Australian Icons

Australia has a proud engineering heritage. And there is a lot more to be done.

Our iconic engineering projects can be an inspiration to us all — here are just some of them.

Australia is a big, challenging environment with a small population — yet most of us enjoy a high standard of living… you can at least partly blame engineers for much of that…

Consider just a few standouts


The Barra Sonobuoy System

The Barra Sonobuoy System

Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) engineers invented Barra – a revolutionary new system with a sonobuoy that uses many hydrophones deployed on 5 radial arms, coupled with airborne equipment based on the then new and fast-evolving technology of the digital computer.

The Cochlear Implant

The cochlear implant is a unique combination of medical and engineering technology, with the ability to restore the hearing sensation. It is an electronic device for adults and children with a moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. Unlike hearing aids that amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged hair cells in the inner ear or cochlea and stimulates the hearing nerves directly through an implanted electrode array.

Today, more than 120,000 children and adults worldwide hear with a Nucleus cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is designed to enable the hearing impaired to talk with friends and family, enjoy music, listen to the sounds of nature…

"The cochlear implant is the first and only device produced by mankind which effectively restores the use of one of the human senses". Professor Gustav Nossal, University of Melbourne.

Cochlear continues its commitment to bring together the latest science and the most innovative technology so the hearing impaired can hear now, and always.

The Cochlear Implant
Wandoo Offshore Oil Platform

Wandoo Offshore Oil Platform

Success with the Wandoo B Oil Platform required an 81,000 tonne concrete structure to be designed, built onshore, floated and then towed 1700km through the Indian Ocean before being very precisely attached to the ocean floor. In parallel, a 6,500 tonne above water structure (topside) had to be designed and fabricated before being shipped from Singapore to location and carefully attached to the top of the concrete structure. Finally all that had to be linked to other facilities by 9km of subsea pipelines.

The project was delivered under budget and ahead of schedule by five groups working together in Australia’s first project alliance. Ampolex, Dawson Brown & Root, Keppel FELS, Leighton Contractors and Arup entered into the alliance to construct and install a $480 million oil platform 75 kilometres offshore from Dampier, Western Australia.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

International icon for Sydney and Australia.

The widest and one of the longest steel arch bridges in the world, the bridge was planned in the early 20th century to span some 500m of harbour between the Sydney CBD and North Sydney, as part of a major upgrade of the Sydney city transportation network, which included the City Circle underground railway.

Sydney Harbour Bridge


  • Engineering Construction (Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House, etc...) — we've built structures that are famous around the world — Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House are just two of many. Tunnels, railways, ports, roads, towers, public buildings and much more. Great design, great process and an extensive quality engineering culture are all part of what gets them up and keeps them up!
  • Water and Irrigation (Snowy Mountains Scheme, Perth - Kalgoorlie Pipeline, etc...) — major challenges for this continent - our Snowy Mountains Scheme and Perth/Kalgoorlie Pipeline projects are but two historical greats. So much more goes unnoticed, like water, sewerage and irrigation systems that are the envy of many parts of the world.
  • Communications Engineering (Transcontinental Telegraph, Undersea Cables, etc...) — before the Transcontinental Telegraph in1872, messages took month (by sea) to arrive from London. That single strand of iron wire, some 3,000 km long, suspended on porcelain insulators on top of a series of roughly-hewn wooden posts between Adelaide and Darwin cut that to a few hours (approx 7 hours). Our vast land mass, long coastlines and huge airspace means we demand great communications networks. Good and getting better.
  • Medical Engineering (Bionic Ear, Sleep Apnea Control, Rehabilitation Glove, etc...) — Innovations like the Bionic Ear, Sleep Apnea Control, and the Rehabilitation Glove are just the most visible. Australia's reputation in this area is deservedly world class.
  • Oil Production and Refining (Deep Sea Drilling, Oil Refining Pioneers, etc...) — a critical area of national endeavour, and we have world class skills on the job now, engaged in oil and gas exploration and production, both onshore and offshore around the country.
  • Transport Engineering (Hargraves – Aviation Pioneer, John Whitton – Railway Pioneer, Indian Pacific Railway, etc...) — our huge distances necessitate quality transport. Aviation pioneers like Hargraves and Railway visionaries like John Whitton raised the bar early on. Our road systems are among the world's best — but there is more work to be done on both road and rail…
  • Mineral Industry Engineering (Floatation Separation, Cyanide and Gold, etc...) — we are one of the great mining nations. Many areas of the world have resource deposits - it is a testament to our engineering culture and skills that we have such a flourishing industry, with a history of innovation such as Flotation Separation, cyanide based gold process and many items of equipment.
  • Energy Innovations (Brown Coal, Natural Gas pipelines, Solar Energy, etc...) — coal, natural gas, solar energy, geothermal, wind and more… Australian engineers have been advancing across all areas
  • Machinery (Combine Harvester, Bishop Steering Gear, etc...) — need is the mother of much innovation. That need - and an attitude of "there's got to be a better way…" has bequeathed a legacy of mechanical innovations, such as the Combine Harvester, Bishop Automotive Steering Gear, the stump jump plough and much more.
  • Cutting Edge Engineering Today (Red - R, Google Search, Medical Imaging, etc...) — the boundaries of engineering disciplines are changing daily, yet the essential engineering spirit remains, driving it all. Recent examples such as Red - R, Google Search methodology, medical imaging are but steps along an endlessly fascinating and rewarding road.

Now having read all that, ask yourself…"how is it so?"

There've got to be some engineers loose around here somewhere…


  • Australian Constructors Association
  • Cochlear
  • Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO)
  • Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO)
  • Leighton Holdings Limited
  • Resmed
  • Thales
  • ARUP
  • KBR