In 1905, the initial association was formed to recruit engineers from the Roads and Bridges Section of the Public Works Department to councils up until the section’s complete dissolution in early 1907.
In 1909, the association decided to widen its membership to include engineers from all Australian states and New Zealand, adopting the new name of The Institute of Local Government Engineers of Australasia.
The name was changed again to The Institution of Engineers Australia in 1919 as the association came to represent all professional engineers in Australasia. Then in 1920, the association was registered as a trade union, with yet another name change to The Association of Local Government Engineers of New South Wales.Article continues below…
By 1990, it was decided that the professional and industrial areas of the association should be separated, thus forming the Institute of Municipal Engineering Australia (IMEA), which achieved recognition as the leading local government organisation representing the technical professions.
IPWEA’s current name reflects the new direction the organisation is taking as a response to ongoing changes in local government engineering practice.
Celebrating a decade with IPWEA
Living in Sydney and married with three children, Chris Champion started with IPWEA in April 2000.
Mr Champion has been involved with IPWEA for as long as he can remember, starting as a member and moving to more direct involvement when he volunteered to be the Technical Papers Co-ordinator for the 1999 National Conference in Sydney.
“The following year the national CEO’s position became available and I → thought I would put my hat in the ring,” Mr Champion said.
Mr Champion came to role with a strong background. Before joining IPWEA as the CEO he was the Director of Engineering for 14 years with Holroyd City Council in Sydney’s west. Working in local government was a significant advantage, he said.
“It has meant I have known some of the important needs and issues in the industry, and helped with an in-house understanding of the industry. It has also allowed me to be more than just an administrator for IPWEA; it has allowed me to get actively involved in leading the organisation in a technical and professional sense as well.”
Working in local government for 30 years prior to his role at IPWEA has given Mr Champion a complete understanding and background of the industry from a member and user’s perspective.
One of the challenges he has faced in his role as CEO is in developing the institute as a small business.
“An important part of the equation is to also generate the revenue side to support the provision of wider services, and to make the organisation more sustainable for the future.”
The profile and influence of IPWEA has risen significantly and has achieved exponential growth, Mr Champion says. This includes the growth of their National Conference, which saw a strong international presence last year.
“We have broadened our work at a national level to provide initiatives and leadership in asset management, fleet management and parks management as it relates back to our technical side of things.”
As part of this growth, IPWEA has had great success, both internationally and within Australia. Mr Champion is also the President of the International Federation of Municipal Engineering, and he considers it to be one of his career highlights.
“I believe IPWEA is recognised internationally particularly for its work in infrastructure asset management. I have been invited to speak at a number of overseas conferences to outline the approach and our experiences in Australia.”
Among other achievements is IPWEA's being one of a consortium of four to win the $A8 million bid to establish the Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government, and publishing the Australian Infrastructure Financial Management Guidelines, now on its second printing.
A look into the future
Currently IPWEA is providing national training programs in infrastructure asset management, expanding into buildings, and publishing a range of practice notes to assist practitioners in the field.
In August 2011 IPWEA had their biennial International Public Works Conference, held in Canberra with a theme of “Public Works – Capital Solutions”.
In Mr Champion’s opinion of what the future holds for the public works sector in Australia, he sees an increase in recognition by the community that good infrastructure is critical to our standard of living.
“The community is also realising that governments are not putting sufficient investment into maintaining and developing our roads and other transport systems, our electricity grids, water systems and the like. The future for public works in delivering sustainable infrastructure is certainly going to increase. The new emphasis will be on sustainably delivering services.”
In regards to the most important thing that Mr Champion has learnt in his time with IPWEA, he says that public works and local government can continually be relied up on to deliver services. It is best to respond to the community needs and pressures, even in times of reducing resources that might be available, says Mr Champion.
“The people working in the sector are key to making it all happen. Their challenges, enthusiasm, professionalism, commitment and friendship continually make the industry such a great place to work.”