Enhancing the quality of life for all Queensland communities

    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. 

Prior to returning to Australia to take up her current position as CEO for IPWEAQ, Leigh was the Executive Director and General Counsel for the Association of Independent Authors and previously, Director Finance & Operations, Asia for Worldtrade Management Services (a business unit of PricewaterhouseCoopers). 

Leigh has 24 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, and as the Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Project Management.

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 2019

I’m certain most of you are feeling the pace and intensity of 2019 as we leap into September. It has been a tumultuous year in terms of extreme weather events from floods to fires and our thoughts are with colleagues facing major infrastructure damage following an early start to an intensive bushfire season; the worst start to a bushfire season in our history. At the time of writing this report, 82 fires are blazing across Queensland with property losses around Stanthorpe, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.


If you are available to volunteer your time and expertise to assist colleagues in the aftermath, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Most of our attention for the next six weeks will be devoted to preparing for what we expect will be another memorable Annual Conference for you. Please see the testimonials from the last few conferences held on the Gold Coast, Townsville and Brisbane if you need convincing that this is the premier event for our sector, not just in Queensland but Australia.


Last year on the Gold Coast we recorded our largest delegation to date with 485 attendees. And you probably won’t be surprised to learn that 54% of delegates register in the last two weeks prior to the event which doesn’t make it easy for planning purposes. We have therefore become quite skilled actuaries and have a delegate predictor competition amongst the team. Your assistance ensuring my victory in this competition would be most appreciated. Please register today! 

However, it is not just about the numbers. It is about our community and creating opportunities for everyone in our sector to engage with us but then that is why the numbers are important – more people sharing more ideas and experiences strengthens our communities.

And being a part of our community is also about having fun and socialising with like-minded professionals (another highlight of our Annual Conference). Our successful Team IPWEAQ rides out again this month for the Ride the Range and the Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle Challenge. If you would like to join Team IPWEAQ and receive a Team IPWEAQ jersey to promote ‘public works engineering’, please contact Johanna. We are looking for more rides elsewhere across the state. Plot your own course and incorporate local infrastructure projects you’re proud to share with us; anything at all.

I am really looking forward to seeing you all again next month at the Annual Conference! And Proxy Forms – if you are not able to join us, please do send in your Proxy Form for the General Meeting 24 October 2019!

Leigh Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer

The Next Generation

• We have a more aged sector than any other. In response, we are focusing attention on high school students and graduates. Our engagement strategy with universities highlights all the great things engineers in our sector create and maintain for our communities. It has not been surprising to learn that very little is known about this as a viable career choice.

• A special Design Thinking workshop to be delivered at the Annual Conference plus other dedicated activities to welcome young professionals to our community

• The highly successful Futures Challenge returns this year with nominations now open for final year civil engineering students.

• Our four Ambassadors – Ben Ash, Jessica Kahl, Joshua Flanders and Maddy Stahlhut offer us great advice on how best to respond to the needs of the next generation.

• Membership of IPWEAQ is now open to full-time civil engineering students and related disciplines.

Women in Public Works Engineering

Master Class to be held at the Annual Conference facilitated by Dr Jillian Kennedy.

• We are the first and only organisation in Oceania listed on the International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) list of global events.

• The new Learning Hub includes specific programs for women in our sector.

• See the results of our recent survey on page 14 from our Director, People & Capability, Nadia Marks. Our action plan is in progress.


• We signed an MOU with the Local Government Finance Professionals (LGFP) to work together to help with the understanding of practical engineering and financial implications of asset management. Ultimately, our goal is to assist local governments with longer-term sustainability

• We have signed an MOU with the Department State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP) in support of the new Street Planning & Design Manual.

• We have signed an MOU with CQ University to improve our engagement with academia.


• We will soon launch our Go West campaign to entice students and graduates to venture to remote and rural councils for a rewarding experience and accelerated career pathway.

• We launched Engineers for Disaster Relief - volunteer to assist councils suffering after a natural disaster. We are compiling a register of engineers and others available to assist, where and when and will circulate this to state and local governments.

• We are building our multi-pronged campaign for the elevation and recognition of engineers within local government.


• We launched TEAM IPWEAQ – our very own bike club with our own jerseys. Our inaugural ride was the award-winning Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. The team rides out again 16 June for the Brissie to Bay. Would you like to join us and nominate a ride in your local area?

• We launched the IPWEAQ Alumni – an opportunity for retired members to stay connected with each other and with our community. Our inaugural dinner was held in Rockhampton in conjunction with the CQ Branch conference.


• SWQ Branch Conference, Gatton, March – 191 delegates – the biggest IPWEAQ branch conference to date

• CQ Branch Conference, Rockhampton, May – 165 delegates – the biggest CQ branch conference to date

• Rural Roads Maintenance & Rehabilitation Forum, Croydon, May – 71 delegates

• Annual Conference, Brisbane, 22-24 October 2019 – we are expecting 500+ delegates for another exceptional IPWEAQ conference. Please join us and register early!

Social Media

• We now have over 1,000 followers on LinkedIn with engagement increasing exponentially on both LinkedIn and Facebook.

• Our journal readership has increased 30% since last year and earlier issues of the journal continue to be read emphasising that this is a critical source of valuable information for our sector.

Actions For You 

Or roles requiring volunteers or participants:

• 2-3 volunteers required for each of the following ADAC TRG sub-groups: Water & Sewer, Stormwater & Transport, Open Space and Electrical & Telecoms (including smart assets, CCTV and sensors).

• The 2019 Great Debate: rural engineers are more adaptable than their city counterparts – this is a highly entertaining and enjoyable aspect of the Annual Conference. Do you have a good argument for either side?

• Engineers for Disaster Relief – volunteer to assist councils suffering after a natural disaster. Please contact me or complete the form on our website.

• TEAM IPWEAQ – join our bike club and nominate a ride anywhere across the state. Please contact Johanna Vanling to join.

• Nominate a project or team member for the 2019 Excellence Awards – let’s celebrate the achievements of our sector and the people who serve our communities. Contact Monica Robertson.

• If you are unable to attend the General Meeting on 24 October, please send in your Proxy Form so your vote can be counted!

• Join the new Supervisors Working Group to participate in a complete overhaul of the current Supervisor's Handbook and associated training program.

Thank you!

A huge thank you to our incredible teams at IPWEAQ: Craig, Nadia, Mark, Monica, Johanna, Belinda, Kate, Celine and Kevin. And at QWD: Dave, Rob, David, Carlie, Ryan, Desire and Diana.

A huge thank you to our Board led by Seren who has established an impressive track record as Chair which may well be unbeatable. Thanks to Board members, Craig, Gerard, Andrew, Angela, Celisa, Raad and Bruce. Your unwavering support for our team is invaluable – it allows us to get on with the business of delivering for our members and for our sector.

Leigh Cunningham

Chief Executive Officer