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Building new lives brick by brick

Victoria University’s bricklaying pre-apprenticeship is attracting a new group of students – migrants and refugees from Burma and Africa keen to fill a need for workers in the buoyant housing market of Melbourne’s west.

Murray Millar, a teacher of the 16-week bricklaying program at VU’s Newport Campus, said the new students are proving to be talented and committed workers, and many are soon snapped up by industry.

“After 16 weeks with us, they learn everything from basic first-aid to masonry blockwork, and they would be a confident asset to any employer,” he said.

With an estimated 4500 newly arrived male refugees residing between Werribee and Broadmeadows, and demand for bricklayers and stonemasons expected to grow in the coming years, Murray can foresee the course increasing even further in popularity.

Sunshine resident Faluku Kengo, 30, from Liberia and Altona North resident Thang Bawi, 22, from Burma, say the course has given them new skills and a good start for their new lives in Australia.

The profession is much more challenging than many people realise, Murray said.

“Bricklaying has flown under the radar, but nine out of ten houses are still constructed with bricks,” he said.  

“I tell the students that brickies are the last tradesman to work on a building project, and yours is the work that shows.”

VU’s pre-apprenticeship bricklaying program is the only course of its kind in Melbourne’s west.  Up to 15 students are taught full-time in two eight-week semesters, earning a Certificate I and II in bricklaying. 

Students can then work as an apprentice with an employer for a further two and a half years before they are fully qualified bricklayers.

The cost of a 16-week course for health care card holders is $140 and about $1000 for non-concession. Contact the School of Construction Industries on 9919-8493 for dates for the next intake.

Bricklaying teachers and students will be in attendance as part of VU’s Open Day at Newport Campus on Saturday 7 November from 10am – 3 pm .


Murray Millar, Bricklaying Teacher

School of Construction Industries, Victoria University

Ph: (03) 9919 8493.

VU Media Contact:

Ann Marie Angebrandt, Media Officer,

Marketing and Communications Department, Victoria University

Ph: (03) 9919 5487 or 0403 556 001

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