In the Media

Australia-Indonesia Institute board appointments
Today I announce the appointment of Ms Astrid Vasile and Ms Noni Purnomo to the board of the Australia-Indonesia Institute. Ms Vasile and Ms Purnomo join existing board members Mr Nick Anstey, Associate Professor Greg Fealy, Mr Greg Sheridan, Dr Dwi Noverini Djenar, Mr Andrew Ross, and Ms Lydia Santoso. Established in 1989, the Australia-Indonesia Institute fosters links between Australia and Indonesia by increasing cultural awareness, promoting cooperation and exchange, and enhancing understanding between our two nations. The board brings together individuals with demonstrated expertise in academia, business, the arts, education, medicine and the media to advise the Government on ways to continue strengthening Australia’s cultural, people-to-people, and institutional links with Indonesia. Ms Vasile is the Chief Executive Officer of GV Constructions, Regional Director of the Indonesia Diaspora Business Council, and is involved in a number of organisations promoting women leaders in business. Having lived and worked in Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia, she will offer a deep regional focus and expertise to the Board. Ms Purnomo is the Chief Executive Officer of Blue Bird Group Holding, Indonesia’s most well-known and trusted taxi company, and was named one of Asia’s 50 most powerful businesswomen by Forbes magazine. She will bring leading experience of Indonesia’s transport industry, a commitment to women’s empowerment via Blue Bird’s philanthropic projects, and strong ties to Australia having graduated with a Bachelor in industrial engineering from the University of Newcastle.
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Astrid Vasile – Building Business
Out of 10,000 registered builders in Australia, Astrid Vasile is the 12th female. Here, we chat with Astrid from GV Constructions about making it in the very male-dominated building and construction industry… So, Astrid, tell us about your business… GV Constructions (WA) is a registered building company (reg. 11727) with its own registered builders, which has gained a well-earned reputation for building quality projects for our clients’ requirements. We started in 2001, building one then two houses and making a profit. As our business grew, we began to undertake speculative home building as well as contractual work. Since then, we have built more than one hundred homes. One of my main areas of professional expertise is financial management. I monitor my company’s position daily including debtors’, creditors’ maintenance control, and management of funds. I am entirely committed to the ongoing improvement of these processes. I began to work full time for the business after I completed my academic and builders training (Diploma of Building and Construction) over a four-year period. I then applied and obtained my own building licence (reg. 13046), while remaining to do the accounts, office management, marketing, contract administrations, interior design, selecting building materials, supervising on site… Sometimes my husband calls me ‘Superwoman’ and sometimes I fall asleep at the end of the day from it all! Life changed for me and my husband as our business started to expand rapidly. Our team has produced a diverse range of projects from modern contemporary style homes, to customised and multi-dwelling premises, single and multi-storey residential, and commercial construction in Western Australia. Who are your clients? Our clients are first home buyers, families seeking residences, right through to investors from Australia, Asia and overseas (Chinese, Malaysians and Indonesians). It’s a tough economy right now. We take on whatever work we can deal with and cannot be choosy. Success does not have to be fast — what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent. What prompted you to start your business? Did you identify a gap in the market? I have had a colourful career having worked in four different countries: Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia is now my home. My expertise was mainly in the IT and aviation industries. I have a Master of Business Administration degree with a major in entrepreneurship and public relations. I worked through the lower ranks from sales to project leader in those fields. My introduction to the building industry in Australia started through my husband, Gino Vasile. He has been working in the construction industry for many years having started his business working for others or partnerships with his colleagues. Gino and I have two children, now aged 23 and 24. Back in 1998, I was looking for something a little more family friendly because I was weary of the travel involved within the aviation industry. I wanted to spend more time with my children, so I set up a small office space at home, just me and my husband. We made a good living and, in between working, I picked up my children from school every day and worked reduced hours when they were on school holiday, so joining the family business was an ideal opportunity. Previously