When Ian Daniels got his first job as an 18 year old helping with the rebuild after the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires in Victoria, he had no idea that it would define the direction of his career.
Like many young men, Ian’s dream was to be a fighter pilot for the RAAF but that was put on hold while he worked for local government authorities in and around Geelong and the Surf Coast areas repairing and rebuilding local infrastructure.
While Ian did eventually gain a pilot’s licence it was in the sphere of civil aviation, and by that time he had already established his career in local government, working to build and manage community infrastructure.
Even when he ventured into the private sector, in the UK, it was in a role with an infrastructure project.
“After working in communities along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria for 10 years I went overseas for a couple of years to work and travel,” he says.
“I worked on a multi-million pound road expansion project east of London as a roads and infrastructure inspector for a year and then travelled far and wide. Whilst on my travels I met my ‘future wife’ in Africa and the rest is history – as they say! As she was a local WA girl we ended up moving here and have loved it ever since.”
Ian now lives in Mandurah with his lovely wife, Elaine and their two beautiful daughters Brianna and Lauren. Whilst not at work Ian loves his fishing, camping and volunteering for his community. He has been involved with Surf Life Saving for 15 years and has recently starting riding (piloting!) for ‘Cycling without Age’ along the picturesque Mandurah Foreshore. He says that he gets a real buzz when giving back to the community through different forms of volunteering.
Today, Ian is the Manager of Infrastructure Project Delivery at the City of Rockingham on the south coastal outskirts of Perth, WA.
He’s been there for more than 12 years after stints at the Shire of Manjimup, City of Mandurah and the Shire of Murray, all in Western Australia.
He’s also found time to become involved with IPWEA in WA and then in Australasia, culminating in his appointment as the organisation’s President.
“What I enjoy about local government is the variety of work and the fact that you can walk away at the end of the day and you’ve actually built something significant for the community,” says Ian.
“You see people using it and loving it, and you see the impact that it has on the community and I’ve found that really satisfying to be involved in.”
There have also been challenges which have helped hone his approach. In Ian’s time at Rockingham the area developed rapidly with new housing, and was at one time the fastest growing regional area in Australia.
“It involved working with land developers and construction from the private sector, but also planning and delivering new capital works and infrastructure from the council,” he says.
“So that was a lot of consultation and growth planning, and here we are a decade or so later and we can see the results of that.”
It was while in WA that Ian began his involvement with IPWEA “after being invited along to a lunchtime meeting.”
There, he found a like-minded peer group with a collaborative approach to developing and improving the practice of delivering public works and managing assets.
Along with completing his MBA, it gave him a wider perspective on a more disciplined framework for asset management planning and he was happy to buy in.
“When I started you never really thought of the term ‘asset management’, even though you were building things and knew that you would have to repair and maintain them afterwards,” says Ian.
“It was probably done on a bit of an ad hoc basis, but now it’s a lot more intricate and organised”.
“There’s a lot more understanding of what an asset lifecycle is and what that means, and there’s more training and that is excellent for the process but also about creating an effective profession.”
Ian is proud of the work IPWEA has done in educating asset management professionals in Australasia, but also in creating a professional education program which is recognised throughout the world.
“I think we have been among the leaders in getting asset management education and professional development rolling, and we have an influence which extends to professionals wherever they are,” he says.
“We’ve evolved as the thinking has changed, and I think it’s fair to say we now have a leadership role.
“Many of our members are in senior positions across local government and they are a strong influence, so we are now a key player in the whole area of public works.”
Ian sees a major role for IPWEA in engaging with young professionals working in asset management and public works, both in terms of peer networking but also crucially in education.
“I think we have some great offerings, and I’d like to be able to ensure that we can share these with as many people as possible so we can train them up and give them that knowledge base they can apply to their experience,” he says.
“I’m pretty keen to stay involved with IPWEA and help with that journey.”
Beyond that, he admits he is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
“Ultimately, I’m looking to get out there and drive all the roads we’ve built,” he says.
“But there’s still a bit to do before then though, both at IPWEA and within my local community.”