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July 2019

Budj Bim named to UNESCO World Heritage List

Budj Bim, a 6000-year-old Aboriginal engineering site, earns World Heritage status

By | Engineering for humanity | 4 Comments

One of the finest examples of ancient aquaculture and hydraulic engineering is right in Australia’s backyard. 

After a decades-long campaign by the Gunditjmara people, the Budj Bim eel traps have become the first Australian UNESCO World Heritage site to be listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural values.

The eel traps at Budj Bim comprise a vast network of weirs, dams and stone canals to manipulate water levels in various lake basins. Some of the channels are hundreds of metres long and were dug out of basalt lava flow. 

These structures force eels and other aquatic life into traps as water levels rise and fall. The canals also appear to have been used to create holding ponds to keep eels fresh until they were needed for food. Not only did this provide the region’s Gunditjmara people with a year-round food supply, it was also important for trade. 

The site also features the remnants of almost 300 stone houses — the only remaining permanent settlement built by an Indigenous community in Australia. 

Located in southwest Victoria, Budj Bim has been carbon dated to 6600 years old, meaning it predates more internationally well-known examples of ancient engineering like the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge. 

Aborginal activist Burnum Burnum said these traps are a prime example of how complex and varied the Aboriginal economy was at the time. 

“Gradually it is dawning on the outside world that life in the traditional Aboriginal way involved a great deal of knowledge and skill,” he wrote.  

Budj Bim is managed by the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation. Gunditjmara Elder Denise Lovett called this a very special day for the community.

“This landscape, which we have cared for over thousands of years, is so important to Gunditjmara People,” she said. 

“The decision also recognises Budj Bim’s significance to all of humanity. We are so proud to now be able to share our achievements and story with the world.”

Gunditjmara Elder Denis Rose agreed, saying the ingenuity of their ancestors “shows in the aquaculture systems that are still operational to this day”. 

Traditional owners had been petitioning for the site to receive World Heritage Listing for some time, and hope to restore the site to what it would have looked like before European colonisation.

Tae Rak (also known as Lake Condah) was drained in the mid-20th century to create land for grazing, and so water can only be seen in the channels during very high floods. The site has also been damaged by vandals and livestock over the years. 

The Victorian Government has committed $5.7 million for preserving Aboriginal heritage in the state, and restoring Budj Bim is a large part of that. It’s expected that Budj Bim’s World Heritage listing will now turn the world’s attention to this millennia-old site. 

The announcement was made at a ceremony this past Saturday in Baku, Azerbaijan. In recommending Budj Bim for World Heritage listing, the International Council on Monuments and Sites acknowledged the Gunditjmara People’s involvement and leadership in nominating the site for inclusion on the World Heritage List.

Budj Bim has also been recognised by peak body Engineers Australia as one of the country’s top engineering achievements. Engineers Australia CEO Peter McIntyre said the UNESCO World Heritage listing is welcome news, and highlights the important contributions of Australia’s first engineers.

“Budj Bim is an extraordinary feat of engineering by the Gunditjmara people. For thousands of years, engineers have been using the tools available to them to improve lives and build communities,” he said.

Budj Bim is now Australia’s 20th property on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Other sites include Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House. 

You can take a guided walking tour of the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape as part of the upcoming World Engineers Conference, held 20-22 November in Melbourne.

Register here for the Great Ocean Road and Budji Bim Cultural Tour

Register here for WEC

future of transport

How can connected transport help urban networks work in perfect harmony?

By | Engineering for humanity | No Comments

Automation is just one example of how technology is influencing the design of future transport to challenge our current understanding of urban landscapes.

A blue, blocky, mini bus shuttles its way around the suburban streets collecting waiting passengers, humming to a stop as it lets people on and off. The bus is depositing people safely and efficiently between homes, shops and transport hubs.

There’s no polite nod to the bus driver as passengers alight from their ride – because there is no driver on this bus. The bus is automated. It knows where to go, and it senses when it needs to stop to let a person safely past. It ‘speaks’ to other vehicles it meets along its path so they both know which way to go. This is the future for automated vehicles like those being trialled in the University of Melbourne’s Australian Integrated Multimodal EcoSystem (AIMES).

