Thought-provoking ideas on the future of engineering

Thursday, 1 December 2016
Brisbane’s flood-resistant ferry wharves were rewarded at the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards.

More than 1000 people attended the Australian Engineering Conference in Brisbane last week, listening to industry leaders discussing the future of the profession.

Federal Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt spoke via a teleconferencing link from Canberra and said, for Australian engineering to be competitive it must attract talent into the profession and to do this required attracting more women.

"You will never win a football match if you keep half your team in the shed," he said.

The Minister's comments were echoed by Australian of the Year and former Army Chief David Morrison, who spoke of trying to change the culture within the armed forces, built largely on masculine Anglo-Saxon values. Without saying it explicitly, he left most in the room thinking of the culture of engineering where the ratio of women to men is similarly distorted to the armed forces.

Australian Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, himself an engineer, spoke of the influence engineers have in the world and encouraged the audience to think big.

"The Secretary-General-elect of the United Nation is Antonio Guterres, an electrical engineer. China is run by a chemical engineer. The CEOs of Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Apple are engineers. In fact, if you look at the ten largest companies in America by market capitalisation, five of those ten are run by engineers, three by scientists, and one by a mathematics graduate," he said.

Aside from these broad-brush keynote addresses, there were lots of sessions focussing on more detailed technical areas. The feedback from participants was very positive regarding the breadth and balance of talks.

The conference also featured the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards. The major project prize, the Sir William Hudson Award, went to Brisbane’s Flood Recovery Ferry Terminals, designed by Aurecon and Cox Rayner Architects on behalf of Brisbane City Council. The Environmental Engineering Excellence Award was given to Tasmania's Meander Dam Integrated Water Management System, designed by Entura, while the Engineering Innovation Award went to UTS and Roads and Maritime Services for their autonomous Robotic Bridge Inspector.

Other project awards were given to the Newcastle Memorial Walk, the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Upgrade of the Pacific Highway, the Dr Chau Chak Wing Building at UTS, the Grid Utility Support System in Queensland, and the Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal.

The top individual award, Professional Engineer of the Year, went to John Macintosh, managing director of Brisbane-based consultancy Water Solutions, while the Peter Nicol Russell Memorial Medal went to Cardno's Richard Kell. Other individual awards went to Darren Green, Shane Elson, David Lacey, Robert Ladd, Gerry Doyle and Geoff Sizer.

"The awards were a wonderful opportunity to acknowledge the significant contribution engineers make to the community," said Engineers Australia’s CEO Stephen Durkin.

[Award-winning Brisbane ferry wharves.]