Radmila Desic AM
Change can be slow, but dedicated champions are key. Mrs Radmila Desic AM is one of these champions, playing a key role in advancing women in the construction field. Radmila was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in the Australia Day 2021 Honours List for her significant service to women in the construction industry, and to unemployed youth.
A carpenter and joiner by trade, Radmila admits that she has faced her fair share of resistance as a woman in a traditionally male-dominated field. Despite this, and perhaps in spite of this, Radmila has been a significant advocate for gender equity in trades, and is spurred on by the positive progress being made in her home state of Queensland.
Radmila has been involved in a number of roles with the Queensland Government and other organisations, associations and committees which seek to progress women in the trades. Most notably, she was Queensland Chapter President of the National Association of Women in Construction from 2007 to 2010, and former National Director and Vice-President of the association. Radmila was also involved with BUSY at Work, a not-for-profit organisation which provides career opportunities to unemployed youth. Despite her many roles and accomplishments, Radmila is quick to note that she is not alone in her advocacy. She is inspired by the efforts of many women, and hopes that the public will take note of their collective action and progress.
When asked about her appointment in the Order of Australia, Radmila describes her shock at learning of her appointment. “I actually didn’t believe it. To come out of these roots and receive this recognition is extremely overwhelming”.
The ‘roots’ that Radmila talks about refers to her upbringing as a first-generation immigrant in Australia. Radmila moved to Australia at the age of seven with her parents and sister, after an earthquake destroyed their home in Bar, Montenegro. Her mother worked three jobs, while her father worked in Western Australia, flying in and out to visit them. Radmila explains that “it’s really hard to describe what this award means to my family and I. We certainly would have had a different life if we had stayed in Montenegro during the Balkan war.”
Radmila admits that she was initially interested in pursuing archaeology in university; however, ended up leaving home and looking for work, where she stumbled across the Queensland Housing and Construction Group training scheme through Centrelink. The scheme allowed her to trial different trades – with bricklaying, carpentry and joinery being some of her favourites – and was where her love for the trades industry first started.
Radmila hopes that more people will nominate others for an Order of Australia to encourage those who are making contributions to their communities. ““I feel like an imposter most of the time since I’m just doing what I’m passionate about – seeing change. But this award has re-energised me and built confidence that I’m on the right path. If there’s anyone that you recognise as worthy, you should definitely put the time and effort in to nominating them. It is lifechanging and uplifting.”