From engineer to politician – and back

The Honourable Patricia Lynne WHITE AM

Trish White is probably best known to South Australians as a former Labor Minister under the Rann government. But it is also for her significant service to engineering that she has been acknowledged in the Australia Day Honours.

As a 24-year-old she was a senior engineer and project manager at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).

“It toughened me up,” Trish, 56, says. “In those days electrical engineering was ‘geeky’ and there weren’t many female engineers. There was no internet then. I was at the leading edge.”

In the early 1990s Trish was working in Canberra and was often asked to appear in Senate Estimates to explain technical issues to non-technical audiences.

“I have always wanted to solve problems for people and was attracted to the political and technical. I had a taste of the power of policy making to change people’s lives.”

She moved to Adelaide and joined the Rann Opposition team as Member for Taylor, a position vacated by former Premier Lynn Arnold. When Labor won the election in 2002 she became a Minister.

“It was enormously difficult to transition from engineering to politics,” Trish says. “Engineers deal with concise, factual matters.”

After 16 years in politics Trish, of Leabrook, stood down for family reasons. “I had two little boys and a sick husband,” she says.

She established her own company Slingsby Taylor and has a portfolio of Board positions. She was Board Chairman and National President of Engineers Australia, 2018-2019.

“As an engineer I get a lot of inspiration from nature. Burnside has a lovely combination of built and natural environment.

“I am grateful for all the people who have mentored me over the years and for the recognition of engineering and the impact of it to the country. Innovation drives the country.”

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