Engineering success

SETTING THE PLATFORM: The Institution of Engineers, Australia has come a long way since its inaugural meeting in Melbourne back in 1919.

SETTING THE PLATFORM: The Institution of Engineers, Australia has come a long way since its inaugural meeting in Melbourne back in 1919.

The Institution of Engineers, Australia (trading name "Engineers Australia") held its first Council Meeting in Melbourne on October 20-21, 1919.

The push for this meeting can be traced back to Federation in 1901 when six self-governing colonies came together to share an identity and purpose. Engineers in Australia were inspired to consider how they too might join forces.

At the turn of the twentieth century, engineering was disconnected and fragmented.

Only some capital cities had passable roads and telephone networks. Steam railway track gauges varied between states.

For the new nation to grow - for information and trade to flow freely - Australia needed better infrastructure, underpinned by common standards.

This demanded closer connections between engineers themselves, wherever they practised.

At the turn of the century, Australia's engineering professional associations were scattered across the continent.

This limited their scope and authority.

The profession lacked one strong voice and concern was expressed that the existing institutions did not command respect:

Almost anyone could become a member; no standards of training or experience were set.

Members were not graded based on training or experience.

Papers published were not of high quality or interest.

The bodies themselves would not get involved in public debates, even on issues important to the profession or the general public.

Push for unity

Australian engineers, inspired by Australia's federation, saw the need for a national body that would raise the standing of their profession.

This idea was championed across the nation sparking conversations, with active interest from every state and territory, that continued throughout the years of World War I.

However, it was not until the war drew to a close that efforts yielded a breakthrough: a national conference to create a plan for unity.

Representatives from the state associations agreed that an interstate conference would be held in Melbourne.

Attendees settled on a model where individual societies would keep their identity, but come together on matters of importance.

A constitution was drafted, shared and approved by foundation societies from each state of the Commonwealth.

The Institution of Engineers, Australia held its first Council Meeting on October 20-21 October 1919 where Professor William Henry Warren was elected President for 1920.

Royal Charter

The Institution of Engineers, Australia received it's first Royal Charter in 1938.

A Royal Charter is a seal of approval, as well as a legal means of creating a new institution.

In Britain's history, many scientific and engineering institutions have received a Royal Charter.

One of the first was the Invisible College, later known as the Royal Society, a meeting of scientists who received the Charter from King Charles II in 1662.

When The Institution of Engineers, Australia was formed, Australia's identity, values and indeed its sense of history were still tied to Britain.

The fledgling Institution saw the Royal Charter as a seal of approval it could draw on to gain prestige and recognition.

In 1935, at an extraordinary general meeting, the resolution to seek a Royal Charter was carried, 628 votes to 3.

King George VI granted a Royal Charter on 10 March, 1938 - just days before the Institution's annual conference and it reached Sydney the Saturday before.

Receiving the Royal Charter was a sign that the Institution had come of age as an institution worthy of national and international respect.

Further Royal Charters would follow to capture changes in The Institution's structure, but the first Charter was a foundational moment for The Institution of Engineers, Australia.

Milestones

From the very beginning, The Institution of Engineers, Australia was a truly national institution and has been instrumental in giving the profession a unified voice.

Over the years, many great feats of Australian engineering have been heralded around the world, including the Snowy Rivers Hyro-Electric Scheme, and the Parkes Telescope which played a key role in man's landing on the moon.

Engineers Australia can be proud of the body of knowledge it has helped build, harnessing engineers' skills and experience and sharing that with the wider profession and Australian public. It provides a means of bringing on the next generation of engineers and connecting them with those who have come before so that the knowledge is shared from generation to generation.

But aside from the encouraging and facilitating the scope and capacity of Australian engineering, the great achievement of Engineers Australia has been the role it has played in giving the profession national cohesion through course accreditation, professional registration, implementation of charter and ongoing endeavours to broaden inclusion.

There is still much work to be done, but the organisation can stand proud in the knowledge that it has built a solid platform for the next 100 years of engineering.

  • SOURCE: Engineers Australia: 100 Years of Progress
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