ACT resident receives prestigious national engineering award

Catherine Garrett

Canberra engineer Keith Baker has been recognised for his exceptional work in recording and promoting the engineering heritage of Canberra and the nation.

Engineers Australia has awarded him the 2016 John Monash medal for his outstanding contribution in raising awareness and conservation of the ACT’s heritage, and providing national leadership in the promotion of engineering heritage. Keith Baker said he was delighted with the acknowledgement.  

“I was surprised and thrilled.It’s nice to have your contribution acknowledged by your peers - but even more affirming when an independent panel considers that your contributions have been outstanding.”

Keith Baker is a long term Canberra resident – he’s lived in the Nation’s Capital 35 years and has been a leading heritage engineer during that time.

His 2013 book A Centenary of Canberra Engineering ( written to coincide with the Centenary of Canberra ) provides a definitive account in words and photographs of Canberra’s development – from both an engineering and social perspective.

It  has helped promote Engineering Heritage within the ACT and beyond – written for a mainstream audience, not just engineers and historians.

Keith Baker says heritage is about keeping the most significant of what we have for future generations.  

"Often engineering and industrial heritage is overlooked or misunderstood because beyond steam locomotives and graceful bridges, it is not always as immediately appealing as the prestigious buildings most regard as heritage.

"Yet it is a major part of our history and everyday life as engineering is inherent in almost everything we use. Having some understanding of the progress of technology behind these engineering works and goods and services helps us understand how and why society has developed as it is, representing an authentic part of our history.

"Bridging this gap in understanding is important to not only the public, but to heritage professionals and to engineers themselves in learning from the past, " Mr Baker said.

Keith Baker has worked with both Commonwealth and Territory Government organisations on construction and housing, using his engineering and management skills towards the care of heritage structures and sites.

He has led heritage studies on many subjects. A notable few include : Canberra’s street lighting, the Cotter River dam and pumping station, an interpretation of the Kingston Powerhouse, an assessment of the Canberra Main Outfall Sewer and engineering aspects of Old Parliament House and the Fitters Workshop.

Much of this work has had a direct impact on both the immediate and ongoing conservation of these heritage sites

Keith Baker is a long-time member of Australia ICOMOS and the National Trust of Australia (ACT). He was also a member of the ACT (Government) Heritage Council's Standing Committee on Built Heritage and has played an active role in Engineers Australia’s National Committee on Engineering Heritage, with two terms as National Chair.

Keith is an outstanding advocate for industrial heritage and a wonderful keeper of the nation’s history.