{{ propApi.closeIcon }}
Our industry
Our industry $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Housing industry insights Economics Data & forecasts Tailored research and analysis Advocacy & policy Advocacy Policy priorities Position statements Submissions News and inspiration Industry news Member alerts Media releases HOUSING Online
Business support
Business support $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Become an apprentice host Hire an apprentice Why host a HIA apprentice? Apprentice partner program Builder & manufacturer program Industry insurance Construction legal expenses insurance Construction works insurance Home warranty insurance Tradies & tool insurance Planning & safety solutions Building & planning services How can safety solutions help you? Independent site inspections Solutions for your business Contracts Online HIA Tradepass HIA SafeScan Advertise jobs Trusted support & guidance Contracts & compliance support Professional services Industrial relations Member savings Toyota vehicles The Good Guys Commercial Fuel savings See all
Resources & advice
Resources & advice $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Building it right Building codes Australian standards Getting it right on site See all Building materials & products Concrete, bricks & walls Getting products approved Use the right products for the job See all Managing your business Dealing with contracts Handling disputes Managing your employees See all Managing your safety Falls from heights Safety rules Working with silica See all Building your business Growing your business Maintaining your business See all Other subjects COVID-19 Getting approval to build Sustainable homes See all
Careers & learning
Careers & learning $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
A rewarding career Become an apprentice Apprenticeships on offer Frequently asked questions Study with us Find a course to suit you Qualification courses Learning on demand A job in the industry Get your builder's licence Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Find jobs
HIA community
HIA community $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Join HIA Sign me up How do I become a member? What's in it for me? Mates rates Get involved Become an award judge Join a committee Partner with us Our initiatives HIA Building Women GreenSmart Kitchen, bathroom and design hub Get to know us Our members Our people Our partners Support for you Charitable Foundation Mental health program
Awards & events
Awards & events $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Awards program People & Business Awards GreenSmart Australian Housing Awards Awards winners Regional Award winners Australian Housing Award winners 2024 Australian Home of the Year Enter online Industry events Events in the next month Economic outlook National Conference Events calendar
HIA products
HIA products $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Shop @ HIA Digital Australian Standards Contracts Online Shipping & delivery Purchasing T&Cs See all Products Purchase NCC 2022 Building codes & standards Economic reports Hard copy contracts Guides & manuals
About Contact Newsroom
$vuetify.icons.faTimes
$vuetify.icons.faMapMarker Set my location Use the field below to update your location
Address
Change location
{{propApi.title}}
{{propApi.text}} {{region}} Change location
{{propApi.title}}
{{propApi.successMessage}} {{region}} Change location

$vuetify.icons.faPhone1300 650 620

Be the change

{{ tag.label }} {{ tag.label }} $vuetify.icons.faTimes
HOUSING sits down with newly awarded HIA Life Member Colleen May to talk about her passion for the industry she has tirelessly served for 20 years.

Gabrielle Chariton

Author

Contributor to Housing

If you want to influence change, you have to be that change and not wait for someone else to do it for you,’ says Colleen May, General Manager of May Constructions. It’s a philosophy that has informed every move of her 20-year career in the housing industry. Equally comfortable working onsite in a hard hat, in the office or in the boardroom, Colleen has led improvement and transformation within her own business, across the industry and in the wider community. 

Colleen commenced at May Constructions in the early 2000s, armed with a Bachelor of Arts and wide-ranging professional experience, but knowing ‘very little about the “nuts and bolts” of building’. In the early days, as she nurtured the new business alongside husband Peter, she was constantly learning and making incremental changes. 

‘You have to start and do everything to build a company and explore opportunities. I helped to create the baseline upon which we’ve managed to build on over the years,’ she says. 
As her practical knowledge grew, Colleen became more involved in setting direction, refining processes and driving the performance of the business. Under her capable direction, it flourished – diversifying from high-end residential into commercial projects such as schools, community facilities and multi-use developments. Today, with 40 employees, May Constructions is one of Melbourne’s leading commercial contracting and development groups. 

For Colleen, however, building is as much about people as it is about bricks and mortar. ‘The buildings are an enduring legacy to our work, however, it’s the people who work on them who are important,’ she says. ‘I want to ensure that everyone working with me is skilled, empowered and passionate about what we build, that our colleagues and collaborators in the building process enjoy a positive and professional experience, and that ultimately the client and end-user is delighted with the result.’

It’s this people-first approach that motivated Colleen to extend her involvement with HIA, which she views as a powerful platform for advocacy, joining the Membership Committee in 2003. ‘HIA committees are an important conduit between members working in the industry, and those who administer and regulate it,’ she says. ‘HIA plays a significant role in lobbying government on our behalf and in informing and educating members.’

In subsequent positions on the Victorian and National Training Committees, Colleen worked tirelessly to drive improvements to building-related courses and qualifications, better outcomes for occupational health and safety, and a reduction in red tape. 

She was elected President of HIA Victoria in 2008 – making history as the first (and only) woman to hold this position in the region’s history. ‘I was acutely conscious of my responsibility to members and of the legacy of service entrusted to me by those who had gone before,’ she says. Being the first female to step into this role ‘raised a few eyebrows at the time…but the overwhelming majority of people were extremely supportive’.