working in admin and management roles in a vast range of industries, I began to see that I could offer something to our own business from my knowledge and experience. The business had grown to a stage where my husband Gino needed support, and we wanted to take the business to a more professional level. My involvement and my role has increased since our children Sara and Dinda have grown, and left home to do their own thing. I’m a member of the HIA Business Partner network, and an active committee member for Women in Building and Constructions (Master Builders Association). Joining many courses and getting involved in our industry association has reinforced that my future is to stay in the building industry. Having recently completed the adjudicator course with The Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia (IAMA), has equipped me with the confidence to handle client and builder disputes. What’s special about your business? What’s your ‘Point of Difference’? I don’t do anything that I am not comfortable with. It’s not about me, it’s about us and the team. My husband and I have drive and the motivation to succeed — we make new plans every day. I married a builder who gives 110% all the time, and our aim is to give clients 120% customer satisfaction. We are very careful and selective in our process. We see our sub-contractors team as an extension of our family – our ‘office family’. Knowing you have the right person, with the right morals, within the team makes working for any client priceless. We only engage with reputable sub-contractors that will construct a project to comply with Australian Standards and the Building Codes of Australia, making sure it is one of the best-of-its-kind-developments in Perth. We monitor the project onsite daily. We believe this is an essential part of identifying any faults and correcting them before they become a problem. GV Constructions (WA) is not just another boutique builder that can tailor-make to a client’s needs. We give clients a higher standard of service and guidance that sets us apart from our competitors. "I don’t do anything that I am not comfortable with" So, who are your competitors? Every building and construction company in Perth is our competitor. After 15 years, we have a solid business that has been through the ups and downs of the business cycle. We actually don’t know who our competitors are that would offer the kind of service we do — from concept to moving in. What was your first major achievement in the business? Our first major achievement was in 2009 when it was announced that I was awarded the Business Partner of the Year Western Australia winner by the Housing Industry Association and National Australia Bank. Also, in 2010, I was finalist for National Business Partner of the Year Australia-wide by CSR Building Products and the Housing Industry Association. I am extremely proud of my reputation as a quality builder, the 12th female Registered Builder out of 10,000 in Australia, in the very male-dominated industry. To me, financial freedom is financial independence, which means being able to live a comfortable life — I live comfortably. What has been your biggest challenge? When I started, I knew nothing except billing, books and admin. So, from that point on, besides running the billing, job estimating, purchasing, selecting materials and onsite jobs, I’ve learnt to become a builder. I am getting to know what is involved in running a building company — safety, skills and knowledge, and everything involved and how it runs. I felt that I couldn’t supervise it if I had no knowledge about it. I think that learning curve was the toughest thing. It’s not easy being Asian with dark hair, black eyes, brown skin, short (165cm), and a female working on a building site. The ‘tradies’, as they are commonly called, are not used to seeing women builders, especially Asians. They look and stare at me and I can see the questions in their eyes, “What is she doing here?” But little do they know, I can talk and think like them, and have building knowledge. Slowly, they are accepting that women are just the same as men with their knowledge. What obstacles have you overcome? Getting your business on track is one thing, keeping it there is another. There were days that we were frustrated to gain access to finance, because we can’t stop building. Fortunately our National Bank Manager, Tina Burningham, has been helpful in assisting us at various times. Our financials and projects are now on track. Difficult clients exist in every business for every company — we all have them, regardless of what industry we’re in. There are times when difficult clients mostly just want to unload on you. Some clients don’t understand the complexity of the work that a good client does. To overcome these, I have to know their nature and I need to choose my words carefully. I don’t have the patience but, as I get older and wiser, I become more calm and mellow, and can conquer my anger, using tactics to calm them and use win-win solutions. Even though you may want to kick them to the kerb some days, you know that it’s better to keep them if you can. When all our efforts to calm them down has failed, and when the emotional drain is no longer worth the revenue, it’s best to cut our losses and move on.   