How Engineers Ireland is building bridges Down Under
12 January 2016
Engineers Ireland members at the Christmas party in Melbourne
Author: Aoibhin Flanagan, consultant in environment and sustainability, Arup Melbourne
For decades the Irish have been flocking to Australia, peaking during the few years after the recession hit home in 2007. The Irish overseas are frequently brought together by a range of things – GAA clubs, tea bags and the craic. More recently across Australia and New Zealand, Irish engineers have been brought together by Engineers Ireland.
Formation of the Australia/New Zealand regional branch of Engineers Ireland came about after John Power, former director general of Engineers Ireland, made his first official visit in June 2014 and about 10 engineers gathered to show their interest in developing the branch.
Australia/New Zealand inaugural branch meeting
Under the guidance of its current chair, treasurer and secretary (Darren McDonnell, Oliver Kelly and Colin Dowdall) interest in the branch grew and on March 13, 2015, with the assistance of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, the inaugural meeting of Engineers Ireland Australia/New Zealand branch occurred in Melbourne.
The event was well attended by about 25 engineers and a delegation from Clyde Road. The Crown Palladium, overlooking the River Yarra and the Melbourne skyline, provided a relaxed, welcoming environment and an array of topics were discussed.
These ranged from the history of Irish civil engineering in Perth, the value that Irish engineers can bring and share with our colleagues at Engineers Australia and the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand and how the branch could forge stronger links to support those emigrating to and those returning home from the region.
The group was in agreement about its ambitions to promote Irish engineering and assist Clyde Road in terms of connecting with and building on the 260 registered Engineers Ireland members currently living in the region.
Given the scale of mass emigration to Australia during the economic downturn and the decline of the Irish construction industry during that period, the low membership numbers are somewhat surprising. However, many Irish engineers in the region are registered with other bodies. The ambition of the branch is therefore to capitalise on our skills network and share knowledge with fellow skilled Irish engineers.
Over the past nine months the branch has steadily grown from its Melbourne base through the establishment of its adhoc committee, development of social media networks and appointment of city representatives who have proven key to garnering interest across its other hubs of Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Auckland. It has a range of project managers, analysts, civil, mechanical, environmental, sustainability and structural engineers working on some of the most recognised and largest infrastructure projects in the region.
Range of backgrounds
The group has a range of backgrounds including those who have moved permanently, those temporary skilled workers who have been working in the area for a few years and those who have fallen into their roles while backpacking. This diversity of skills and background is illustrative of the flexibility and personable skills of the group in adapting to the different work culture, legislation, risks and development priorities.
The foundation of the regional branch has been based on linking, supporting and facilitating personal and professional development. Collectively it has reached out to its members’ networks and enacted the ‘take a mate’ policy at meetings to increase numbers and highlight the value that the regional branch can provide. Thus far it has assisted new arrivals with jobs, connected members with Clyde Road headquarters when they are on visits home and set up a programme of technical talks for the coming months.
The treasurer has worked hard to establish regional rules which will allow the region to become an incorporated body under Victorian law and it intends to run a mentoring programme to provide impartial advice and assist with the development of younger members.
The branch has come full circle and managed to draw John Power back again, this time to its Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland inaugural Christmas parties to celebrate a successful year of hard work and expansion across the region. As a committee, it hopes that the next few years will continue to bring similar successes.http://www.engineersjournal.ie/2016/01/12/engineers-ireland-brings-irish-engineers-in-australia-and-new-zealand-together/http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Melbourne-IEI-Xmas-Party-2015-1024x768.jpghttp://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Melbourne-IEI-Xmas-Party-2015-300x300.jpgElecArup,Australia