During her three-year presidency (and beyond), Colleen endeavoured to dispel the perception of construction as a male-dominated industry, and encouraged women to actively participate in setting the direction of HIA and the wider industry.

‘There are many successful women making significant contributions in all areas of the industry,’ she says. ‘Unfortunately, they are largely invisible. It’s important for female role models to put themselves forward and encourage younger women to see that a career in construction is attainable.’

Last year Colleen helped launch the HIA Building Women initiative. ‘We are working to increase the visibility of women in our industry, provide education and training, offer networking opportunities to combat the isolation women often encounter, and to mentor and facilitate career pathways for women in our industry,’ she says.

May Constructions apartment project

As an active member of HIA Victoria’s Regional Executive Committee (REC), Colleen remains focused on fostering positive working relationships with government, other associations and regulatory bodies. She’s also a passionate champion of industry training as a mechanism for strengthening career pathways for men and women. ‘It’s important that people have the skills they need and that the education and training provided is appropriate. Many of the pathways existing today are historical and need to be adapted to achieve twenty-first century outcomes.’

However, the cause closest to Colleen’s heart is the Victorian Homeless Fund (VHF), which assists the homeless by building and renovating houses, and which she has chaired since 2013. ‘I’m most proud of my contribution to providing houses for homeless families, particularly women and children victims of domestic violence. I’m proud of all the HIA members, builders, contractors, suppliers and trades who have given so generously over the years and who continue to give even in these dire times, to help those in desperate need.’

With her unstoppable energy and drive, Colleen has built a lasting legacy in strengthening the industry she loves. It’s been a rewarding career, and she believes she’s got as much out of it as she has put in. ‘It’s a dynamic industry full of opportunity, diversity and challenges,’ Colleen says. ‘I’ve met amazing people and achieved far more than I ever imagined.’

She was ‘honoured and thrilled’ to be awarded HIA Life Membership in August. ‘I was humbled and completely overwhelmed to think that my colleagues…would actively create an opportunity to shine a light on me and recognise my contribution to our industry,’ she says. ‘I’m very grateful to the Victorian REC members for nominating me and to the National Board for awarding me this amazing honour.’

In terms of the future, Colleen’s first priority is to ‘chart a path through this period of COVID chaos’ and is hopeful of being able to ‘go outside without a face mask’ sometime soon. Looking further ahead, she’s ready to support and mentor industry newcomers as May Constructions enters its next phase of growth. ‘I have many decades of experience and knowledge to share but it needs to be viewed through the lens of a new generation with their own ideas, goals and challenges.’

You might also like:

President's report Strategic planning
Gold Coast and Northern Rivers Chair's report
As Committee Chair, I reflect on housing excellence, advocacy, and industry growth, highlighting the region's commitment to skill development and community engagement.
May 24
2 mins
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
President's report Construction Awards
Hunter President's report
Two Hunter members were recently acknowledged for their significant contribution to our industry, members, and HIA.
Apr 24
2 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Apprentice Kitchens People
Be the good
A passionate perfectionist, Kristy Francis of Lathams Kitchens is embarking on her 25th year in the building industry. An integral part of several HIA committees, she reveals her talent and what keeps her motivated.
Apr 24
4 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
President's report Safety Licence Building Women
WA President's report
Although the year has started at a positive pace, we continue to face population growth, increasing demand and labour shortages.
Apr 24
2 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Business and digital Payment Trends
Resources - autumn 2024
Looking for technical information or design inspiration? Here are the latest tools to narrow your search and advance your knowledge.
Apr 24
2 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Construction Inspiration People
From the torrent
Lismore builder and businessman Joel Jensen experienced the catastrophic floods in summer 2022, but his close bond with the community left a lasting effect.
Apr 24
4 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Awards Apprentice People Timber
Ever evolving
Described by past clients as ‘artistically gifted’ and ‘a lateral thinker’, home builder and carpenter Kane Harrison treats every project as a labour of love.
Apr 24
4 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Residential Projects Construction Inspiration
Pushing boundaries
When a South Australian firm constructed an Adelaide home during the pandemic, they managed to incorporate distinctive elements that tested their problem-solving abilities.
Apr 24
3 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Apprentice Awards Business and digital Residential
A building franchise with a difference
Personal, collaborative, supportive, flexible and user-friendly: not always words we might associate with franchises. But these words capture the spirit of the national building franchise Integrity New Homes.
Apr 24
5 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Bathroom Design Inspiration Kitchens
Peachy keen
Imbued with warmth and modern elegance, Peach Fuzz is the go-to tone when designing, developing or revitalising an interior.
Mar 24
2 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Apprentice Business and digital Education Networking
Jumping-off point
To give apprentices the tools to stay on the job longer, they can learn from the best in the building industry. HIA Apprentices offers various initiatives, including its targeted BuildHer and LAHC programs.
Mar 24
7 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight
Projects Design Inspiration
How to introduce Peach Fuzz
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the prestigious Pantone Colour of the Year program, a global expression of mood and attitude. Its current Colour of the Year, Peach Fuzz, brings a sense of serenity and positivity to any spa...
Mar 24
4 min
Read full article $vuetify.icons.faArrowRight