Dr Marlene Kanga AM

HonFIEAust CPEng EngExec NER APEC Engineer IntPE(Aus)


World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO)

Dr Marlene Kanga is President of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), the peak body for engineering institutions internationally, representing some 100 engineering institutions and approximately 30 million engineers. WFEO is co-host of WEC2019, to be held in Melbourne in November 2019.

Marlene was National President of Engineers Australia in 2013 and is the 2018 Engineers Australia Professional Engineer of the Year. She is a Member of the Order of Australia, a national honour, as recognition of her leadership of the engineering profession. She has been listed among the Top 10 Women Engineers in Australia, the Top 100 Women of Influence, and the Top 100 Engineers in Australia.

How long have you been volunteering with Engineers Australia?
I was involved in the Sydney Division Women in Engineering Committee as a young engineer, but I was not able to commit a great deal of time as I was balancing work and a young family. I became more deeply involved around 2005, when a meeting was held to discuss revitalising the Women in Engineering Committee. In early 2006, I was nominated to become the Division representative on the National Committee for Women in Engineering. I was Deputy Chair when the Year for Women in Engineering was run in 2007, a world first. I became Chair in November 2017. I was also elected to the National Council (now Board) of Engineers Australia, serving there for seven years, and was National President in 2013.

Why did you become a volunteer?
I am passionate about engineering and I am always interested in giving back to the profession that has given me so much.

What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
It’s a great deal of hard work but it’s also an opportunity and a privilege to serve my fellow members. I always think of what the great engineer General John Monash, who is on Australia’s $100 note, said, “…equip yourself for life, not solely for your own benefit but for the benefit of the whole community.” Everything I do as a volunteer is informed by this spirit of service.

What has been your greatest achievement in your time volunteering with Engineers Australia?
I have been proud to have been given the opportunity to achieve a great deal in many spheres. Here are some of them:

Image of Dr Marlene Kanga AM
  • For women engineers, I initiated the Career Break Policy to support engineers taking a career break with reduced CPD requirements, that were averaged over five years rather than three. This is a world first and is not part of the legislation for the Board of Professional Engineers Queensland. It’s very important for women in particular to become Chartered and be invested in the profession.
  • I was part of the organising committee for the Year of Women in Engineering in 2007.
  • I advocated for diversity to be included as a leadership value in the EA Code of Ethics (Clause 3.2), when it was reviewed in 2010, a world first, and still so pleased that it was retained in the 2018 review – that also required a great deal of advocacy at the time!
  • In 2011, I hosted the first International Conference for Women Engineers(ICWES15), held in Adelaide, which led to the Asia Pacific Nation Network for Women in Engineering groups across Asia. Eight new groups were formed as a result.
  • In 2013, as National President, I was responsible for the first ever consolidated Member Regulations, bringing together some 30 separate policies that had been approved over time and formally recognising many groups such as the International Chapters for the first time.
  • In 2013, as National President, I led the development of EA’s Vision Statement, still in use today. It required consultation with all Division Committee, Colleges, Technical Societies, and International Chapters, and forms the compass for the organisation, activating our shared values
  • As Chair of the EA International Committee, I revitalised the Mutual Recognition and Cooperation Agreements with Australia’s top 10 trading partners – countries that also had the largest number of engineers moving to and from Australia.
  • I am a proud Chartered Engineer and initiated the granting of the PE and APEC Engineer credential to all Chartered members who were eligible, unless they opted out. This adds huge value to being Chartered and was an under-utilised credential previously. My YouTube video on the Engineers Australia website where I talk about the “Engineering passport” is one of the most watched video on the site!
  • AS EA’s delegate to WFEO, I led the proposal to host the World Engineers Convention (WEC2019) which is a key event of EA’s Centenary celebrations this year. I had this dream in 2011 and it’s wonderful to see it coming to fruition.
  • As President of WFEO, I have Australia and EA in my heart and in my mind at all times. I work hard to represent my fellow Australian engineers everywhere. It will be wonderful to lead the World Federation of Engineering Organisations at the opening of WEC2019 and the General Assembly of the organisations.
  • Most recently, I am proud to have led the proposal for World Engineering Day for Sustainable Development to be celebrated every year on 4 March. This was approved by the UNESCO Executive Board in April 2019, with the support of 40 nations and 80 engineering institutions. Final approval is expected in November 2019, a great birthday present for Engineers Australia!

How has your career informed your work as a volunteer?
My career has helped me develop a systematic and thorough approach to my volunteering work. My leadership skills at work have informed my volunteer work and vice versa. I bring the highest level of professionalism to my volunteer work and I manage all matters more carefully than my own – because the members have entrusted me with various roles and I need to do my best.

How do you balance work and volunteering?
I have to say that I am not very good at the balancing act. I spend a great deal more time on my work as a volunteer than is healthy!

What would you tell other members who are considering becoming a volunteer?
Those who volunteer their time receive back far more than they give. The rewards are intangible but beyond anything money can buy. You make friends, build networks, and achieve in amazing spheres that would not otherwise have been possible.

Image: courtesy of Dr Marlene Kanga AM