What is your marketing strategy? My focus is on making sure that our products and services meet customer needs, and developing long-term and profitable relationships with the customers buying our property. Through customer recommendations by word of mouth, we get more clients than ever before. Understanding the internal strengths and weaknesses of my business, and the external opportunities and threats, I identify our weaknesses and try to minimise them. From that I develop a strategy that plays to our own strengths, and matches them to the emerging opportunities. I also attend many networking events to learn new things and market our product; maintain our online presence and social media; fix our content marketing through our web pages; update the status on our Facebook page, while other advertising in conjunction with our real estate agents is always in our marketing plan. Who is/was your business inspiration? It was my late mother. She was a hard working, devoted person who tried her best to make sure her children made the decisions to better our future. She was the strongest woman I know. Now, I believe in myself and not in any other person’s ideas. The things around us also that make up this world are truly amazing, and inspiration is to be found absolutely everywhere. What is one thing you could be doing better in your business? What’s your opportunity? To have the funds to market and expand our ability. There are many opportunities overseas, but financial restraints become a problem — but there may be a joint venture opportunity. Do you have a mentor? (Or did you have a mentor during your business-building phase?) My husband is my building mentor. I would never have the confidence without him pushing me to the limit. He mentors me in many troubleshooting/solution finding roles due to my ability to take ownership of the challenges and find effective solutions. I’m constantly learning new things, whether it’s online or attending various workshops, building my confidence. I’ve attended many networking events to learn new things – I don’t have a specific business mentor but there are many role models out there that inspire me, make me learn and motivate me to do better every day. How important has this been to your success? I would never have been in the building industry and put up with all the difficulties without it and learning every day from other successful global entrepreneurs. Are you a mentor? If so, who do you mentor? Why do you mentor? Yes, I am a mentor. I have a burning desire inside of me to empower women. I mentor to build capacity and confidence for those who want to be mentored by me, and how we can share the journey together. Women are good, they just need to have a go. I want to create a positive space, empower them to dream big, run and fulfill their dreams. I’d like to think that I am known for my strategic skills, but it’s more likely that it is my enthusiasm and energy that motivates those who work with me. I mentor women who want to work in the construction industry, equip them in many ways on how to approach and address the steps/stages, and the challenges associated with business start up and management. I mentor Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s Network members, encourage them to expand their dreams and goals, to be leaders in the economy, to create a vision of entrepreneurship, help them raise their profile, and open doors to resources and programs that build confidence in women operators. I mentor others who have interests in doing business in Indonesia (cross cultural differences exists) offering a reliable mentoring service for prominent corporations and businesses to ensure they are getting expert advice in Indonesia and Australia. "Getting your business on track is one thing, keeping it there is another" What does the future hold for your business? Where to from here? I have many other ideas for growth and diversifying our service and product. I do hope that the business will continue to thrive, but we don’t want it to grow any larger, as then we may lose control and lose the very edge that makes us successful. At an operational level, we aim to keep procedures in step with controlled growth. Now that we have a recognisable brand name, we want to be around for as long as possible. Hopefully, a member of our family will continue the tradition. For now, we will continue to build new homes, and deliver exceptional workmanship and customer service to our clients. We will still venture into projects, such as townhouses and villas, commercials and residential in Australia or in Indonesia, as I am Indonesian born. Are there any particular business women you would like to connect with to support your business? I would like to connect with and meet Janine Allis and Naomi Simson, two of the ‘Sharks’ on Channel Ten’s Shark Tank, and engage