Women are engineering connections for future generations

As part of International Women's Day, we celebrate a number of women working on the project in diverse roles.


When it comes to women working in construction, the Connections Project is bucking the trend.

The Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) project employs more than three times the average number of women in its field.

Labour Force statistics show that in 2016 only 12 per cent of employees in the construction industry were female.

This compares to more than 40 per cent of the Connections team being women. In addition the project’s Senior Leadership Team is also made up of 40 per cent women.

On today’s International Women’s Day members of the team agreed – working for the country’s biggest irrigation modernisation project was not only allowing them to further progress their career paths whilst contributing to infrastructure development within their local communities.

Engagement Officer Jane Barnes has worked for the project for about five years and said it provided an opportunity for her to continue working in her field of science and agriculture.

“Engaging with so many wonderful people is one of my favourite parts of the job - every Connections experience has been, and will continue to be, completely different,” Ms Barnes said.

“It is so rewarding to talk to a customer after their Connections work is complete and receive positive feedback about how it has improved their irrigation practices.”

Engineer Natalie Sharp joined the project three years ago as Systems, Risk and Quality Manager after 15 years managing projects in the rural water industry.

She said the project is allowing her to follow her passion using practical maths and science to solve problems.

“I have spent many years working on irrigation water savings investigations throughout Australia, undertaking studies and modelling that have underpinned significant government investment in irrigation modernisation, both on-farm and through the distribution networks,” she said.

“I am proud that work I have undertaken has directly resulted in positive outcomes for productive irrigated agriculture and regional communities throughout Australia.

“The Connections Project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provide irrigation infrastructure upgrades that support productive agriculture that also result in greater efficiencies and water savings."

Brooke Gillies joined the project in late 2015 in the engagement team and says she’s been lucky to be able to broaden her skills by moving in the Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) team.

“I started to develop an interest in the planning side of things and what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ which is what then drew me to the ECI role,” she said.

“Working in the ECI team and with John Holland is developing my understanding in different areas such as construction and commercial.

“It’s great to see women filling management and leadership roles on the project. I think there’s still a long way to go to even out the gender balance across the construction industry but I think it’s great that within the project there is an equal opportunity for everyone.”

For Project Manager Emma Bamford, the project is allowing her to further her skills in civil engineering.

“I wanted to get into engineering because I wanted to build things and make a lasting contribution to the world,” she said.

“It’s really rewarding to know that we’re building something for the future.

“I think the Connections Project is so important – it’s giving so many local people the chance to develop their skills working on such a large infrastructure project in Northern Victoria, and supports local businesses.”

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