Bruce Sinclair AM


Retired Civil Engineer

Andrew Bruce Sinclair has had a long and rewarding career as a Civil Engineer, earning a Bachelor degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney in 1948 and studying at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as one of Australia’s first Fulbright Scholars in 1951.

Bruce worked from 1954 for a range of public and private employers, notably Rankine & Hill working on Canberra development, before starting his own Sydney based firm, Sinclair Knight with partner Jack Knight in 1964. He spent 23 years as the first CEO of the company, establishing it as a major technical and professional consultancy in Australia and Southeast Asia.

After retiring in 1990, Bruce became a founding member of RedR Australia and from 1992 to 1996 he was chair of RedR Australia and a board member of RedR International (with NZ and UK), deploying Australian engineers and other professionals in disaster relief work around the world. Bruce has also served as the chair of Canberra Friends of Dili, a community based non-government organisation in the ACT which is developing ties with the Dili community in Timor-Leste. 

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I was enrolled as a Student Member for most of my years at Sydney Uni on the advice of my lecturer, V R Peterson, either in 1944 or 1945.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
In 1943 while I was still in high school, my parents were concerned at the possible difficulty of gaining employment with probable preference being given to returned servicemen, so they arranged for me to get aptitude testing by the then Department of Labour and Industry. This indicated that I had a distinct leaning in ability towards the sciences and to “Plan, Form and Design”. In effect, they said that I had the talent and skills for a career in engineering. I subsequently applied for, and won, a cadetship with the NSW Department of Public Works, which was a guarantee of employment after graduation. I never looked back over my shoulder with any regrets on these choices.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I started Sinclair and Knight, an engineering consulting company, in 1963. We concentrated on providing services to local and state governments to assist them to catch up with infrastructure works that had been deferred during WWII. We then expanded to international work for AusAID, the World Bank and similar agencies as well as developing linkages with international firms to widen the range of skills we could offer.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The master planning and design of a new Naval Base, the Karwar, on the west coast of India just south of Goa. The main object of the new base was to allow the Indian Navy to leave Bombay (now Mumbai) where both land and sea access was becoming increasingly difficult. I was project manager for this program, and we enjoyed the full participation of the Royal Australian Navy and Department of Works.

Another interesting and challenging project was as Councillor and then National President of Engineers Australia in 1979/80. I have not kept up with the changes to the profession since that era. I have been pleased to see the membership growth and increasing influence of female members since my time as president. The issues that we face have not changed much since my time in the role, national voice and political relevance.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
This is not an easy question for me to answer. On return from India I retired from active work and moved to Canberra for family reasons. This involved stepping aside from active involvement in engineering work and in active involvement in Engineers Australia.

Who is your engineering hero?
This would have to be Geoffrey Innes Davey (the D in GHD). Another would be David Coffey.