Emma Thomas

1987 Collegian


I consider myself very lucky to have a career spanning over 20 years covering planes, trains and automobiles.

My interest in aviation was sparked by my Dad, a sci-fi fan. We were always looking at aeroplanes, talking about the space shuttle and watching sci-fi films.

I started mechanical engineering at UWA and flying lessons at Jandakot airport. After two years I transferred to Sydney University to study aeronautical engineering.

In my fourth year I joined the Royal Australian Air Force, where I completed a Master of Science in Aerosystems Engineering and worked with the F/A-18 fighter aircraft.

After eight years I moved to Boeing, then joined Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads as the chief operations officer.

I had 5,000 people working in my division and my most vivid memory was watching all these people pull together when over 85 per cent of the state's road network was obliterated by flooding and storms in 2011.

Once the storms had passed, my team was responsible for the $5 billion flood recovery effort to rebuild the roads. Teams can pull together in the most amazing and humbling ways to achieve things people would believe were impossible.

As the department's reconciliation champion, I increased the numbers of indigenous people employed in construction and within the department.

In 2012 I joined my wonderful partner, Peter, in Adelaide as Deputy Chief Executive of Public Transport. I am also the Rail Commissioner for South Australia engaged in a project to electrify the rail network in Adelaide.

I always seek extra things to do outside of work. Last year I competed in my first ironman half triathlon in Busselton, finishing a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and a 21km run.

On MLC: I loved sitting on the great lawn for lunch with all my friends, chipping away at a frozen choc milk and rolling down our socks in the sunshine to minimise the "sock tan".