An industry leader who is a passionate advocate of gender equality wins Public Works Leader of the Year.
It is particularly fitting that, in 2022, the Public Works Leader of the Year is also the first female to serve as IPWEA Australasian President.
Rita Excell, a civil engineer with more than 25 years’ experience, received the award, which recognised the performance of an individual member for leadership in the delivery of public works excellence at the 2022 International Public Works Conference in Adelaide on May 3.
Excell began her engineering career at the City of Port Adelaide Enfield, where she worked across a range of disciplines, including asset management, traffic engineering, and stormwater and drainage. Her responsibilities and achievements included main street upgrades, developing and implementing a Local Area Bike Plan and Coastal Bike Path, and undertaking community consultation on major road projects.
From there, Excell pursued a career specialising in the transport sector, spending 13 years with RAA, where she worked on strategic transport planning, road safety and advocacy.
She spent five years at the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) before moving on to lead the Australia and New Zealand Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI), where she serves as executive director.
Excell served as the transport expert on the Port Adelaide Development Assessment Panel and, in 2016, established the ADVI collaboration in Adelaide, putting South Australia at the forefront of driverless technology. Five years on, there have been numerous trials and pilots deployed across Australia and New Zealand, and the number of ADVI member organisations has increased from 25 to more than 150 under Excell’s leadership.
Emerging as an industry leader and spokesperson in driverless vehicle technology, Excell has contributed to Connected and Automated Vehicle steering groups across Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Singapore and Canada.
She remains the Technical Leader for the Australian Road Research Board in the South Australian office, where she oversees a team of senior researchers working across a wide range of transport-related projects.
In February 2021, she became IPWEA Australasian President, the first woman to hold the position.
She is a strong proponent of gender equality in engineering, serving as a mentor for other women in the industry. She has also used her platform to promote the achievements of women in the autonomous vehicle (AV) sector, interviewing successful international female leaders within the vehicle technology industry in an ADVI Connect series of webinars titled First Women of Automation.