Breaking the stereotypes of the Bathurst building industry, Dionie Sullivan has been working behind the scenes creating a new construction company focused on women as clients.
As a mature-age carpenter by trade, Dionie came first in the class at Bathurst TAFE when studying her Diploma in Building in 2011.
She's the first to admit entering the class of young male apprentices was daunting given she was a 29-year-old woman, but with the support of her teachers and fellow apprentices it didn't take long to feel right at home.
Dionie said she decided to become a carpenter while working in sports development.
She'd graduated from uni and been working interstate and overseas, when her interest in carpentry really developed.
And although she came from a family of tradesmen, up until that point, she didn't think it was an option for her.
But at 29, she enrolled at TAFE, and has never looked back. Having finished her trade she moved into estimating for a large NSW builder at Orange and built spec homes on the side too.
Since starting the business two years ago, Dionie found women calling regularly to explain to her that male builders did not take them seriously, or allow flexibility in client input and communication.
Hence a demand was borne for a female-led company in an industry traditionally dominated by men.
There's no reason women trades can't flourish in Bathurst with the amount of building work available.- Dionie Sullivan
"There's no reason women trades can't flourish in Bathurst with the amount of building work available. We are multi-taskers, good communicators and capable of tough but rewarding work.
"I'd like to see more female apprentices coming through the TAFE system with the support of local businesses. Mentoring programs would be a good start and a shift in building site attitudes to be more inclusive".
As the director of her own company Dionie said her role is more project management, but every now and then she'll put her carpenter's belt back on, especially for her favourite jobs.
"I do miss [being on the tools] but I'm still on site everyday, overseeing the projects,' she said.
Since starting her company two years ago Dionie has discovered a market for 'multi-generational homes' and along with her designer and co-director Suzanne Robbins has created a series of flexible floorplans that allow extended families to reside together, or for a section of the home to be rented out legally for income.
She said the idea has become incredibly popular.
"Two residences under one roof is a no-brainer in the economy of building costs. The second property is separately metred, independent and compliant with council regulations to allow a creative approach to families combining resources.
"Whether you are downsizing or looking to run a home business, our floorplans and designs allow you to maximise the dollars you spend on a significant investment.
"The layouts really suit all walks of life from first home buyer to retirees, to running an Airbnb business."
"Twenty per cent of the Australian population has two or more generations living under the same roof, people want a floor plan that can grow and evolve."
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