Australia, C&L, Cranes & Lifting, Features

In Profile: Melira Lister

Boom Logistics' BDM, Melira Lister, discusses diversity in the crane industry.

With the launch of the 2024 Women in Industry Awards, Cranes and Lifting is profiling women in cranes and engineered heavy lifting, discussing their careers, their journeys and the importance of a more diverse industry. In this month’s edition, we talk to Boom Logistics’ National Business Development Manager for Projects and Renewables, Melira Lister.

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From flight crew in the RAAF to National Business Development Manager at Boom, Melira’s 14-year career in the crane and logistics industry has spanned multiple roles, projects and sectors. Her ability and willingness to seek and drive change through stakeholder engagement as well as her diverse skillset has taken her from operational based roles to business development over time.

“My first role in the industry was in permitting; I was told on my first day that I would hate it and would last two weeks max,” she said. “From the moment I sat in the chair I knew it was for me, and I was determined to make my mark on industry and prove that I could do it.”

Since then, Melira has led the logistics operations on some of the country’s largest heavy lift projects as well as driving change for the crane industry in Queensland. For her contribution to industry, Melira was named the 2022 ‘Trucking Woman of the Year’ for the leading of multiple high profile policy shifts in, to name a few, the removal of police escorts for oversize girder transport, reform to wind turbine deliveries and liaising with the NHVR and government stakeholders to de-rate a fully built 1200-tonne capacity Demag AC1000 all-terrain crane for use on the public road network for project purposes.

Yet, for Boom’s Business Development Manager, the focus and message to industry is that an equitable workforce needs to be achieved in order to create diversity.

“I am always honest with people that the journey – especially in the crane industry – has not been easy,” she said. “There have been mean words, derogatory comments, bullying, harassment and general disrespect throughout my career.”

Growing up with four brothers, one might be forgiven for thinking Melira had developed a ‘thick skin’. However, working in an industry that comprises of only 13 per cent of women, the challenges for work/life balance and respect in the workplace are  heightened. 

“Earlier in my career for the purpose of ensuring that I was seen to be doing just as good a job as the “boys”, I seemingly hid the fact I was a mother of 2 and took on the added pressure of trying to balance both worlds with nil flexibility,” she said. “I didn’t dare ask for time off for school events, the kids being sick etc. – I was so scared that this would all be seen as a weakness and an excuse as to why I, or a woman in general, wasn’t suitable for the role.”

As Melira states, whilst change needs to come from the top down in business, an equitable workforce also starts with people individually making a conscious commitment to remove the preconceived biases that impact our decisions, mindset and behaviours when it comes to women in this  industry.

“Feeling as though you’ve got the right support network around you is imperative,” she said, “especially when representation of women in the industry is still limited.”

Trailblazing in a traditionally male-dominated industry is not the only challenge Melira has had to overcome. Whilst her heart is in the game career wise, it was struggling health wise.

“A doctor flagged that they could hear something “funny” in my chest; unsure what it was, I was sent for a secondary opinion,” she said. 

“Turns out that funny sound in my chest was blood leaking from my heart, and I was diagnosed with a heart condition called aortic stenosis bicuspid aortic valve.”

Boom Logistics' BDM, Melira Lister, discusses diversity in the crane industry.
The 3D printed part of Melira’s heart. Image: Melira Lister.

After missing several check-up appointments due to being “too busy with work”, it was the death of a colleague from a heart attack that prompted her to see a doctor. The results were confronting; her health, as a young, fit, 36-year-old woman, was deteriorating, and rapidly.

“It was caught just in the nick of time; I had always worried about my valve getting worse but never considered other parts of my heart failing as a result” she said. “I was at critical risk of aortic dissection (aorta rupturing) and there was no coming back from that.”

On August 4, 2023, she was placed into a coma following major open-heart surgery. Melira is now one of around 500 people in the world to have a part of her heart 3D modelled and inserted into her cardiovascular system to replace her aorta. The journey since has been anything but easy – with Melira enduring seven hospitalisations, a collapsed lung, four bouts of life-threatening infections and recurrent heart issues. Her months of being in and out of hospital have made one thing absolutely, unequivocally, imperatively straightforward to her: if you feel like something’s wrong, get yourself checked out, and if you can make a healthy choice, make it.

“In an industry such as ours,” she says, “where we’re always on the go and not necessarily looking after ourselves, we need to pay extra attention to all the signs and symptoms, no matter how small or trivial they are.”

The stats corroborate Mel’s plea to the wider industry: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ National Health Survey in 2022, 34 per cent of Australians are overweight; 31.7 per cent were recorded as being obese. Obesity was more prevalent in males aged 45 and over compared to those 44 and under, with the 65–74-year-old male demographic recording an 81.4 per cent obesity rate – a demographic that fits right in with the crane, hoist, and lift industry profile that consists of 96 per cent men with a median age of 45 years old, according to Jobs and Skills Australia. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 6.2 per cent of adults had one or more conditions related to heart, stroke or vascular disease, while 25 per cent of all deaths in 2021 came from cardiovascular disease. In the report, the AIHW highlights the compounding role obesity, smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure play in increased risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Stats are just figures on a piece of paper, however; it’s stories such as Melira’s that really drive the point home to encourage people to lead healthier lifestyles within the industry, or else the devastating effects of heart issues will maintain their prevalence. 

Melira’s story is one of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, but not everyone comes out the other end to tell the tale. With a new lease on life ahead and the worst of her issues seemingly in the past, she’s now ready to build on her previous accolades and continue forging a path that bucks the traditional mould of the industry to be more inclusive, accepting, and healthy – but with an added warning to anyone considering bypassing their health.

“This can happen to anyone,” she said. “If something doesn’t feel right, go and get checked out.”


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