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Locksmith challenges gender norms in a male-dominated industry

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A locksmith from Kinglake West is changing the trends of the trade and passing on information for those who follow in her footsteps.

Natalie Ball gained an interest in locksmithing from a childhood spent in her parents’ suburban hardware store and was encouraged by her father to pursue a trade after he observed her practical abilities in the shop.

She undertook her qualifications at age 21, studying nights at Melbourne Polytechnic and then going on to secure a position with Chubb Safes as a safe technician.

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Ms Ball said being a locksmith required an ability to deal with a vast array of different circumstances, some of which could be sensitive to the people involved.

“I’ve found in locksmithing you have to navigate people and very different situations. It could be a domestic violence situation, where a woman might feel more comfortable with another female doing their locks for them,” she said.

“Being able to address sensitive situations like this is a very good skill to have and you’re earning people’s trust.

“That side of locksmithing involves being compassionate, using people skills and social skills.

“Having all of that really does give you a huge confidence boost, knowing that you’re capable of doing all those sorts of things.”

Ms Ball was also able to overcome issues that arose with being a female in a male-dominated industry.

“I grew up surrounded by males, with my dad and brother in the hardware store. I was used to that environment, but it’s confronting when you’re thrown into a male-dominated setting,” she said.

“I found myself laughing my way through times when I should have stood up for myself and said ‘no, that’s not right’.”

After running her own locksmithing business across Victoria, Ms Ball has found a new niche in applying her locksmithing skills and experience as a TAFE teacher.

TAFE teaching has been an opportunity for Ms Ball to share her craft and pass on years of on-the-job experience with students in a practical setting.

“My favourite thing about being a teacher is how fun it is,” she said.

“I find it rewarding when a student has hit a wall and, with some patience and gentle encouragement, they improve in leaps and bounds.

“You can really see that they’re proud of themselves and that for me is a fantastic thing to be a part of.”

People can find more information on careers at Melbourne Polytechnic here.

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