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Quick Chat with Sharlene

As a painter & decorator, Sharlene applies her painting skills to new houses and buildings all around Perth. In August this year, those skills took Sharlene a little further afield, when she traveled to Brazil to compete in the international World Skills competition as Australia’s best.

We visited Sharlene on-site for a Chat with No Limits about both representing Australia overseas and being a woman in the building and construction industry.

Tell us about your job and what you do?

I’m a painter & decorator and I work on new houses spraying ceilings, rolling walls, glossing doors and skirtings.

What’s the decorating about?

That’s stuff like wallpapering and marbling which is effect created with paint so it looks like real marble. I can do wood-graining, where I am painting look-a-like wooden floors.  I have done concrete blocks effect; you paint the wall, put newspaper on top and take it off and it looks like concrete.

So you get an gritty industrial look without the actual concrete!?

Yeah, exactly!

You don’t get the opportunity to do decorative work all the time, but I’m trained in advanced decorative effects.  And for the competitions, like in World Skills, there is always a free wall section that you have to show off two decorative skills.

Tell us a bit about World Skills?

I was doing my training through MPA and they encouraged me into competitions in my first year. I did a few of the regional comps, and then, being under 23, I got to compete in the national competition and I won the best in Australia. Because I won, I got the chance to compete in the international competition. We first stopped in New Zealand, had a competition there and then traveled onto Brazil for World Skills. It was really fun because we were in Sao Paulo for 2 weeks so I had time to explore the city and then compete. The competition ran for 4 days where I placed 11th in the world! It was the first time I’ve been out of Australia!

Is that your proudest moment?

Oh yeah, well I got to go to Brazil and represent my country, not many people get to do that you know. It was such a privilege. My parents were over the moon and my partner tells everyone ‘my girlfriend is the best painter in Australia and she is going to Brazil’. They all love it.

Who did you travel with to Brazil?

With the Australian World Skills team, we were called the Skilleroos. We had our own outfits and traveled around as a team.

Like a sport team?

Haha yeah exactly! Actually we were walking around the airports together and people would come up to us and go ‘what Olympic sport do you play?’ We were all wearing the same bright blue and yellow tracksuit, which said Australia on it.

How big was the team?

There were 26 of us, 7 girls and 19 guys.

What were the other girls competing in?

There was a jeweller, hairdresser, florist, a fashion designer.

So were you the only female in the building and construction field?

Yeah the only one. It was a pretty great feeling at the nationals, competing against the guys and being the one standing at the top of the podium when I won!

So what is it like day-to-day, being a woman in the industry?

When I first started, it was intimidating being on site but the more experience I had and the better my skills got, I thought ‘I know what I’m doing, I can do this job’. My confidence grew. And doing World Skills, helped heaps; your doing interviews, there’s always a camera in your face and you have to talk to so many new people.

What about this job gets you out of bed in the morning?

I just love painting. There is something about being part of new housing, smashing it out, getting it done, it’s so rewarding.

What got you into painting?

I’m one of two daughters, my Dad never got to have a son, so I was the one he always got into helping him on the car or house! But when it came to a career I actually tried make-up and then a hairdressing apprenticeship, but it just wasn’t for me. I had a few friends that did painting, so I gave it a go and I found out I was pretty decent at it.

So you tried hairdressing….does that mean you do the colour in your hair yourself!?

No, no, my friend does it for me.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am just working on my building my business, sourcing work. I have to set up a Facebook page and work out all the marketing. I have a business mentor, and she’s helped me heaps, getting all my insurance in order and stuff like that.

And does the business side really interest you?

Yeah for sure, because I know that I have got what it takes to work for myself and make good money. Ever since I have come back from World Skills, so many people have wanted to give me work.  And everyone remembers me, because of my hair colour!

That can be your marketing thing – the painter with the multi-coloured hair!


Where do you see yourself in ten years?

I have always said I will start a business and then later on when I have a family I can have people to work for me.  So working towards that, having a successful business; one of the best painting businesses in Australia.

Are there any perks about your job or working in the building and construction industry?

Well you always know good tradies when you need something done; and now, through World Skills, I know the best. If I am having car issues now I can just call up the best mechanic in Australia!

Also, being on site I’ve learnt other trades. I can fix ceilings; I put a ceiling up just before! I know how to fill things in. It’s great because I have an old house and when something happens then I’m like ‘I’ve got this! I’ll fix that!’

Your Dad must be proud! Is there anything else you love about your job?

It keeps me fit, I don’t have to go to the gym! Working outside, I’m not the type of person that could sit down and stare at a computer all. I get to run around, I get to do heaps of different things everyday, it’s always a different house. And it’s always good with a good team, there’s always fun going on. I come to work and know we are going to do good work and have fun at the same time.