with Telstra Business Award winners and learn from them. I would also like to connect with all leaders — I am inspired by great leaders who follow their dreams in any fields. What’s the best business advice you can share with our readers? Anything of real worth will take much struggle and perseverance. “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” It means never give up, no matter how many times you get knocked down, you get up again. Even if you should fall one thousand times, you just keep getting up and trying again. Success does not have to be fast — what’s more important is that one simply does their absolute best and remains persistent. ‘I love my business…’ for many reasons. It allows me to set my own schedule. It allows me to work in my own time, because I am my own boss, and it inspires me daily. I’ve met incredible people and have people in my life that constantly support and believe in me. It allows me to express myself, it allows me to work with clients I adore (from different cultures and backgrounds), and make really, really good money, doing the exact work I love. All of those things are wonderful. But the biggest reason why I love my business? Because I love my daughter and my husband, both of them are the number one reason I love owning my own business. Hands down. I couldn’t leave my daughter when she was small to go to a job that I didn’t absolutely love. I am actively living my life on purpose — I am being the strong and purpose-filled role model she needs so that she can grow up to be her strong, purpose-filled self. And now that my daughter has grown up, the focus is on my husband. I couldn’t leave him to a job out there to work for someone else, life is comfortable enough for me. My husband still works as well so I never have to work in the future and can still have a comfortable life. Now I am 53, I have learnt a lot of things that have made me more comfortable living my life, and I’ve never once regretted it. Is there anything else you would like to add? Besides building and construction, my aim is to generate and find opportunities. I have a hands-on approach and enjoy building relationships, and developing strategic alliances. My professional industry and board experience has been a mix of business-to-business and people-to-people relationships. My focus is on facilitating people to work together — sharing ideas, thoughts and challenges, while taking ownership of what they are responsible for. As an Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s and Professionals Network, I like to inspire, support, enhance, promote and reward women with an entrepreneurial spirit. As the founder, spokesperson and brand ambassador, I also travel to Australian capital cities and Jakarta, Indonesia holding workshops. I’m also a regular speaker at conferences and seminars to build confidence in women who share a passion and interest in their future success, to strengthen and embolden women to become key players and contributors in community development, in the workforce and in the economy. I like to bring together Australian-Indonesian corporations, businesses and organisations headed by women who seek to expand their companies, their businesses, their enterprises and their networks. Until recently, I was also a leader/President of the Indonesian Diaspora Network–Western Australia, where I facilitated and lobbied at all levels of Indonesian government, as well as Australian government. At a Glance Personal Details Full name: Astrid Vasile Location: Perth, WA Memberships/Associations: Housing Industry Associations (HIA) Master Builder Association (MBA) Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators Australia (IAMA) Australia-Indonesia Businesswomen’s Network Woman in Global Business (WIGB) Indonesian Diaspora Network, Western Australia (IDN-WA) Business Details Business Name: GV Constructions (WA), a trading for Vazari Pty Ltd GV Homes (WA), a trading for Vazari Pty Ltd The Vazari Trust Ashridge Holdings Pty Ltd Business Structure: Pty Ltd and Trust Location: Wilson, Perth, WA Your Position: Director and Shareholder of Ashridge Holding Pty Ltd Director and Shareholder with Vazari Property Trust Chartered and Registered Builder Western Australia for GV Constructions (WA) Year Business Established: 1998 Annual Turnover: $5 million Industry: Construction, property, real estate Number of Employees: With only 20 projects per year, we run the company with just the two of us — my husband and I. We engage many sub-contractors for each project. Most of the sub-contractors have worked for GV Constructions (WA) for more than 15 years from drafting & design, engineering, geo technical, earthworks, clearing, demolition, retaining walls, fencing, brickwork, brick paving, termite protection, frame carpentry, structural steel, roof plumbing, roof cover, electrical, plumbing and drainage, metal work, carpentry, fixing carpentry, ceilings and insulation, plastering, flooring, cabinetry, painting, carpet laying, cleaning, reticulation, landscaping etc. Do you export? If so, where to: Not yet.
