June 2021 – Women of WIDAC

Chelsea Blog

WIDAC is all about getting to know each other, so welcome to our second edition of Women of WIDAC!

Introducing these dynamic women from VIC, NSW and QLD… 

To learn more about each of their recent projects, work, and industry achievements, read on below.

If you’d like to say hi, reach out to us at hello@widac.com.au.

Victoria – based members

Riza (Riz) Balbuena, National Architectural and Specification Manager, Rondo Building Services

3 Likes: The smell of the weekend morning. Strong coffee. how we can change how people feels around us.

3 Dislikes: Animal cruelty. Being late. Loud ringtones.

Why WIDAC: As a newcomer, I already felt welcomed. It is a friendly environment combined with excellent and knowledgeable people. I enjoyed the workshop and the mentoring program. It gives you an opportunity to learn new things and wanting to give back at the same time.

A recent project you’ve been involved with: I have been involved in the design specification for the CRPP (Chisholm Rd Prison Project). I feel grateful to be given the opportunity to help and contribute to the design specification for this project. We have learned so much in this project in terms of understanding the building codes and how you apply it to the performance criteria and buildability of a project.

A recent career highlight: Embracing the new normal (as a National, it was difficult to travel) and now becoming an expert in webinar presentation. Creating awareness of and understanding in the industry on what needs to be considered in Seismic Designs to Walls and Suspended Ceiling Systems.

Lily Vaughan, Head of Interior Design, Knowles Group

3 Likes: Seeing a design concept come to fruition. Croissants. My Dog, Brisket.

3 Dislikes: Unpacking boxes. Reselecting finishes. Admin.

Why WIDAC: I am new to WIDAC but already I can tell it’s a inclusive space for women to excel. I am excited to explore and attend future workshops.

A recent project you’ve been involved with: Arcare Essendon, VIC. An Aged Care facility in the heart of Essendon. Designing for the aged care sector has its challengers but creating a beautiful space whilst still being practical is an accomplishment. Read more about this project here.

A recent career highlight: Becoming Head of Interiors for the Knowles Group, very exciting and challenging times ahead!

Rebecca McKeown, Associate, Currie & Brown

3 Likes: Visiting markets. Baking/eating Cakes. Driving on empty, winding roads.

3 Dislikes: International border closures (I miss my UK based parents ☹). Losing things. How time flies.

Why WIDAC: Great ethos, a wonderful community of people and lots of networking/CPD opportunities.

A recent project you’ve been involved with: A data centre for Amazon. Lots of acronyms! Lots of complicated pieces of plant and equipment! Challenging timeframes! But it’s provided lots of learning opportunities and I’m really enjoying the project.

A recent career highlight: I recently enjoyed teaching a Construction Management unit to post graduate students at Deakin University.

New South Wales – based members:

Bella Adlington, Acoustics Consultant, Northrop Consulting Engineers

3 Likes: Eggs. Podcasts. Snorkelling.

3 Dislikes: Migraines. Bad headphones. Camping.

Why WIDAC: I really appreciate the supportive environment WIDAC provides in our industry for people to connect and learn from each other. 

A recent project you’ve been involved with: Granville Park Stadium. My favourite kind of projects are the ones with tangible cultural/community value outside of major city centres. Check it out here.

A recent career highlight: Completing Chau Chak Wing museum last year. Definitely one of the most technically challenging but rewarding projects I’ve worked on. Read more here.

Kelly Pham, Quantity Surveyor/ Assistant Project Manager, Star PMCA

3 Likes: Transforming land into landmarks. High rise buildings (as I was born and raised in the city – a city girl all the way :D). Supporting women in construction (yes, we need more girl powers).  

3 Dislikes: Wasteful and impractical design. Rainy and cold days. Toxic environments.  

Why WIDAC: WIDAC connects me with like minded people and supports female participation in the construction industry. There are also many events and workshops in WIDAC available for us to improve ourselves. 

A recent project you’ve been involved with: Ryde Central Redevelopment (+110M) – as a client‐side project manager managing the delivery of the Principals Project Requirements with Taylor Construction under an ECI DEED; and AS4902 D&C for the Council’s new Civic Centre Council building with two level basements, public domains and 700 seat Community and Culture Centre.  

