In 1973, Beverley Nutley became Queensland’s (possibly Australia’s) first registered female builder.

woman builder on roof of house frame

Beverley is a chippie by trade and has been working in the industry since before 1955 when girls were ‘not supposed to do that sort of work’. She started work in her father’s business in Yeppoon before leaving school where she would nail punch the floors and clean up the building sites.

In 1955, when Beverley left school she says ‘at first I wanted to be a nurse but I had to be 17 – so I decided I would just carry on working with Dad’. It was in 1957 that her story made it to the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin and within days the Apprenticeship Board advised that if she wanted to continue working in the industry she needed to apply for an Apprenticeship. Beverley knew it would be a battle having only completed her schooling to (Grade 8 in 1955’s Scholarship Class with a 61.0% pass) and since girls didn’t work in the boy’s domain in those days she was made a partner in her father’s business in order to continue working ‘on the tools’.

Beverley says it wasn’t easy to work in the industry – she was expected to do what the men did ‘if the timber had to be lifted I was on the other end – no exceptions because I was a girl’. The only job she was ever exempted from doing was digging post holes (no post hole diggers in those days) but she showed those men that she could do that too.

As Beverley reflects ‘back in those days builders did all the building from framework, sheeting, roofing, plumbing and even bricklaying and it was all done manually. All house frames were mortised and tenon so you had to use a brace and bit then a hammer and chisel not to mention a hand saw to make the tenons on each stud. The only thing we didn’t do was the electrical work. We regularly went out bush to cut down iron bark trees for house stumps – this was done with a crosscut saw."

"Dad and I were a pretty good team we even won a crosscut saw competition at the First Annual Yeppoon Show but this, of course, showed up the boys."

Beverley says she loved working in the industry even though it was a male environment. She gained the respect of the men by working alongside them doing what they did but never acting like a man (no swearing at all). Sometimes there was heckling but she just ignored that.

Beverley and her Dad built many houses in Yeppoon including Queensland Housing Commission and War Service Homes as well as architect designed homes and businesses.

Mother and daughter building a house frame
Beverley Nutley

When Beverley got married and started her family she thought her building days would be over – not likely. In 1966 she and her first husband David purchased a movie theatre and build their first home. And then in 1970, they decided to develop and build the Hervey Bay Drive-In and of course, Beverley was in charge of the project. With her builder’s certificate in hand Beverley later built the Warwick, Oakey and Biloela Drive-In Theatres along with numerous homes. Beverley felt a great achievement in the results as the people involved all accepted her as the ‘woman in charge’. Beverley’s last major project was the construction of the ‘Top-O-The-Bay’ Restaurant which was added at the Hervey Bay Drive-In site and opened in 1974. After the death of her first husband, Beverley continued with building homes and alteration work.

During her working life, Beverley followed a few other career paths including a taxi driver, chef and canteen convenor but now devotes her time to support her family and friends and volunteer work. Still today, even at her tender age of 76, Beverley continues to use her skills on small building projects and is still mighty good on a wrecking bar, shovel and hammer – there are no worries about that!

As a pioneer female carpenter, Beverley is a huge supporter of women working in non traditional industries and encourages all young women to ‘try a trade’. She strongly believes that Construction offers lots of hidden rewards for women, and more girls need to be encouraged into work across the construction industry and other related trades.

A huge thank you to Rad Desic for telling us about Beverley’s trail blazing story.

Excerpt and images kindly re-used from Skill Centred.

Stacey Head
Tagged: In Her Shoes