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Seven worldly women who call Australia home
They come from different countries and various backgrounds, but these women have established themselves down under and are making their presences felt in their respective communities and beyond. 1. Astrid Vasile from Indonesia Astrid Vasile from Indonesia Personal Collection of Astrid Vasile Astrid Vasile (Astrid Saraswati Kusumawardhany) is the only Indonesian female registered builder in Australia. She moved from Indonesia in 1998, where she'd worked as a flight attendant. Astrid is one of only 12 female registered builders in Australia... out of a workforce of approximately 10,000. She studied social economics and obtained her MBA degree in economics from Indonesia. She is also the president of the Indonesia Diaspora Network of Western Australia, chair of the Australia – Indonesia Businesswomen & Professionals Network and is the Managing Director for GV Constructions in Western Australia. 2. Helen Chu from Cambodia Helen Chu from Cambodia Personal Collection of Helen Chu Helen Chu arrived in Australia in 1982, and met her husband Ian while studying at the University of Canberra. After 10 years of teaching, and with her husband working as a mobile phone engineer, they gave up the comfort of their secure career paths to pursue a shared dream - farming. Two years ago, Helen and her husband bought a huge fruit shop in the centre of Canberra, selling a wide range of fruit and vegetables as well as Asian groceries. They’ve also worked to expand their mushroom farm, where a “state-of-the-art” growing facility is now producing 18 tonnes of mushrooms per week. 3. Dr Miao Chen from China Dr Miao Chen from China CSIRO Media Department Dr Miao Chen was raised and educated in China and is currently a team leader of a multi-disciplinary research group specialising in sustainable mining at Australia’s leading research institution, CSIRO (Commonwealth Science and Industry Research Organisation). As one of CSIRO’s top scientists, Dr Chen is the only female Office of the Chief Executive (OCE) Science Leader of Chinese heritage. She is also the author of 13 patents. Dr Chen has worked in China, Australia, Germany and Japan, and says she appreciates the opportunities to work in a Western environment because she believes it gives her more freedom. “In eastern culture, there are a lot of social and hieratical restrictions for female scientists like me. I would need to show my respect to my supervisors and other researchers who are older…however here in Australia, I am free to express myself and could have a robust discussion with many team members regardless of their gender, age and seniority. The free flow of ideas and great discussions, sometimes even arguments, help nourish new ideas," she says. 4. Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero from Myanmar Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero from Myanmar Personal Collection of Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero Naw Say Htoo Eh Moero is the recipient of  the 'Above and Beyond’ award and was named Case Worker of the Year at the inaugural Migration and Settlement Awards in Canberra in 2012. The award was presented by then prime minister Julia Gillard in recognition for her outstanding commitment to the settlement of newly arrived refugees and migrants. Naw Say Htoo is an ethnic Karen woman from Burma/Myanmar and came to Australia in 1999 as a refugee. She currently works for the Wyndham Community & Education Centre in Victoria, and her role sees her providing practical and emotional assistance in various forms, from helping people who have experienced domestic violence, to helping locals pay bills, find housing or deal with the loneliness of life in a new country. She is also an active member in the Karen community in Werribee, west of Melbourne. 5. Pauline Nguyen from Vietnam Pauline Nguyen from Vietnam Personal Collection of Pauline Nguyen Pauline Nguyen and her family escaped Vietnam in 1977 and settled in Australia as refugees. Along with her belongings, Pauline brought to her new home a love of good food, and she now co-owns Red Lantern, the acclaimed modern Vietnamese restaurants in Sydney. She is the mother of two young children and is a business mentor and speaker in her spare time. Pauline’s writing has appeared in The Best Australian Essays 2010, Voracious - The Best New Australian Food Writing, Griffith Review, as well as various other publications. In 2008 she won Newcomer Writer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Her restaurant is six-time winner of Best Asian Restaurant (Restaurant and Catering Awards) and took out first place in the New South Wales medium-sized business category at the Telstra Australian Business Awards in 2012. 6. Sana Balai from Papua New Guinea Sana Balai from Papua Nugini Radio Australia: Bethany Keats Susan Balai, better known as Sana, is from Buka Island in Papua New Guinea’s Autonomous Region of Bougainville. She is the Assistant Curator of Indigenous Art at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Sana is an active member of Melbourne’s PNG and Pacific communities, contributing both socially and culturally. She is involved with the upcoming Contemporary Pacific Arts Festival, and sits on the board of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies as community liaison. 