14 Dec BPEQ 90th Anniversary: Celebrating Grant Maher
In 2020, BPEQ turns 90. To celebrate this milestone BPEQ is acknowledging the achievements, projects, innovations, discoveries and stories of RPEQs past and present.
In this issue, and in recognition of NAIDOC Week (8-15 November), is featured Grant Maher. Grant is a structural RPEQ who became the first Indigenous student to graduate from the University of Sydney with a double degree in engineering and commerce. A descendent of the Gumbaynggirr and Biripi people, Grant is committed to helping attract young indigenous people into a career in engineering.
Grant tells us about his background, what attracted him to engineering and the work being done to support young Indigenous people in engineering.
I was born in Wollongong but grew up in a small coastal town on the Far-North Coast of New South Wales, to a Scottish mother and Aboriginal father. As a kid I was always interested in maths and science and how things worked. I was first introduced to engineering in Year 10 when I attended the inaugural Engineering Aid Indigenous Engineering Summer School at the University of Sydney in 1998.
This is what really got me interested in the world of engineering and made me focused on achieving my goal of attending the University of Sydney to study engineering – which I did in completing a double degree (BE Civil, Hons) with Commerce in 2004. After starting my career as a structural engineer for Connell Wagner (now Aurecon) I later found a niche area of engineering that really appealed to me, which was within the world of façades and sustainability. I further extended my study completing a Masters Design Science (Sustainable Design) from University of Sydney in 2011.
After working in both consulting and contractor roles for the past 15 plus years, both multi-national and mid-tier/specialist companies, in April this year I have partnered with another successful and highly qualified Indigenous engineer, Dennis Jose, who’s background is in civil/environment and project management. We have launched our own project management and engineering services consultancy, Jabin Group, with the intention to not only deliver our services across the engineering and construction sector, but to help create and develop opportunities for young Indigenous people to see engineering as a pathway to a successful and fulfilling career. As part of my role at Engineers Australia as chair of the Indigenous Engineers Group, it is to encourage current professional Indigenous engineers to provide a source of information and exposure to Indigenous engineer’s roles and projects throughout the sector, as well as networking and engagement to communities to educate Indigenous kids about what engineering is and how it can help them and their communities as a whole.
‘…to help create and develop opportunities for young Indigenous people…’
There is increasing involvement of organisations and programs to assist young Indigenous people to become involved in engineering, and although these have been successful to an extent a lot of them are focused on the study/university engagement and development phase of the engineering journey. During the graduate professional years young Indigenous people are typically incorporated into the company’s standard graduate program, which is where a disconnect between them and the typical company development and structure can occur, particularly those coming from a very remote or regional area not accustomed to urban living and corporate workplace culture.
‘…which is where a disconnect between them and the typical company development and structure can occur…’
Where Jabin is looking to improve and develop this is to closely connect young Indigenous professionals or soonto- be professionals to each other through networking as well as through mentoring and involvement as much as possible with community-based projects. We understand that graduate programs are fantastic systems to develop their understanding and training within the professional environment, however having and working directly with a senior experienced Indigenous engineer such as myself and Dennis would greatly improve their longevity and involvement in the profession. Jabin is developing this style of professional development through partnerships with large consultancies who appreciate and see the opportunity and help that this can provide young new Indigenous people who want to find their way in engineering and construction.
‘…having and working directly with a senior experienced Indigenous engineer such as myself and Dennis would greatly improve their longevity and involvement in the profession.’
This year is a celebration of the achievements, projects, innovations, discoveries and stories of RPEQs past and present. BPEQ encourages RPEQs to share their thoughts –
• What are some of Queensland’s great engineering feats?
• Who was the RPEQ/s who helped deliver the project?
• Are there unsung heroes in the profession?
To have your say contact BPEQ at firstname.lastname@example.org.