Engineers Australia Newcastle Division Oral History Archive

EA Intro

Engineers Australia Newcastle Division Oral History Archive

The Engineers Australia Newcastle Division Oral History Archive is a collection of audio tapes, over 50 in total, held in Cultural Collections at the University of Newcastle’s library.

The Oral History interviews are available at Livinghistories@UON – CLICK HERE TO LISTEN  

This oral history project highlights the diverse skills and experiences of engineers who based their careers in Newcastle and the Hunter Region. This archive has been digitised and made freely available to the wider global research community.

I would like to thank the Newcastle Division of Engineers Australia for giving Cultural Collections the opportunity to examine these interviews and make them available for the public.

EA Newcastle Division Oral History launch 15 October 2018. (L to R ) Jessica Waugh, Patrick Lindus, Merv Lindsay, Ann Hardy & Judy Lindsay.

In an effort to guide the public to the type of engineering experience they wish to explore we have grouped the interviewees into one or more of the following categories:

Earthquake, Academia, Manufacturing, Consulting Engineers, Energy/Infrastructure, Services/Infrastructure.

Earthquake Engineering banner one

Bill Jordan – Interviewed in 1999. Talks about his involvement personally and professionally in the Newcastle earthquake. He notes there was a lot of confusion in terms of heritage status of buildings and speaks about the Newcastle Hospital and Christ Church Cathedral and the techniques and expert knowledge gathered for people and groups from around the world. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Robert Melchers – Interviewed in 2017. He observed building demolition without prior engineering assessment occurring after the earthquake. Work alongside Professor Adrian Page involving both engineering and social observations of how people lived in the city of Newcastle led to an earthquake conference on lessons learned from Newcastle. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Adrian Page – Interviewed in 2017. Prominent research focus in Masonry, a previously under researched material, is now one of his legacies. He and Professor Melchers were heavily involved in a Newcastle Earthquake study for the government which resulted in many changes to structural codes as a result. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE 

Academia & Engineering Banner two

Eric Betz – Interviewed in 2004. Did electrical courses at Technical College. Later became a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at University of Newcastle specializing in the Theory of Mechanics, Graphics & Fluid Mechanics. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE 

Allan Carmichael – Interviewed in 2002. Appointed by N.S.W. University of Technology as University Planner – first task was to establish facilities for Civil Engineering. Later offered position as Head and Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at University of Newcastle in 1967. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Chambers – Interviewed in 2004. Studied water resources at Stanford University. Became interested in environmental engineering. Taught fluid mechanics at Drexel University. Returned to Newcastle University as a lecturer teaching Dynamics and Environmental Engineering. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Jim Hayes – Interviewed in 2003. Spent time learning the discipline of Industrial Engineering (relates to work with recycled paper production and fluoride scrubbing system). Describes changes in matter and methodology in the study of industrial engineering (use of computers, decline of workshop practice). LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Brian Heaton – Interviewed in 2017. Transition between UNSW to UoN. Discusses the growth of engineering students, changes in requirements for an engineering degree. Contributed of knowledge to the Department of Main Roads. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Frank Henderson – Interviewed in 1999. Senior Lecturer in Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulics at Canterbury University. Professor of Civil Engineering at University of Newcastle. Author of text books on open channel flow. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Allan Pattison– Interviewed in 2004. Employed as a research officer for the newly formed Hunter Valley Research Foundation after the 1955 Hunter River floods. Part time lecturer at University of Newcastle under Professors who were hydraulic engineers. Explains difficulties in working with local water authorities. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Ratcliffe  – Interviewed in 1999. He gives a description of the 20th century industries in Newcastle and an account of the shelling of the B.H.P. by the Japanese Submarine that entered Newcastle waters in World War Two. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Alan Roberts – Interviewed in 2002. Dean of Faculty of Engineering at University of Newcastle (1974 – 1993). Interest in TUNDRA Bulk Solids Handling Research Associates. Discusses the role of the University in encouragement of interest in engineering in schools. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Geoff Rigby – Interviewed in 2005. Research officer for B.H.P. Describes multi-disciplinary in-house projects including, slurry pipelines, toxic marine organisms in ships’ ballast water, atmospheric pollution and new energy source application for B.H.P. energy. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

