| 11 July 2022

Engineering leader and innovator recognised in WA

On 30 June, Engineers Australia members came together to be recognised for their attainment of Fellow, Engineering Executive, Companion or Chartered status, and receive their certificates and pins from WA President Jodey Brockhurst.  

A highlight of the evening was a heart-warming speech by proud Nyungar (Whadjuk and Ballardong) person, Professor Christopher Lawrence on acceptance of his Companion membership. Companion membership recognises members who have reached a level of attainment in an engineering field that is equivalent to the level required for election as a Fellow or have attained a level of experience comparable to the grade of Fellow.  

Susan Kreemer Pickford, Engineers Australia General Manager for WA said “we invited Professor Lawrence to join as a Companion, recognising his recent appointment as Dean of Indigenous Engagement Faculty Science and Engineering at Curtin University.  

“Through this role, students are being taught the importance of being world-class change agents and leaders with ethical, cultural and safe ways of working with Indigenous communities. We need to learn this too as part of nurturing our existing and future engineering workforce,” Susan said. 

During his speech on the night, Professor Lawrence talked about his humble beginnings growing up in times of segregation and pointed out the importance of recognising First Nations innovation and engineering. “Anyone who can pick up a piece of wood throw it and make it come back have got to be innovators,” he said. 

“The boomerang, like many other Indigenous traditional tools, used engineering, design, data science, mathematical modelling, prediction, power, acceleration and aerodynamics. They used engineering and data science to design, create tools, and build equipment, design agricultural methods to catch and harvest fish and animals, and build shelter.” 

Professor Lawrence is dedicated to developing programs that embed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and knowledge into the teaching of subjects across engineering and information technology. During his speech, he spoke about his role as Dean of Indigenous Engagement. “We have 53 Indigenous students enrolled in STEM degrees,” he said. “An amazing large number... Fourteen of those are studying to be engineers and our first Indigenous female civil engineer will be graduating later this year.”  

Attendees also heard about Professor Lawrence’s plan to work closely with Engineers Australia’s Western Australia Division to find, develop and embed Indigenous STEM in the curriculum that aligns with western engineering learning outcomes, and to find alternative solutions and involve engineers in creating more sustainable and economically healthy Indigenous communities.  

In seeking to achieve a greater diversity of people working in the engineering profession, Engineers Australia is engaging more broadly with industry, academia and the community to understand the barriers to participating in engineering as well as learn from those who are navigating the challenges and achieving success.