Paige Johnson

Union delegate

Professionals Australia/Local Government Engineers’ Association
Senior Civil Engineer – Asset Management
Lake Macquarie City Council

1. Why did you choose a career in engineering

My motivation for choosing a career in civil engineering and public works has been to help improve society and our community through a field that I’ve long had a passion for.

Since I was a kid, I enjoyed understanding how stuff works and building things that served a purpose. I also always cared a lot about making the world around me a better place and helping in any way I could, so the two came together quite well for an engineering career managing public infrastructure.

I really enjoy the diversity of my current role as an engineer and asset manager at Lake Macquarie City Council. In Council’s asset management department, I’m responsible for making key decisions about the city’s infrastructure where I get to apply a good mix of my technical and management skills while also seeing the full lifecycle of projects.

Seeing the outcome of a project I have worked on from the initiation phase reach completion and begin providing real benefit to the public is something I love about my day-to-day work. I’m always interested in applying my engineering knowledge base with an aim to improve people’s quality of life.

2. Tell us a bit about your career to date

Alongside my passion for engineering, I’ve also been quite involved with governance, community advocacy and social justice as part of my career journey.

By the second year of my engineering degree at the University of Newcastle, I had some ideas to improve the university experience for my cohort and the community as a whole, so I nominated to be the student union president and a board director on the University’s governing council. With the support of a dedicated campaign team, I was elected to both positions, taking up these roles representing almost 40,000 students at just 20 years old.

I’m proud of the contributions I’ve made with advocacy and leading initiatives through these and subsequent roles. In addition to honing some of my management skills, being involved with strategic decision making was particularly useful for my engineering career in public works. As a director, I was part of the process that oversaw and shaped the vision for the university’s major infrastructure projects and capital investment plan.

In 2017, I was honoured to be named as the Young Citizen of the Year for Newcastle in recognition of my advocacy work and initiatives I had part in for building collaborative partnerships between the University, the City and the community.

I began working as an engineer in asset management at Lake Macquarie City Council in early 2019 as I completed the final year of my degree. Building my networks and engaging with professional bodies has been important to me. Since 2021, I have served as a young Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) representative for the Hunter region and a state committee member. I have also been a guest speaker at several industry conferences for public works.

Last year I was appointed as Council’s Senior Civil Engineer for Asset Management. Here I’m responsible for managing a portfolio of over $2 billion worth of the City’s infrastructure as Council’s lead on road and transport asset management.

3. What does being an engineer mean to you?

Being an engineer means making a difference to the world around you. Every day we use not just our technical skills but also our soft skills to solve problems and make the world a better place.

Representation matters: I know how difficult it can be to see your future self in a place or role where there isn’t much visibility of people like you yet.

It’s important to me that anyone can see engineering as an accessible and welcoming career path. I see the more people we have wanting to take up engineering and related fields, the more talent we have working to build a better future for humanity.

4. How did you become involved in PA/LGEA? I’ve always held strong unionist and progressive values. While I was the student union president at my university I worked closely with affiliated unions of Hunter Workers and Newcastle Trades Hall Council. I’ve seen just what a positive difference the support of unions can make to people’s lives.

I joined Professionals Australia while I was still in University knowing that the resources and support available would help me with the early steps in my engineering career.

I’m now a union delegate for Professionals Australia and the Local Government Engineers’ Association at my Council. Here we’ve just concluded negotiating and adopting a new enterprise agreement that has seen some really valuable flexibility provisions enshrined in the EA.