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Priyani Madan – Civil Engineer (Water) Arup – Melbourne

Priyani Madan has a Bachelor of Commerce and a Masters of Engineering and works as a Civil Engineer with the Arup Water Team.

Written by Matilda Bowra.

She originally joined EWB’s Melbourne University Chapter, spent a year interning with EWB head office and attended two Dialogues on Development trips (now called Humanitarian Design Summits) – one to the Murray-Darling Basin and one to Cambodia – which she says were life changing experiences. She now coordinates the EWB/Sudanese Australian Integrated Learning (SAIL) program partnership in Victoria and Arup’s Australasian partnership with EWB.

In late 2016, Priyani was the recipient of the Ove Humanitarian Award for Arup Melbourne and an EWB Danny Award (named after EWB founder Danny Almagor) for inspirational change makers who are models of EWB values and leadership.

"My parents background being Indian had a big influence on me. When I was 12, a family trip to India really hit me. I saw things I cannot forget. I was really struck by the injustice and thought, “This is wrong, I have to do something.” The Oaktree Foundation came to speak at my school when I’d just come back from the trip, so I started volunteering there. As I got older, I volunteered more outside school and helped organise the first Make Poverty History concert in Melbourne."

"I experienced a lot of racism and bullying at school as I was one of the only people of colour. It led to depression that I struggled with for a really long time up until a couple of years ago." 

"One of the stepping stones for getting better was volunteering as an intern one day a week for EWB when I was studying at University. Being around such inspiring females was a really pivotal experience in my life and I met mentors who are still in my life now. It was the first time I had met adults I wanted to aspire to be like and reinforced my decision to study engineering."

"I also started tutoring and mentoring students with SAIL program, a non-profit organisation which provides free English support and community services to the Sudanese Australian community, while studying at University. Then I took on the SAIL partnership coordinator role for EWB due to my passion for both organisations. The partnership connected EWB and SAIL and that’s a role I’ve done for nearly four years."

"I feel driven to help these high school kids, especially girls and boys of colour or migrant or refugee background, as I get what it’s like to be a 15-year-old and not fit in at school and have racist comments thrown at you just as a joke. My parents have always said I take things on too personally, but that is what drives me so I don’t want to lose that." 

"I think my biggest achievement so far was organising a work experience program for ten Sudanese secondary students from the SAIL to spend three days at Arup learning about engineering and career pathways. They have had very limited exposure to engineers, professionals or people with tertiary education. We ran workshops, took them to the MCG and a water recycling facility, ran CV sessions and had Q and A session with a panel of Arup staff who all talked about their careers. I paired each student with a mentor for the three days so they had continuous engagement with their mentors and all the couples got on so well."

"We had a reflection session at the end and all the students said it was a life changing experience and they know more about engineering and career opportunities now. It made a difference, not only to the kids but to Arup. Personally, I got a lot out of it. I connected with each of the students and seeing their enthusiasm and progression made me so happy. [PM1] People at Arup really got a lot out of it too, especially the mentors. Everyone who was involved was touched by it in some way."

"I find volunteering makes my personal and working lives better. It creates an awareness that you can use your skills to change lives and communities, and has made me more inspired to do my job. I am also inspired by the people around me. There are so many amazing people at Arup and EWB doing amazing things and people are so willing to get behind initiatives. There’s so much scope to get involved and make a difference, even if it’s just for an hour or two or a day."