Helene’s build­ing, break­ing bar­ri­ers

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

A Jer­ilderie woman’s ca­reer is help­ing dis­man­tle gen­der bar­ri­ers.

Ap­pren­tice builder Helene Mort­lock was guest speaker at the re­cent Griffith TAFE grad­u­a­tion night, where she was also named the cam­pus’s Out­stand­ing Stu­dent of the Year.

For the last three years, Helene has been at­tend­ing Griffith cam­pus for three days ev­ery three weeks as part of her ap­pren­tice­ship.

She started her trade with her brother Chris be­fore con­tin­u­ing on un­der the guid­ance of her fa­ther, Jer­ilderie builder Paul Ryan.

At 42 years of age, Helene is con­sid­ered a “late starter” in the trade but hasn’t let her gen­der or age hold her back.

She was the only fe­male stu­dent in the TAFE Build­ing and Car­pen­try in­take of much younger male ap­pren­tices at the cam­pus.

All this was achieved while sup­port­ing her fam­ily, her busi­ness (Jumptree Stu­dios) in Jer­ilderie, and work­ing on build­ing projects with her brother and fa­ther, among other things.

At the awards cer­e­mony, Helene grad­u­ated with a Cer­tifi­cate III in Car­pen­try, for which she also re­ceived the Award for Ex­cel­lence, and Cer­tifi­cate IV in Build­ing and Con­struc­tion (Build­ing).

Adding to the ex­cite­ment on the night, it was re­vealed it was the first time in the 63-year his­tory of the Griffith Cam­pus that some­one from the Con­struc­tion De­part­ment had won the top gong.

Helene said she was ‘‘over­whelmed and elated’’ to re­ceive such an hon­our.

She was also called in as a last minute guest speaker for the evening, giv­ing an in­spi­ra­tional talk about her ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in a “man’s trade” and en­cour­ag­ing young women to fol­low their dreams and not be de­terred by gen­der bar­ri­ers.

‘‘I’m the last of Dad’s three chil­dren that he has put through ap­pren­tice­ships,’’ she said.

‘‘Both of my brothers did their time with Dad . . . I think Dad de­serves an award for that.

‘‘As I said in my speech, any ac­co­lade I re­ceive is re­ally a re­flec­tion on my Dad, hence the award is re­ally for him as a Mas­ter Builder and a most gen­er­ous, fair and kind man who gives ev­ery­one a go . . . even his 42 year-old daugh­ter, re­gard­less of any mock­ery he may have copped.

‘‘I’m hon­oured to have his 60 plus years of wis­dom and ex­pe­ri­ence to learn from.

‘‘It’s an hon­our to be able to ‘carry each other’ in that which he no longer needs to do phys­i­cally I can do, such as climb­ing up lad­ders and un­der build­ings. What I don’t know, he does, and he’s able to com­mu­ni­cate very well as he’s an ex­cel­lent men­tor.’’

On the ques­tion of gen­der stereo­types, Helene says she doesn’t be­lieve be­ing a fe­male has set her apart from the ‘‘lads’’ in her course.

‘‘Be­ing a ma­ture age stu­dent I’m more com­mit­ted and driven to achieve in a field I have loved all my life — build­ing and de­sign.

‘‘As a fe­male ap­pren­tice in the build­ing in­dus­try you ini­tially stand out, but very quickly you’re mea­sured for your con­tri­bu­tion, work ethic, skills, will­ing­ness to learn and com­mu­ni­cate etcetera . . . not gen­der.’’

The ‘‘trap’’ of stereo­typ­i­cal judg­ments should be redi­rected with a lot of ar­eas of life, He­len points out.

Re­fer­ring to her Dad, she says peo­ple have asked her why he’s not in re­tire­ment.

‘‘I say that as a so­ci­ety we should be keep­ing our el­ders ac­tively en­gaged if that is their de­sire. They’re the ones that hold the knowl­edge and can teach us ‘young guns’ so much, if we care to lis­ten.

‘‘We should value ev­ery­one for what they can do and fo­cus less on the neg­a­tives.

‘‘To see the value in ev­ery­one, young and old, male and fe­male, and see past what they don’t have, or may have lost through age or ac­ci­dent or lack of op­por­tu­nity, so that we see what they do hold and can give . . . for nearly ev­ery­one has some­thing to of­fer.

‘‘There re­ally is no such thing as some­one who is dis­abled, too young, too old, we are just able to con­trib­ute in dif­fer­ing ways if we choose to do so given the chance.’’

Helene fin­ished her grad­u­a­tion speech by thank­ing her TAFE teach­ers, fa­ther, brother, and fam­ily, and stressed the value of older, ex­pe­ri­enced men­tors, and their con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety.

~ So­phie Burge & Judy Ryan

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