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Senior Engineer, Hydrology and Risk Consulting
There was never a question that Erin Hughes would pursue a career in water. Growing up in the Torres Strait, it was integral to her way of life.
“I grew up on fishing boats and my family’s whole income was sourced from water,” said Hughes, who works as a Senior Surface Water Engineer at Hydrology and Risk Consulting in Melbourne.
“I’ve always had a huge appreciation of it.”
Hughes also grew up with an appreciation of the impact of engineering on her remote community – both positive and, at times, negative.
“There were instances when it wasn’t fit for purpose or designed for the environment or for the community,” she said.
“I didn’t really know what an engineer was, but I knew the type of work I wanted to do, and I felt really lucky to discover that there was an actual job that fit.”
“There needs to be a shift in systems and structures to allow inclusivity, because when different people come in, they often drop out because they don't fit the structure.”
Hughes studied a Bachelor of Engineering (Environmental) at University of Queensland. Her first year of study included a project with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) and she has volunteered with the not-for-profit ever since. She has managed many of their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and currently project manages its Torres Strait School Outreach Program.
“I’m redeveloping the education program and looking at a different implementation method to try to increase engagement, particularly in remote indigenous communities,” said Hughes.
“I’ve recently received a grant from the MECCA M-Power program to undertake research to determine if it is making a difference and that there is a breakdown in stereotypes of the kids coming through our programs.”
Prior to joining Hydrology and Risk Consulting, Hughes worked as a Surface Water Engineer at Sinclair Knight Merz, which was acquired by Jacobs during her tenure.
She is an advocate for greater diversity in engineering and believes established structures need to change if this is to be achieved.
“I think our industry was set up to fit a certain type of person,” she said.
“That’s slowly changing. We’re now having discussion about being more inclusive, not only of gender, but of people with disability and different ethnicities.
“However, there needs to be a shift in systems and structures to allow inclusivity, because when different people come in, they often drop out because they don’t fit the structure.”
Hughes said she feels fortunate to be part of the engineering profession and that career highlights occur on a daily basis.
“I went into engineering with a passion for creating solutions to problems at a community and environmental level,” she said.
“I think that there’s an obligation as an engineer to give back.”