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Enhancing the quality of life for all Queensland communities

Leigh Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer

Leigh Cunningham is a lawyer with a career as a senior executive for a number of public companies in Australia and global companies headquartered in Singapore where she lived for 12 years. 

Leigh has 27 years’ experience in membership organisations including as the CEO for the Institute of Arbitrators & Mediators, Australia and concurrently as the Secretary-General for the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration. In 1999, she took on the role of Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Project Management. After leaving Australia for Singapore, she was the Director, Finance & Operations for an Asia-wide business unit of PwC. And subsequently, the Executive Director and General Counsel for the Association of Independent Authors and a Grants Assessor for the National Arts Council of Singapore.

Leigh has three master’s degrees in law, commerce and an MBA where she graduated ‘Top Student’. She is also the author of four multi award-winning books.

CEO's Report
September 2021

On the day I write this report, I celebrate six years with IPWEAQ which is also six years since I left Singapore to return home to Queensland after 21 years overseas and interstate. When I woke on the morning of 31 August 2015, I was living with my mum and stepfather in Brisbane which I thought would be a longer-term arrangement since my husband was sailing around the world in a yacht race. At the time, my nephew, Jack predicted I would last three months to which I replied, “Why would I leave this? My meals are prepared, my washing, ironing and errands all done and those undertaking these tasks appear grateful for it.” Three months later, I moved to an apartment at Portside.

I’m grateful though for those three months living with my mum and the opportunity to spend all of my non-working hours with her after so many years away, and just four years later she would no longer be that person.

My favourite moments of the past six years include:

  • My first Annual Conference in Mackay when I discovered first-hand how passionate public works engineers are as they talked to me about their projects as if I would have any idea what they were talking about. And to this day, this is what I love most about this job – these people.
  • Our first Bingo at the 2016 Annual Conference when I discovered how competitive engineers are – turn anything into a competition and it will be successful.
  • Celebrating 1,000 members in 2020 and planning to get to 2,000 in much less time than 48 years.
  • Fitting out our new premises in Eagle Farm. Any fit-out is stressful – things go wrong but COVID added a whole new dimension eg disappearing supplies and long waits for every little thing but it was worth the pain and frustration.
  • Working with great people who are passionate about making our sector the best it can be.
  • Launching the Every Community Needs an Engineer calendar and campaign.
  • Establishing the NT Branch with the inaugural committee led by Chair, Peter McLinden (LGANT) – a great group of enthusiastic professionals.
  • Not having any ‘Crocodile Rock’ moments so far ie getting on stage with the band to sing any song let alone a challenging one.
  • Creating Engineering for Public Works with the first issue launched March 2016.
  • Creating an inclusive, relevant, vibrant community for anyone who wants to be involved.

Unfortunately, it is still five weeks to the Annual Conference in October but it’s going to be another exceptional gathering of the extraordinary people who make our sector what it is – who doesn’t want to live in Queensland, especially now. I’m looking forward to catching up with you to celebrate another challenging year which flew by faster than ever, possibly because I’m just one year away from turning 60.

If you haven’t renewed your IPWEAQ membership, please do so before you register for the Annual Conference to save $500. Thank you all for being a part of our community!

See you in Cairns!

Leigh Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer