Apr 4, 2022, 14:00 PM


Most Citywide employees join the company through a time-tested process that involves seeing an online advertisement, submitting their CV, and attending a formal interview. 

But Sabrin Nyawela has never been one for doing things by the book. This plucky, perpetually cheerful 23-year-old is proud of the fact that she got her job on a footy Facebook page. 

“I was looking through the page of my team, VU Western Spurs open in new window icon, and there was a post from a guy called Joe saying they were looking for women to join their civil works crews in Melbourne,” says Sabrin. “And I thought, why not?”

Two months on, Sabrin is a regular fixture on the streets of inner Melbourne, where she can be seen chipping asphalt and mixing cement for a variety of construction projects. Her teammates love her, and her bosses are almost thinking of changing their recruitment strategy.

“It was an unusual thing, reaching out through a Facebook page that way,” admits Routine Maintenance Operations Coordinator, Joe Soldatos, “but I’m so glad that we did. Sabrin had no experience, but just a few weeks in, she’s already proved herself a fantastic worker.

“She’s a pretty cool person all round, and I think she’s going to be a great advocate for other girls wanting to do this kind of work.”

New roles, new attitudes

Sabrin’s appointment was part of a concerted effort by the Civil Infrastructure Service managers to hire more women in a field that’s traditionally male-dominated, and in a contract that has not had women on the ground for several years.

“It’s important to have more women in these kinds of roles, not just for gender-conscious councils and members of the public, but – perhaps even more importantly – for improving attitudes of equality, admiration and respect among their male colleagues,” says Allyce Reid open in new window icon, who supervises routine maintenance work at Citywide.

For Sabrin, it was the reaction of her colleagues that also mattered.

“I was pretty nervous to be honest, because in the interview they told me I’d be working with 22 men,” laughs Sabrin. “But I was welcomed with open arms, and I’ve never had any issues with any of the guys – they all treat me with complete respect.

“When I rocked up, I didn’t know how they would feel because I’m a girl and I’m Sudanese – I thought maybe there’d be a bit of a backlash.

“But really, they’ve all been so welcoming and kind. Sometimes one of them will swear and say ‘oh I’m sorry’, and I have to say, ‘you can swear as much as you like!’ Or when I’m carrying some heavy tools, they want to help – and I have to say, ‘no thanks, I can carry them myself!’ They’re a really cool bunch… I didn’t expect them to be so great.”

A different kind of work

After a host of office jobs, Sabrin says she was surprised to find paving and asphalting so rewarding.

“I’d been looking for another job for a while,” says Sabrin, whose last two roles were with the Victorian Government’s COVIDSafe hotline and Golf Australia’s youth program. “I’ve worked in before and after care, in various offices, but hadn’t really found what I was looking for.

“I wanted a job that would give me a different experience, and challenge me. And you know what – I discovered that I love asphalting! I deliver the asphalt with a wheelbarrow, spray the water, break up the old asphalt with a hammer and crowbar. It’s kind of cool – it feels like going to the gym every day!

“I never imagined I’d be doing this kind of work, but I couldn’t be happier – or prouder of myself.”

(Main photo: Sabrin shares a joke with supervisors Joe Soldatos, left, and Allyce Reid in the Melbourne Infrastructure Works yard)  

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