Meet a Registered Nurse Who Followed Her Dream to Become a Mechanic

Callie Milne was 25 when she quit her career as a nurse and followed her dream.

The Newcastle resident always had a strong interest in cars and was 14 when she first thought about becoming a mechanic.

She bought her first car at 17, a 1978 TC Holden Gemini, and then bought a second Gemini a year later, this time a 1979 TD.

She learnt to drive in the latter and ever since has been working to restore it to its former glory.

Despite an almost decade-long passion for mechanics, Ms Milne began studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Newcastle.

Lacking interest in the course, she struggled during her first-year of study.

The question she never asked herself

Ms Milne said it was never really an option for her to turn her passion for cars into a career.

“Coming to the end of Year 12 through school, everything was always ‘uni, uni, go to university’,” she said.

“I felt like I had to go to university to become something. I never really thought much of an apprenticeship.”
She said the pressure to go to university made her consider engineering, but a lack of confidence in her ability stopped her from applying.

“I was just like, ‘no, I can’t do it, I’m going to struggle’.”

She stuck with nursing and after re-taking the first year of the degree, she passed with distinctions all round.

Ms Milne said she convinced herself it was what she wanted to do, but after graduating and working as a registered nurse, it all fell apart.

After a bad day at work, she came home and broke down to her partner.

“It was the one question I never asked myself, and no one had ever asked me … he said, ‘do you want to be a nurse’?” she said.

“It hit me. And I said no.”

She began applying for heavy vehicle and diesel mechanic apprenticeships and secured a job with Transdev in Sydney.

‘I felt at home’

In Australia, 1.4 per cent of motor mechanics are female, with 89.2 per cent of registered nurses being women.

Ms Milne said this played on her mind, but said she was more confident walking into the industry at 25 than she would have as an 18-year-old.

“Back then, there wasn’t really much talk about women being within the [mechanical] industry, and I was so shy that I felt like I couldn’t take that step into an unknown area where there aren’t really many women.”

Her fears were quashed on her first day in the workshop.

“I walked in, I caught up with my foreman and he gave me an induction.

“He said, ‘right, see that bus over there, I need you to go do this.’

“He just threw me straight in it.

“I think it just made me feel like, ‘hell, I can do this’.
“This is where I want to be and coming out of that first day, working beside tradesmen and learning and getting to be amongst it all, it just felt great.

“I felt at home.”

She said, despite her fears, she had never been treated any differently by her co-workers because of her gender and was always given the opportunity to show off her abilities.

“They give me a shot at everything but it comes down to me being aware of my strength,” she said.

“If I find I can’t lift something or get that extra bit of torque in because my arms won’t let me, my biceps don’t have that muscle, I can just go to one of the tradesmen.

“I think it’s the same with any other apprentice.

“Even when my partner was an apprentice, when he was 16, he couldn’t lift tyres.”

‘Cradle to grave’ change needed
Although Ms Milne followed her passion, the lack of role models around her contributed to her hesitance at a young age.

Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Libby Lyons said most people had never worked in a gender-balanced organisation or industry.

“In Australia today, I can tell you from our data, that six out of 10 Australians work in an industry or an occupation that’s dominated by one gender or the other,” she said.

“So we have these entrenched ideas about the sorts of work that women and men should do.
“It’s about challenging those ideas and challenging the culture that we’ve grown up in, that actually entrenches those ideas in our mind.”

Ms Lyons said it had to start from day one and everyone needed to be a part of the change.

“As parents, as grandparents, as aunts, as uncles, as brothers, as sisters, we have to start talking about women becoming mechanics, becoming train drivers,” she said.

“We have to talk about men becoming nurses, men becoming child carers, men becoming primary school teachers.

“This is cradle to grave stuff.”
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