A recent career highlight: Cost manager and Contract Administrator at Funan Shopping Mall ($550M) – I cannot express enough how proud I am to be part of the CA/QS team for this project. We, a team of 3 CA/QS, run 6 tenders concurrently for the early completion of the mall, we looked at VE/VM options for client to produce better value for money. We liaised with 4 different financial entities to fund the project. Our project is also one of a few applying BIM in design and QS services and received grants from the government. The project team won RICS Award for the QS Team of the Year in Asia Pacific Region.  Yes, there was late night work, long hour meetings, tight deadlines and so many reports to produce, but in the end, I feel proud and satisfied whenever I look at the building – our hard work paid off.   

Angela Chang, Director / Principal Designer, Ambit Curator

3 Likes: Hanging out with my children. Networking and meeting experts from other industries. Cooking and baking – so therapeutic watching the dough rise! 

3 Dislikes: Hanging out with my children (such a dilemma!). Not being able to travel . War! No more, please. 

Why WIDAC (just a few words, or a sentence): As a woman in the construction industry and a mother of two boys, I am grateful to come across this supportive platform for women. It’s so fantastic to connect with like-minded individuals who understand the myriad of challenges we face. 

A recent project you’ve been involved with: Premium commercial lobby design – an exciting, design-focused project where I could really apply my creative skills. 

A recent career highlight: Stepping out of my comfort zone to set up my own interior design company – after 18 years in the industry! 

Queensland – based members:

Katherine Young, Lead Designer, Spicers Retreats


3 Likes: The satisfaction of styling a completed project. Laughing. A buttery chardonnay.

3 Dislikes: People who don’t respect others’ time. Disorganisation. Canned baked beans (sorry, but gross!).

Why WIDAC: WIDAC is a wonderful community that supports growth and development in the industry. I have enjoyed the ability to curate and ‘choose your own adventure’ via the learning workshops, and the opportunity to diversify my professional and personal networks through the people that WIDAC brings together.  

A recent project you’ve been involved with: Montville House Spicers Clovelly Estate; Montville. The project was a standalone building ‘extension’ at the retreat. It comprised of a communal guest lounge/conference room and six luxuriously appointed self-contained suites. The interiors concept was about elevating and modernising the estate’s signature French provincial style. Montville House has enhanced the overall experience & offering of the property for our guests. 

A recent career highlight: Spicers Guesthouse, Pokolbin  Managing the delivery of a multi-million dollar renovation project in the Hunter Valley – Spicers Guesthouse. Acting as both the Spicers group client representative and lead designer for the project, the multiple sub-projects within the overall development offered me insightful growth and a myriad of learning experiences. Being involved in this project from initial inspection and procurement of the property, through to seeing the first drinks served at the bar, was an enriching and rewarding experience for my career. As a part of the Spicers in-house design team, I have gained valuable insight into the practical and operational side of customer-centric interior design.

Angela Spillane, Interior Designer, studiospillane

3 Likes: Participating in art and creativity (making, experiencing and seeing). Watching designers geek out on design. Japanese food.

3 Dislikes: Amazing travel holidays ending. My dog barking. The current news cycle.

Why WIDAC: Community, conversation, and connection.

A recent project you’ve been involved with: I’m a newly emerging small business – so it’s extra exciting to see new projects come to fruition – small parcels of work at The Tattersall’s Club in the CBD as well as a just opened studiospillane hospitality offer – the new fabulous Italian diner at Southbank – Nonna’s Deli + Bar Italia

A recent career highlight: Starting studiospillane has been a wonderful career highlight. I have loved working and collaborating in big teams through my career, but I am now really enjoying the satisfaction of building something from the ground. A weird year in the world, but what a bright and exciting future!

Monique Cowan, Urban Designer + Placemaker, Hatch RobertsDay


3 Likes: Ocean swims. Discovering new neighbourhoods on my runs. Thriving plants.

3 Dislikes: Ego. Stress. The colour purple. 

Why WIDAC: The opportunity for informal networking with likeminded women where I leave every event feeling inspired to contribute more to my industry and community.

A recent career highlight: Awarded a spot in 2021 UDIA mentoring scholarship which has been fantastic for growing my confidence and awareness in areas of interest such as leadership, the intersection between Placemaking and development, and business management skills.

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