During his 43-year engineering career and into retirement, Bill Lawson AM has been an ally of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and a vocal advocate for Indigenous rights. With many Reconciliation Week activities cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he says education is more important than ever.
Based in Hobart, Tasmania, Lawson worked as a civil and structural engineer, building his own firm, LPH Consulting. This merged with Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) in 1996, where he worked until his retirement in 2013.
As principal of SKM, he managed its Indigenous sector and global corporate social responsibility program. Since retirement, he has devoted himself to working towards education and awareness for white Australians on Indigenous issues.
“I can’t help but reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic is showing our vulnerability as a species,” Lawson told create.
“I am told that I am especially vulnerable to [the coronavirus] as I am in my 70s. But I am also told that our First Peoples aged over 50 are also especially vulnerable. This fact reminds me of one of the many negative parameters which blight the lives of our First Peoples.”
Awarded the Australian Professional Engineer of the Year Award by Engineers Australia in 2003, from 2010 to 2012 Lawson was a member of former prime minister Julia Gillard’s Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians.
Following that, he was the first Tasmanian elected to the board of Reconciliation Australia, and established Tasmania’s own reconciliation council after discovering it was the only state in Australia not to have one.
“For the last couple of decades, I have been deeply involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and projects,” he said.
“I was working all around Australia and what I saw would have the same effect on most people, who are fairly isolated from the poverty and circumstances of our First Peoples. It moved me, and I had to get involved.”
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