pham has worked on iconic projects in Singapore and Australia. Currently project manager on the $110 million Ryde Central project, Kelly combines technical expertise, excellent interpersonal skills and a commitment to self-leadership. With a voracious appetite for knowledge, Kelly has skills in data analytics, building information modelling, property valuation and sustainability strategy. Kelly’s impressive voluntary contribution to the industry includes mentor roles for both NAWIC and the Master Builders Association in 2021. She is also helping the property industry to support homeless youth through the Property Industry Foundation.
AWARD 6: MPA Award for Achievement in Construction, Refurbishment and Fitout
Winner: Aleksandra Gorgieva, Generate Property Group
As the lead project manager on the integrated fitout at NAB Place, Aleksandra Gorgieva represented NAB from the briefing phase in 2017 through to practical completion in April 2021. The next-generation workplace across 32,000 sqm features collaboration and workshop spaces, a large atrium and auditorium, and a full-floor wellness centre with terrace and café. The project integrated the heritage-listed Shell House and 10 levels in the adjoining Premium-grade, Green Star-rated office tower at Brookfield Place. With extensive site experience, Aleks undertook technical reviews, identified scope gaps and built strong relationships with developer Brookfield, builder Multiplex and the client. The result? A spectacular fitout that supports 2,000-plus NAB employees.
AWARD 7: Hassell Innovation in Design Award
Winner: Hope Dryden, Architectus
A talented and inspiring architect, Hope Dryden developed a passion for sustainability and an affinity for engineered timber during her studies. Hope started work on Macquarie University’s transformative Incubator and Ainsworth buildings as a graduate in 2016. By applying elements of her university studies to the project, Hope created a testing ground for prefabricated mass timber in Australia. The result, a departure from traditional Australian university architecture, delivered fast construction and a smaller environmental footprint. What’s more, the Incubator building, originally conceived as a temporary structure, is so well loved as a place to work and study that it is likely to stay in its current location.
AWARD 8: Laing O’Rourke Business Woman of the Year
Winner: Belinda Bentley, 9Springs
As a founding director of independent property investment group 9Springs, Belinda started her business in 2016 before expanding to provide advisory services to the affordable housing sector in 2018. With an average 50% year-on-year growth, 9Springs has delivered $910 million of greenfield and infill development projects across New South Wales. Belinda is now overseeing the 7.3-hectare Fresh Hope project – the largest intergenerational campus in the southern hemisphere. Belinda was the youngest director appointed to not-for-profit Link Wentworth in 2018 and contributes to the delivery of 6,400 affordable, social and specialist disability homes. Belinda is also a voluntary academic with the UTS Built Environment School.
AWARD 9: John Holland Award for Team Innovation
Winner: Elena Beleska and Myra Basic, IRT Group
With a determination to think differently about affordable homes, Elena Beleska and Myra Basic invited women to co-design a new model for housing. The result is Jasmine Grove, a unique community for senior single women in Wollongong. Nestled inside a larger retirement community, Jasmine Grove’s eight self-contained villas are set around a shared house and garden. Elena, IRT’s Project Manager, and Innovation and Insights Manager Myra developed a strong concept, designed the collaborative model and secured a government grant to bring their idea to life. The result is a new benchmark for co-designed communities and a bespoke, age-friendly housing solution for women that balances privacy and connection.
AWARD 10: Generate Property University Scholarship
Winner: Petra Quartullo, University of NSW
Drawn to problem-solving, Petra Quartullo is currently studying a double degree in civil engineering and commerce at the University of New South Wales. Her honours thesis, for which she received a high distinction, applied cutting-edge climate change assessment to analyse the sustainability of urban water infrastructure. This work led Petra to an engineering internship with Boral. From her first day in the fast-paced and high-stakes environment of a granite quarry, Petra has challenged herself to think outside the box. Hard working and focused on the big picture, Petra is helping Boral’s innovation team to test new recycling methods for thousands of tonnes of glass bottles each year.
AWARD 11: Lendlease Crystal Vision Award for Advancing the Interests of Women in the Construction Industry
Winner: Dominique Gill, Urban Core
A qualified architect and former NAWIC Project Manager of the Year, Dominique Gill decided it wasn’t enough to inspire other women to take the leap into the construction industry. In 2016, Dominique founded Urban Core with a clear vision: 40 per cent of staff would be female-identifying by 2022. Dominique not only hit that target in June 2021. She has also grown her business into one that boasts $20 million in annual revenue, healthy profits and a model tuned to expansion. Today, Dominique employs 17 staff across two offices in Sydney and Melbourne, has delivered exceptional outcomes on projects and empowered other women to stride ahead in their construction careers.
AWARD 12: ADCO Champion of Change
Winner: Stephen Surjan, Roberts Co
As Head of Operations at Roberts Co, Stephen Surjan has been unrelenting in his hunt for talented women. With responsibility for meeting Roberts’ 50:50 gender diversity target, Stephen has championed flexible working across all roles, removed recruitment entry barriers and set new standards for safe sites. Stephen interviews every potential employee and has hired women across roles from project managers to apprentices. In just 12 months female participation at Roberts has risen from 30% to 37% and women make up 60% of the executive team. Throughout 2020, Stephen negotiated a landmark enterprise bargaining agreement with the CFMEU which includes a five-day per week calendar – a new benchmark which has been followed by other Tier 1 contractors.
AWARD 13: Acoustic Logic Regional Woman of the Year
Winner: Emma Muller, Maliyan Horizon
A strong voice and advocate for our regions, Emma Muller co-founded Maliyan Horizon to deliver two core business objectives: employment opportunities for regional Aboriginal communities and high-quality service to clients. With a passion for hands-on work, Emma has delivered contract values of up to $25 million across diverse construction projects, including transmission lines, haul roads and tailing dams. Emma has contributed to thriving regional towns by creating jobs and supporting local business from the Pilbara to the Riverina regions. With an abiding commitment to creating opportunities for Indigenous people, Emma established a company-wide mentoring program.