7. Vijaya Vaidyanath from India Vijaya Vaidyanath from India City of South Yarra Vijaya Vaidyanath is Chief Executive Officer of Yarra City Council in Melbourne and a global citizen, having lived across countries and continents. Vijaya draws inspiration from her grandmother and mother, whose tenacity and determination to succeed against odds shaped her world view and led to her interest in social justice and value based leadership. She has been a leader from the very early stages of her career in male-dominated sectors such as central banking, international finance and local government. In the future, she hopes for a world of equal opportunities, where women can participate at all levels of leadership and hold senior mangagement and board member positions. As Vijaya says, “I hope that the future generations will not have a special day earmarked as International Women’s Day – that success stories of women will not belong to a rarefied class, but where gender equity will be a way of life. Since half of the world’s population is women, I look forward to a future where half of all decision-makers at all levels will be women too.”
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Building a legacy
15 years ago, Indonesian-born Astrid Vasile turned to a career in construction after she moved to Australia. Today, she’s one of just 12 female registered builders in the country, plus Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s & Professionals Network. By Business View Astrid Vasile isn’t surprised when clients ask to speak to her husband. As one of just 12 female registered builders in Australia she’s used to being mistaken for someone in a less responsible role. “I just smile and say ‘try me’,” she says. “They soon realise I know what I’m talking about.” As co-owner of Western Australian based GV Constructions (WA), she’s spent 15 years building everything from contemporary homes to multi-unit dwellings and commercial premises. Yet, growing up in Indonesia, construction was the last thing on her mind – after gaining an MBA in economics, she worked in IT and the airline industry. She was introduced to construction when she married Perth-based builder Gino Vasile and started helping with his paperwork. “My financial background was useful from the beginning,” she says. “Accounting is crucial in the building industry – if you don’t understand operating expenses and your financial obligations you run the risk of working for no financial reward. I was also determined to get to know every aspect of the business.” When Gino’s business partner backed out, he and Astrid had to make a tough decision – should they push on with the business or close it down? “We both had drive and commitment, so we decided to keep it going together,” she says. “I’d also come to like the industry, so I was keen to play a more active role. I wanted to be a leader but I knew nothing about construction so my only option was to become a registered builder. At the time, I had two young children and was still working in the business, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy studying full time for four years for a Diploma of Building & Construction. But it allowed me to do a job I love.” A women’s advocate As Executive Chair of the Australian Indonesian Businesswomen’s & Professionals Network, Astrid is an advocate for women in both countries. Founded in 2010, the organisation promotes bilateral cooperation and encourages women to take on more entrepreneurial roles. “The network brings together Australian-Indonesian women who make a significant contribution to various business sectors,” she explains. “We use workshop and networking events to raise the profile of women within the membership, to provide business and industry education and to create opportunities for mentoring. We also support businesses owned and operated by women.” An active member of Master Builders Australia and their Women in Building & Construction Committee, she’s committed to encouraging other women into the industry. “Construction is still very male dominated but it’s a great career for women,” says Astrid. “Every day is different, it’s financially rewarding and you don’t need to be particularly strong – a woman with a good level of fitness can do anything within construction. And there are many opportunities in professional and associated services such as accounting, project management, contract management, estimating and representing local councils and other authorities. “I love driving down the street and seeing the different projects we’ve been involved with – it gives me a real sense of ownership and pride,” she says. “Our clients often end up as friends.” This article was correct at the time of print and was first published in Business View magazine (May 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think. See Astrid speak to Kochie’s Business Builders.
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