David Stewart– Interviewed in 2004. Strong family involvement connected to B.H.P. from South Australia, Broken Hill & Newcastle. Research fellowship with I.C.I./ANZ. Bureau of Mineral Resources in Canberra. Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Military Studies at Duntroon. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

* Robert Melchers – Interviewed in 2017. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

* Adrian Page – Interviewed in 2017. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Manufacturing & Engineeringbanner three

George Cady – Interviewed in 2007. Mechanical Engineer. Describes work at B.H.P. including conditions at the Mills, No. 3 Blast Furnace rebuild, No. 2 Coke Ovan rebuilds, development of B.H.P. Minerals Division. Discusses the changing role of engineering in the late 1980’s leading to the formation of H.A.P.S. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Peter Cockbain– Interviewed in 2017. Worked at B.H.P. in Titan workshop. Worked with Tungsten Carbide used for masonry drills. Describes how women only employed in the tungsten shaping process. Discusses the establishment of Ampcontrol. Received AM in 2015 for services to engineering. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Bill Cowen– Interviewed in 2007. Explains the rationale behind B.H.P. apprenticeship training system. Describes expansion of B.H.P. in 1960’s and 1970’s. Appointed Superintendent of No. 2 Merchant Mill and Bar Mill. Involved in the planning and design of BHP ‘Mini Mill’ at Brisbane. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Jim Davidson– Interviewed in 2006. Did apprenticeship at B.H.P. during WW2. Discusses working at Rylands. Joined Hunter District Water Board in 1954 and worked in the soils laboratory. Describes the collapse of Lookout Rd Reservoir and the role of the Mine Subsidence Board. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Bill Eddy– Interviewed in 2004. Discusses working at Goninans. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Fitzgerald– Interviewed in 2004. Restructuring for efficiency experience gained at Newcastle State Dockyard and De Havilland led to a consulting job at Goninans. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Gillard – Interviewed in 2015 and 2016. Began electrical traineeship at B.H.P. Discusses safety recognition and manufacture of safety gear, Wharf side worker protests, volunteer picket lines, Maritime Union of Australia, the beginning of the Newcastle division of the Institute of Engineers. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Brian Johnston – Interviewed in 2004. Worked for B.H.P./ A.E. Truscott & Sons/State Dockyard. Consultancy work at ‘Colrok’ & TUNDRA Engineering ‘Seed’ Center. Discusses role in the Institution of Engineers and IEA Engineering Excellence Award. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Don and Maureen Laverick – Interviewed in 2005. Worked at the State Dockyard. Shipbuilding business in Newcastle started by Don’s father. Business moved from Carrington to Tomago. Builds included Naval Landing Ship ‘HMAS Tobruk’, Bulk Carrier, ‘Sandra Marie’ & the icebreaker,  ‘Aurora Australis’. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Norman Letcher – Interviewed in 2004.  Describes roles while working at NESCA. (electricity commission) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Vaughan Marten – Interviewed in 2008. Project Engineer at B.H.P. Discusses recognition of his (Indian) Qualifications and promotion to Senior Project Engineer. Discusses the changing company culture at B.H.P and his increased role in demolition of plant facilities. