“Better outcomes are achieved when you have a good cross section of the community working in transport and infrastructure.”
Louise McCormick’s role as the Northern Territory Infrastructure Commissioner is to actively pursue investment and drive major projects in the Territory. She champions the needs of the Territory for infrastructure funding at a national level to deliver the public infrastructure needed to secure the critically important, job-creating projects, providing a crucial link to achieving the NT Government’s goal of a $40 billion economy.
In May 2022, Louise was awarded the Roads Australia 2022 John Shaw Medal. She is the second woman to win this prestigious award, and its first Northern Territory-based recipient. Louise is a Fellow of Engineers Australia and in 2010 won the Telstra Business Women’s Nokia Business Innovation Award.
I always knew I wanted to be in the transport and infrastructure since I was 10 years old! Partly because my Dad was an engineer and worked in local government in Goondiwindi but also because I have always enjoyed designing and making things. It’s the creative side of engineering that attracted me to the profession.
I always advocate for transport because I don’t think people actually realise the diversity and the depth of things that happen in the transport space to make it flow seamlessly.
It’s the type of infrastructure that touches everybody’s lives in some way. COVID brought it to the front of mind of people that if you don’t have good transport networks and connections it really does change your way of life dramatically. When the flooding in South Australia occurred at the start of this year the national network and rail was impacted. I was furiously working out how to divert trucks into the Northern Territory because we only have one rail line and one road, and supermarket shelves became empty here very quickly. When shelves are bare, everybody realises that transport is a very big part of life.
I have found to attract women into transport and infrastructure you must acknowledge their multiple roles in life and build flexible work arrangements. COVID has shown what is possible. Once women move into the transport industry, it is my experience they want to stay.
I have found it easier to recruit women in the Territory and achieve a better gender weighting than I did in Queensland. For example, our departmental executive management board comprises 50% women and my current team is 60% female. I also like to build teams with people from different walks of life. Better outcomes are achieved when you have a good cross section of the community in transport and infrastructure.
I have experienced first-hand the opportunities the Territory has to offer. When I moved from Brisbane 16 years ago, people didn’t really understand why I was doing it. I was nervous at the time, and I didn’t know anyone in the Territory, but in my Brisbane role I was working in bridge design and as much as I loved doing my bridges, I didn’t feel I was using my full skill set. Relocating to the Northern Territory, (because we are so short of staff here), you get to do a far greater breadth of work. My engineering skill set got really stretched and I like challenges. Within six months I was doing much bigger things than I had ever done before. The immediate diversity of work was amazing and led me to where I am today. It was one of the best things I ever did for my career.
A young engineer came to see me recently to talk about her career and brought in a very detailed five-year plan. The first thing I said was ‘throw that plan in the bin, because life will get in the way.’ You need to be open to opportunities that come your way because they come in all shapes and sizes.
And don’t shy away from opportunities because you don’t see the value in them or it’s not part of your predetermined plan. Life (and opportunities) comes knocking.
…a skilled workforce with the capacity to deliver the massive infrastructure pipeline in the Territory. Attracting more women will be key.