West Gate Tunnel Project provides construction opportunities for women

Kristy Stewart

Victoria’s construction boom has created a surge of jobs and with the variety of work available the opportunities for women to join what has historically been a male-dominated industry have increased significantly.

The Victorian Connection spoke to two such female workers about the opportunities for them on one of Victoria’s major construction jobs: the West Gate Tunnel Project.

Kristy Stewart recently joined the West Gate Tunnel Project. She is one of three women in the first round of graduates of the project’s Aboriginal pre-employment program. Kristy is a proud Waanyi woman, and a single mum to a nine-year-old son.

Kristy works onsite as a storeperson. She is receiving training to learn the practical skills needed for working on major infrastructure projects, including how to read engineering plans and drawings, as well as mastering a new range of tools and equipment.

Her primary responsibility is to help manage the warehousing and distribution of machinery, equipment and stock for the tunnelling hub in Yarraville. She considers this role to be a great opportunity to build a career in construction.

"I’d been working for five years in warehousing and thought ‘I can develop and learn new skills working on this awesome project'" says Kristy "I’m encouraging my sister, other members of my family, and my friends to give it a go."

"For me, it’s a bonus to work where I’m part of building an historical Melbourne landmark – not everyone gets that opportunity – and my son gets a kick out of seeing his mum in hi-vis."

Jennifer smiling in front of the camera at the officeAlso contributing to the West Gate Tunnel Project is Jennifer Sherry. She joined the Western Distributor Authority 18 months ago and has been acting Deputy Director Engineering & Operations, West Gate Tunnel Project, for the past six months. She is responsible for management of the engineering and operations team for design and construction across the project.

Not the first major roads project she has worked on, Jennifer gained international experience working on Ireland’s longest motorway, the M7, as well during the planning phase of the Cork-Limerick motorway. Locally, she also has experience on roads projects in Victoria, including the Western Highway.

Jennifer came to the project with a Bachelor in Engineering from Trinity College Dublin, a post-graduate Diploma in Applied Project Management from University College Cork, and some sleep deprivation thanks to her toddler.

"The West Gate Tunnel Project is an exciting project to be involved with, and one that will make a great contribution to the infrastructure of Melbourne" says Jennifer. "Having worked on numerous roads projects throughout my career, it is satisfying to be in a position to be able to build on my experience, to mentor other engineers, and to work closely with the project parties in delivering this project."

She has some guidance for any women considering joining the West Gate Tunnel Project. "I would encourage all women who have an interest in this project and with the relevant skills to contribute to a diverse team to consider applying for a position."

The West Gate Tunnel Project is being built by construction contractors CPBJH joint venture and, as CPBJH Project Director Brad Jackson explains, the overall approach to hiring is inclusive.

"We are bringing people in who may be facing barriers to employment but employing people is not where our commitment ends", says Brad. "Major projects like the West Gate Tunnel Project provide a great opportunity to mentor, train and sustain a diverse workforce."

Find out more about the West Gate Tunnel Project.