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Robert Mays – Interviewed in 2006. 1989 appointed Senior Electrical Engineer at B.H.P. (head of blast furnace, coke ovens, sinter plant.) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Col Melville – Interviewed in 2003. Worked at Sulphide Corporation Plant at Cockle Creek. Describes the construction of 3 Dams at Munibung Hill. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Euan Melville – Interviewed in 2008. Held various positions at B.H.P. Newcastle including Maintenance Superintendent, Commissioning Engineer for the new No. 2 Bloom Mill and finally Chief Engineer Energy Services. Also worked for the Maritime Services Board/Hunter Port Corporation. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Tony Milton – Interviewed in 2006. Design Engineer (Civil) at B.H.P. Central Engineering Newcastle. Discusses expansion projects and involvement in IEA.  Appointed Director of IEA National Excellence Awards in 1992. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Max Murray – Interviewed in 2005. Worked at B.H.P. Port Kembla. Engineering Manager at Whyalla. Appointed Engineering Manager at B.H.P. Newcastle in 1983. Discusses the opening of B.H.P. Sydney Mini Mill. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Hayden Payne – Interviewed in 2002. Worked for 38 years at B.H.P. in the Electrical Department. Discusses changes in design work at B.H.P. over time. Projects included Sinter Plant, Whyalla Mill and Kwinana Mill. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Price– Interviewed in 2017. Worked in the Drawing Office as a draftsman at State Dockyard. Held various roles including Marketing Manager, Development Manager, Engineering Manager and Assistant General Manager. Discusses decline in manufacturing in Newcastle and the closure of the Dockyard. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Ron Russell – Interviewed in 2004. Maintenance Engineer at B.H.P. Discusses changes in work culture and structure at B.H.P. Worked at Mount Newman. Discusses his role and contribution to the Hunter Development Board. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Neville Sawyer – Interviewed in 2006. Formed a number of companies including Hunter Engineering Sales and Services (agency for parts/servicing), Raelec (custom items for mining/heavy machinery) and Scientechnic (electronic design and manufacturing for heavy electrics). LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Ernie Walpole– Interviewed in 2004. One of the first graduates of the University of Newcastle’s Department of Chemical Engineering in 1953. Involved in building chemical plants in Queensland before becoming involved in the design of Hydrofluoric Acid plant at Kooragang Island. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Bill Whitford – Interviewed in 1999. Discusses working at Vickers/B.H.P./Comsteel. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Ken Youman – Interviewed in 2008. Traineeship as electrical mechanic with Lysaghts. Became Chief Electrical Engineer at B.H.P. Newcastle. Discusses B.H.P. decline, closure, redundancies. 1999-2004, Main Site Manager, discusses demolition, selling of assets. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Consulting Engineers

