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From Poland to Perth: A story of two engineers

Water Corporation's Peter Spencer shares the story of two inspiring women whose paths first crossed in Poland during the Cold War and then again at Water Corporation in Perth.

Water Corporation Principal Engineer - Treatment Design Iwona Burak and Margaret Domurad first met in their homeland of Poland.

The women studied at university together during the Cold War, when the Iron Curtain separated the former Soviet bloc and the West prior to the decline of communism.

Burak and Domurad struggled with serious issues around democracy, civil liberties and living conditions.

“Women studying technical subjects were socially advanced at a time when there was little else advanced in Poland’s political culture,” Burak said.

Domurad left Poland as a refugee and spent several months in a refugee camp in Italy before gaining immigration status to Australia. 

She settled in Perth and began her 35-year career at what is today called Water Corporation, but was then known as the Public Works Department.

Burak left Poland 10 years after Domurad. She also left behind a poor political environment and emigrated to Perth, where she too found a job with Water Corporation.

Her development as a sound and experienced water treatment engineer led to her appointment as the lead design manager on the Groundwater Replenishment Project, bringing her drinking water treatment engineering skills to the wastewater side of the business.

For two women who studied engineering in Cold War-era Poland, took on the challenges of working in a male-dominated field, and battled with the stigma of being immigrants in Australia, who could have predicted they would end up working together on one the most advanced recycling projects in the world?

After 35 years, Domurad has finished her career at Water Corporation with the proud achievement of leading the Aroona wastewater operations team through the successful integration of the Groundwater Replenishment Project into operations at the Beenyup Wastewater Treatment Plant.

This was not her only achievement, however.

In 1996, she was the first female President of the Australian Water Association's (AWA) WA Branch, and the first female Branch President of any AWA Branch. She was also awarded the Don Montgomery Award for outstanding service to the WA Branch in 2004 and remains the only woman to receive this award.

Water Corporation and the Australian Water Association would like to thank Margaret Domurad for her huge contribution to the water sector and wish all the best in her retirement.