Partnership supports first Indigenous Australian to study engineering at Cambridge

19 November 2015

Judd Harris at Cambridge, where his studying engineeringJudd Harris, a Wongi man from Leonora in remote Western Australia, is the first Indigenous Australian to study engineering at Cambridge University.

Judd has just started his MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, with the support of a number of partners including the Menzies Foundation.*

Through his study, Judd hopes to gain practical and technical knowledge to increase the sustainability of Aboriginal communities.

“Traditionally there’s been lots of opportunity for Aboriginal people in the areas of mining, health, community work and education. I want to use my engineering knowledge to evaluate these communities through a more technical perspective to find other avenues for both development, employment and sustainability.”

This ability to develop alternative skills and careers is particularly important to Judd, who wants to broaden the opportunities available to people living in the communities.

“There’s quite a large Aboriginal workforce in mining in Western Australia. What I see is that a lot of time working in mining is one of the biggest opportunities Aboriginal people have to keep working in their own town. By creating engineering projects and experiences within a community that can be shared, I hope to both improve the sustainability and to create new opportunities for the people living there,” Judd said.

“From an engineering perspective, there are a lot of simple ways to improve communities - from simple things like having a look at the state of fridges and replacing seals through to bigger developments such as creating carbon neutral communities by utilising the solar potential that exists in many of the areas.”

“From an engineering perspective, there are a lot of opportunities to consult and engage with communities to create sustainable projects - from simple things like identifying ways to improve or repair existing infrastructure to bigger developments such as creating carbon neutral communities by utilising the solar potential that exists in many of the areas.”

And why Cambridge? Last year Judd visited many of the top universities around the world including Stanford, Berkley, Harvard, and Oxford to see what engineering programs they offered.

“The Cambridge degree seemed to have a more broad aspect that looked at how sustainable engineering practices and local workforces can be used for both economic and social development, which was perfect for what I wanted to do.”

Judd Harris identifies as one of the Wongi people from the region of Leonora, around 900km North-East of Perth.

*His studies at Cambridge are supported by The Menzies Foundation, Arup, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, The Melbourne School of Engineering Foundation, the Minerals Council of Australia, and the Roberta Sykes Foundation.