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Zihni Buzo – Interviewed in 1998. (Dam work, Nile River Dam). LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

David Hartwell – Interviewed in 2018. Monitored soil mechanics study project conducted at Tomago sand-beds on how mineral mining would affect water supply for Newcastle. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Chris Jenkins – Interviewed in 2007. Design Engineer for Maritime Services Board N.S.W. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Frank Michell– Interviewed in 2001. Formed Michell & Challis Consulting Engineers in Sydney in 1930’s. Opened Newcastle’s first consulting Engineering firm in the 1950’s. Did Major projects for B.H.P. including the Sinter Plant. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Charles Resevsky – Interviewed in 2004. Specialized in the construction of cold-formed steel sheds. Created a family business in Sydney. Involved in building projects such as, Newcastle Harbor Car Park, Newcastle Permanent Office building, Newcastle Entertainment Center, Carrington Slipways and Bloomfield Colliery. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Bruce Sinclair– Interviewed in 2017. Gained scholarship at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), travelled to USA, Britain, France looking at Hydraulic labs. Worked for Rankin/Hill, interest in civil engineering. Became National President of Engineers Australia 1979-1980. Member of N.S.W. Industry Council. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

* Bill Jordan – Interviewed in 1999. (relating to heritage) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE


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Jim Buchanan– Interviewed in 2006. Joined the Hunter District Water Board’s Investigative Unit in 1957. He later develops water policy for UNSW for North Coast N.S.W. local government. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Rod Caldwell– Interviewed in 2008. Outlines roles at ECNSW at Newcastle. 1996-1998 appointed CEO of Shortland Wetlands Center. Discusses involvement in cultural/historical heritage through the maintenance and improvement of Fort Scratchley. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Doug Chapman – Interviewed in 1999. Served as town planner for Bulahdelah and Works Engineer for Newcastle council, overseeing all works except parks and gardens. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Phil Cooper – Interviewed in 2005.  (N.E.S.C.A, covered Newcastle + Lake Mac (later on included upper valley areas) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Dick Gilford – Interviewed in 2004. (housing, commercial, quarrying, firm had possession of necessary machines e.g earth movers, leveling and channeling on cotton farms) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Roy Johnson – Interviewed in 2010. Worked on a number of major dam and hydro-electricity projects. Also involved in Water Conservation & Resources Commission. Discusses the merits of hydro-power. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Victor Lindsay – Interviewed in 1999. Worked in construction and Public Works. Describes working with dredges in Newcastle Harbour. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Peter Michel– Interviewed in 2006. Worked for the Hunter District Water and Sewerage Board in the 1960’s. Involved in schemes for construction of the Hunter water supply (Grahamstown, Balickera Creek, Tillegra Dam). Discusses role in advisory body for waste water treatment research. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Fred O’Leary – Interviewed in 2007. Describes war-time activities at the Hunter District Water Board (H.D.W.B.). Describes designing reservoirs, storm water systems and the Sewerage Amplification Scheme at Charlestown, Edgeworth, Toronto and Cardiff. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Bob Paterson– Interviewed in 2008. Worked for Australian branch of Ingersoll-Rand in Perth. Describes experience with companies in West Australian mining ‘boom’ time. Describes the design and manufacture of hydraulic pumps. Discusses project of establishing a viable forestry property and his involvement in developing the Victorian branch of the Australian Forest Growers Association. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Peter Phillis – Interviewed in 2005. (1988-1989 — Director of Development, Hunter District Water Board, Charlestown Water Tower) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Tom Roberts – Interviewed in 2004. An electrical engineer in England before emigrating to Australia. Worked at NESCA as Planning Engineer in the Design Division. Describes the expansion of the power industry in grid supply points and the expansion of the coal mining industry alongside that of the N.S.W. electrical supply system. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

John Shoebridge – Interviewed in 2005. Worked at Waratah Colliery before finding interest in the Newcastle Mines Rescue. Describes mine explosions at both Killingworth and Burwood Collieries along with improvements to mine engineering and safety. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Col Spitzkowsky – Interviewed in 2004. Worked extensively on the development of F11 aircraft in Australia. Explains the importance of F11 aircraft to the R.A.A.F. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

Matt Stewart – Interviewed in 1999. Worked with power stations (Zaara St, Wangi) and railways. LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

* Zihni Buzo – Interviewed in 1998. (Dam work, Nile River Dam) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

* Chris Jenkins – (Maritime Services Board N.S.W.) LISTEN TO INTERVIEW HERE

If you are the subject of the stories, or know the subject of the stories, and would like to discuss said interviews with us please contact Dr Ann Hardy or  Cultural Collections at

Special Thanks

Many thanks to Jessica Waugh and Patrick Lindus for working on this project in the GLAMx Digitisation Lab, their contributions are sincerely appreciated. Both Jessica and Patrick are UON alumni and have dedicated many hours to this project, a combination of Work Integrated Learning (WIL), voluntary work and financial support through the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund.

EA Newcastle Division Oral History Archive- UON Cultural Collections

We also appreciate the support of the Newcastle Division of Engineers Australia, particularly Judy Lindsay for providing input and co-ordinating access to sources.
The original sources are archived at the UON’s Cultural Collections and are provided free of charge to the global community thanks to the generosity of the Vera Deacon Regional History Fund. If you wish to donate to the Vera Deacon Fund please download a form here: 

Merv Lindsay – Newcastle Division of Engineers Australia, Engineering Heritage Australia (EHA)
Merv Lindsay – Newcastle Division of Engineers Australia, Engineering Heritage Australia (EHA)
Ann Hardy – Co-ordinator of the GLAMx Living Histories Digitisation Lab

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