To celebrate this year’s NAIDOC Week theme — Get Up! Rise! To arrive! — create examines how Engineering Aid Australia has encouraged Aboriginal participation in engineering for 25 years.
When civil engineer Jeff Dobell contacted the University of Sydney in 1996 to recruit Aboriginal engineers, they told him that only one Aboriginal engineer had graduated from the university and there were only about five in Australia. Dobell recognized the enormous potential of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help their communities and the country and created a non-profit organization Engineering Aid Australia (EAA) to encourage young Aboriginal high school students to become professional engineers.
In 25 years, nearly 1,000 students have completed the EAA’s Indigenous Australian Engineering School (IAES) program, where they learn about engineering and career opportunities, meet academic staff and practicing engineers and solve practical engineering challenges.
The EAA also facilitates a range of scholarship and work experience opportunities to help Indigenous students complete high school, college, and find employment.
Grant Maher FIEAust CPEng is a descendant of the Gumbaynggirr and Biripi peoples of northern New South Wales and tracks Engineers Australia Indigenous Engineering Group. He attended the EAA’s inaugural IAES at the University of Sydney and now works as a facade engineer.
Reflecting on 25 years of EAA, Maher says, “I don’t think you get any more help than Engineering Aid gave me. They gave me a direction that I followed for 20 years that radically changed the lives of native children and the perception of engineering.
In a three-part series, create invited three Indigenous engineers to share their stories of how EAA helped them find their passion for engineering. Here, Jack Coppins, a graduate mechanical engineer at Aurecon Adelaide and proud Barkindji man from Wilcanna Country in western New South Wales shares his story.