A Virtual Iron Ring for Australian Engineers

A Virtual Iron Ring for Australian Engineers

There is a steep change in engineering unfolding in Australia and there are two things RPEQs can do to help, writes the Board’s elected RPEQ representative Suzanne Burow.

Just seven years before the Professional Engineers Act 1929 was given Royal Assent by the Governor of Queensland, an interesting event occurred in Montreal. Professor Herbert Haultain was the luncheon speaker for the Engineering Institute of Canada. The topic was ‘The Romance of Engineering’ and his suggestion was for an oath for engineering graduates, in a similar style to the Hippocratic Oath. Ultimately this became the basis for the ‘Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer’ – a private ceremony with a text written by Rudyard Kipling where engineers commit to ethical practice. During this ceremony, initiates received a facetted iron ring to be worn on the little finger of the writing hand as a reminder of their pledge every time their hand crossed the page in the course of their work.

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We cannot know if these activities influenced Professor Roger Hawken’s drive to introduce engineering registration here in Queensland. Regardless, there are similarities. Firstly, both groups of engineers – RPEQs and Canadian engineering graduates who have taken the oath –have committed to ethical practice and secondly, with the passage of time both movements have expanded across the respective nation in which they originated.

During this unusual time with the rapid pace of change associated with our lives, it might be possible to miss
the steep change in engineering unfolding in Australia in the two years since the release of the Shergold Weir Report. After ninety years, Queensland is no longer the only Australian jurisdiction requiring practicing engineers to be registered. Both NSW and Victoria have passed legislation to require varying degrees of engineering registration and WA is seeking submissions for their consultation regulatory impact statement covering the registration of building engineering work. What expansion of the engineering registration frameworks in each Australian jurisdiction might we expect in another five, ten or twenty years?

‘After ninety years, Queensland is no longer the only Australian jurisdiction requiring practicing engineers to be registered.’

In anticipation of this future and as a fellow RPEQ there are two things that I would ask of you:

  • As registered professionals, you are all leaders. Unregistered engineers particularly in jurisdictions outside of Queensland may benefit from your support and advice both as they pursue their pathway to registration and as they learn to manage the practicalities of meeting their ongoing legal and ethical obligations as a registered professional; and
  • Whilst the scope of each Australian jurisdiction’s legislative framework varies to some degree, once these frameworks are in place, at least for some jurisdictions, it will be relatively easy to add additional areas of engineering where practitioners must be registered. I encourage RPEQs to support unregistered engineers, particularly early or mid-career professionals, to pursue pathways to registration within their area of engineering practice in a jurisdiction outside of their own if it not currently regulated in their home jurisdiction. Such a course of action will serve them well as they will be investing in their future.


Elected RPEQ representative

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Ms Burow joined the Board in 2019 as the elected representative. She is a chartered and registered Civil Engineer with considerable experience as a practitioner in water resources engineering
in various sectors across the industry. Ms Burow is currently a consulting engineer in the private sector and the Deputy President of the Queensland Division of Engineers Australia.