Transport nirvana

Automation is just one example of how technology is influencing the design of future transport to challenge our current understanding of urban landscapes. It is a future in which the peril of human distraction and its potential consequences have become a thing of the past. An effective transport system plays a vital role in making a city liveable, and is a key driver of competition in the global marketplace.

In this sense, AIMES is at the top of its game as a world-first living laboratory based on the streets of Melbourne, established in 2016 to test highly integrated transport technology in a real-world environment. AIMES has grand plans to deliver safer, more efficient and more sustainable urban transport outcomes.

Together with a team of transport experts, Professor Majid Sarvi, Director of AIMES, is developing overarching infrastructure to allow all road users (drivers, cyclists and pedestrians) to connect with each other and sense their greater environment for distributed cooperative cognition.


This shared thinking approach allows road users to detect congestion hot spots faster and keep traffic flowing better. It will also make our roads safer.

“It has been estimated that connected transport can reduce the economic cost of road crashes by more than 90 per cent. And best of all, such a system can learn, improve and evolve. We call this new technological capability ‘intelligent connectivity’,” Sarvi said.

Success factors

A key driver of AIMES’ success lies in its collaborative approach. AIMES is an evolving partnership of more than 50 domestic and international transport leaders from industry, research and government. AIMES partners share a passion to work together to solve today’s city mobility challenges.

AIMES’ is network of smart sensors connecting all parts of the transport environment within a six square kilometre grid on the streets of inner-city Carlton, Melbourne. AIMES provides a unique platform in a real-world environment for collaborative technology trials which integrate the movement of all road users (people and vehicles) with transport infrastructure.

The vision from the team behind AIMES is as simple as it is complex: connected vehicles, connected public transport, connected pedestrians and cyclists, and smart public transport stations.

Hopefully that same blue, blocky mini bus will soon greet you at the train station to offer you a safe, efficient and smart ride home.

See this world-first living laboratory in action as part of an offsite tour at the World Engineers Convention, held 20-22 November in Melbourne. To learn more and to register, click here.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Why engineers are crucial to the success of the SDGs

By | Sustainable Development Goals | No Comments

Bringing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to fruition will demand the skills of engineers. Here’s how they can contribute.

The United Nations replaced its Millennium Development Goals with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that seek to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, promote economic growth and prosperity, improve health and education and protect the planet.

Engineers will need to play an important role in making them happen.

Dr Marlene Kanga, a former Engineers Australia National President and President Elect of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations (WFEO), said engineering skills will be vital to achieve the aspirations of many of these goals.

She said important goals where engineers have a role are: clean water and sanitation for all (Goal 6), availability of sustainable energy sources (Goal 7), creating strong and resilient infrastructure (Goal 9) and liveable cities (Goal 11).

“Natural disaster and resilience is also an essential part of Goal 11, and engineers have an important role in designing and building resilient infrastructure and cities,” she said.

Within each of the goals there are targets such as doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030, and a specific goal to make cities more sustainable with targets to increase affordable housing and access to sustainable transport (Goal 11).

Achieving many of these targets will need integrated engineering solutions that provide resilient infrastructure,  sustainable energy and access to the latest communication technology. Bridging the digital divide, where most of the world does not have access to the internet, is also crucial.

Engineers will need to leverage existing and widely deployed technologies and future developments in ICT – including next-generation mobile broadband, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, 3D printing and others – to provide the tools for integrated solutions for sustainable development.

Engineers Australia is providing its voice to the contributions of engineers in progressing the SDGs via the WFEO. Through its network of national and international engineering member institutions in 90 countries, representing 20 million engineers, WFEO is able to contribute to the discourse on the role of engineering and engineers in the development of technologically and environmentally-feasible solutions.

Key UN SDGs for engineers

  • Access to affordable, reliable sustainable and modern energy.
  • Resilient infrastructure.
  • Inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.
  • Foster innovation.
  • Inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities.

The six themes of the World Engineers Convention are aligned to the the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Contribute to building a more sustainable future and register today