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Master Builders appoints first woman CEO

Emma Macdonald

After 127 years, it is time for a change and the different perspective a female CEO will bring to the organisation.”

Master Builders Australia has announced on International Women’s Day that Denita Wawn has been appointed its new Chief Executive Officer – the first female to head the organisation in its 127-year history.

The appointment will become effective on March 20, with Denita set to represent the $200 billion building and construction industry and become only the third CEO in 30 years.

She replaces Wilhelm Harnish, who resigned last week after 26 years with the organisation and after the board had received Denita’s acceptance to take on the role following an extensive internal and external search.

In announcing her appointment, the National President of Master Builders, Mr Dan Perkins said, “Denita’s qualities, skills and experience as a highly-accomplished industry leader and advocate saw her emerge as the successful candidate from the comprehensive recruitment process undertaken by the Board.”

 “The Board is confident that Mrs Wawn’s leadership will see the implementation of its vision for Master Builders as a modern, credible and influential national voice for its more than 32,000 members,” he said.

Denita had “impeccable credentials for success” including spearheading advocacy and industrial relations campaigns at the National Farmers Federation, and the Australian Hotels Association.


Most recently, as the CEO of the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand, Denita implemented a highly successful reputational change strategy at a national and international level.

She has spent the past 12 months as General Manager Operations at Master Builders, giving her a strong foundation to understand the issues impacting on Master Builders and our members.

Denita said, “I have never wanted to play the gender card, and have always approached work on a merit basis but I will admit there is something a bit special about being a female representing a male-dominated industry and being part of a cultural shift to get more women in the industry.”

Denita noted that only 10 percent of the workforce in the building and construction industry was female and less than 1 percent of the trades industry was female.

“Given we need to increase our workforce to keep up with demand we are really going to have to look at ways to encourage women to look for career opportunities in our industry.”

After 127 years, it is time for a change and the different perspective a female CEO will bring to the organisation.”


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author