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Why this engineer built a career on channeling change

An advocate of channeling change, Elspeth Moroni’s dedication to working with disadvantaged communities locally and globally is what led to her choosing a career in civil engineering.

Supporting people less fortunate than myself both locally and across the world has always been my interest –and is one of the reasons I took up civil engineering.

When I went to Thailand in 1992 for four weeks to work in a World Vision slum, I met a doctor who said something I have never forgotten: “I know people think doctors save lives, but I think engineers are amazing because they ensure we have safe water which supports life and keeps people from getting sick in the first place”.

This stuck with me through my career, starting in 1994 when I worked at the Launceston City Council as a design engineer in the Sewerage and Combined Drainage department of the Technical Services Division, which I did for five years.

I then spent the next 17 years at Sinclair Knight Merz and Jacobs as a senior civil engineer and project manager. I then became Manager of Asset Services at the City of Hobart and am now the Project Director for Cradle Mountain. 

In my career, I also spent four weeks in Cambodia on an Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Dialogue for Development course, with the costs sponsored by my then employer, Sinclair Knight Merz.

I have also supported at least one child in the Philippines since I started my first job as a student in 1988. This continues today, and my husband and children now also support a child each.

Supporting diversity

I’ve also been passionate about championing gender diversity in Tasmania. Since graduating, I have been asked to speak at schools and groups to encourage girls to study engineering or other STEM type careers. I’ve also had the opportunity to mentor several young female engineers as they start their careers.

During my time at Sinclair Knight Merz, because it was a major supporter of the Beacon Foundation, I spoke to groups of high school children who were thinking about their career options.

I want to encourage all young people, both male and female, to study hard, look for opportunities, and achieve.

For the past 12 years, I have also had several opportunities to speak about balancing work and family life as a professional. I have two children (now 13 and 15), have taken maternity leave, worked part time, travelled, used family and paid childcare, and balanced my parenting role with my professional work. I share my experience to show how it can be achieved and highlight things parents should consider.

I have seen several younger female staff take up some of the options that I took once they became parents, and also seen them return to work. I’d also like to think that some of the kids I have spoken to have been encouraged to continue studying maths and science and look at taking up a career in STEM.

Outstanding issues

But, there are plenty more issues within the water industry that need addressing. Some key ones are: raising awareness of the impact of poor sewerage and sanitation on water supply in developing countries and increasing Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training; increasing the understanding of the impacts of climate change on existing infrastructure, and likely coastal inundation; understanding changes in rainfall patterns due to climate change; and increasing understanding and engagement with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The industry as a whole can do its part to solve the issues through knowledge sharing and engagement with industry bodies like AWA and Engineers Australia, to benefit from each other’s experiences and ensure that businesses engage with customers and suppliers to discuss and highlight these issues and incorporate them into annual plans.

Further industry and academic research is also needed into these issues, including collaboration with
the private sector plus local, state and federal governments for funding and project identification. Corporate and individual involvement in organisations like EWB and RedR Australia will also support developing countries improve their water and sanitation.

Elspeth Moroni has been involved with the water industry for about 27 years and is now the Project Director for Cradle Mountain. Moroni is passionate about supporting disadvantaged communities across Australia, as well as international aid in developing countries.