Centenary hero Bruce Sinclair’s passion for engineering is evident in his brilliant career spanning many decades. His lasting legacy includes setting up a thriving consultancy and founding RedR.
The engineering community lost a stalwart with the death of Bruce Sinclair AM HonFIEAust on 25 March 2022. He was 94.
Sinclair showed a keen interest in engineering at an early age and an aptitude test indicated that he had a ”distinct leaning in ability towards the sciences and to ‘Plan, Form and Design’”.
The aptitude tests proved correct, as Sinclair had an extraordinary civil engineering career, graduating from the University of Sydney and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where in 1951 he was one of the first Australian Fulbright Scholars.
He founded engineering company Sinclair and Knight with fellow engineer and friend, the late Jack Knight, in the early 1960s. Sinclair spent 26 years as the company’s first CEO, establishing the firm as a major technical and professional consultancy in Australia and South-East Asia. With more than 7000 staff worldwide, the company, then known as SKM, became one of Australia’s largest consulting firms. It was sold to Jacobs Engineering Group in 2013.
Sinclair managed the Canberra Area Transportation Study for the National Capital Development Commission and was responsible for the planning, design and execution of the western basin of Lake Burley Griffin. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for Services to Engineering in 1980.
“Bruce Sinclair will always be remembered by Engineers Australia for the immense contributions he made in a variety of roles and he gave tirelessly to the organisation,” said Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans HonFIEAust CPEng.
“He was National Councillor, Honorary Fellow, National President and, in 1996 was awarded the prestigious Peter Nicol Russell Medal for outstanding services to the engineering profession.
“When Engineers Australia celebrated its centenary in 2019, Sinclair was one of the 100 engineers featured as a centenary hero,” Dr Evans said.
Sinclair’s work with the Australian government’s foreign aid development program AusAID and the World Bank are among his many contributions.
What is probably not so well known is that Sinclair was one of a small group of private contributors to fund the publication of one of the first books for children titled When We All Go to Nan’s House. This publication introduced primary school students to the concepts of engineering and how important engineers are to the community.
Passion for humanitarian relief work
After retiring in 1990, Sinclair became the founding Chairman of RedR Australia, an organisation that deploys Australian engineers and other professionals to assist the UN and other humanitarian entities conduct disaster relief in any part of the world.
“He was unrelenting in his pursuit of seeking support and funding for RedR Australia,” recalled Vesna Strika, former Director/General Manager, Engineers Australia Canberra Division.
In 1998, Sinclair interviewed and then appointed Christine Vincent to the position of RedR CEO.
“I came from the NGO community with no knowledge of the multifaceted world of engineering but with Bruce as my guide I soon learnt the power of engineering when delivering humanitarian relief,” she wrote on the online memorial website ForeverMissed.com.
“Bruce is a perfect example of someone who had great influence, strong ideas and knowledge, achieved much without talking about it and was never self important. He just did good things in his life and he will be remembered for them.”