Year of Humanitarian Engineering culminates with an “inspirational” conference
The recent Year of Humanitarian Engineering Conference, held in Melbourne from 30 November to 2 December, was a great success. The conference was the culmination of a year-long calendar focused on the theme of educating, activating and celebrating the work of humanitarian engineers around the globe.
The event attracted a diverse mix of 340 engineers and other delegates. The general mood was one of inspiration and determination, with many attendees vowing to join Engineers Without Borders, RedR and other humanitarian engineering movements in a bid to help make a difference in our world.
Real stories, powerful speakers
In the breakout sessions, delegates heard real stories from community groups who have reaped the benefits of having engineers on board to improve their way of life.
One such session, which proved a big hit with delegates, was on Indigenous Australians and Reconciliation. The engineering sector is arguably one of the most well positioned sectors to assist in ‘closing the gap’ between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, and the session explored opportunities for indigenous employment, education and reconciliation in the engineering sector.
“Delegates heard personal accounts from indigenous Australians – first-hand stories of how the work of Reconciliation Action Plans are impacting their lives,” said Nick Byrne, Project Manager, Year of Humanitarian Engineering at Engineers Australia.
Other highlights of the conference included:
- Sourabh Phadke, Independent WASH Educator & Appropriate Building Specialist: Sourabh, who works in the areas of ecology, education and shelter in India, is part architect, part philosopher, part educator, and totally committed to the people and land of India. He shared his insights and experiences in a very motivating and educational keynote address.
- Todd Sampson, CEO Leo Burnett and Co-Creator of Earth Hour: Todd’s keynote address spoke of ‘being brave for five minutes longer’ in order to really find the innovation you need to make a difference.
- Jason Clarke, Minds at Work: Jason painted a clear picture of a world in rapid change, and inspired his audience to seek the best ways to lead this change. His presentation – part ‘activation’ and part ‘celebration’ – certainly left delegates feeling inspired about humanitarian engineering.
- Oliver Lacey-Hall, United Nations: The current Head of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Oliver has 25 years experience in humanitarian work – including refugee issues, coordination and communications work, and project and programme management. Mr Lacey-Hall spoke about his role with the United Nations and the escalating importance of engineers to work in the humanitarian capacity.
“A significant milestone launched during conference was the EWB report ‘A Snapshot of Pro Bono Engineering’. This unprecedented report sets the stage for the sector to strategically mobilise a pro bono culture, expanding the depth and breadth of the positive social impact of the engineering sector on communities across Australia and the world,” said Byrne.
2011: The Year of Humanitarian Engineering
The conference provided the ideal wrap-up of a very successful year, in which a range of activities shone a spotlight on humanitarian engineering. From the Australian Humanitarian Engineering Summit, to national technical workshops and regional events, engineers around the country have been putting their minds to the issue of humanitarian engineering like never before.
“Throughout 2011, Engineers Australia has managed to attract a much broader and more diverse engineering audience to the topic of humanitarian engineering, and it has been extremely encouraging to see such interest in this important area,” said Byrne.
“It really is unprecedented to have such a broad range of engineers rally around humanitarian issues, and to join in such significant conversations about applying their expertise for social change.”
Engineers Australia would like to acknowledge our partners AusAID and SKM, who provided invaluable support at the conference and throughout the year.