Undertaking a law degree was a bit of a departure for civil engineer Peter Ng, but he wanted to learn something different and challenge himself.
I have worked in tunnelling and underground excavation for over 15 years. My background may not sound relevant to law, but I was interested in learning construction law because I wanted to learn the origin of civil contracts. I know how to build a bridge or a tunnel, but I didn’t know what constitutes a construction contract.
As a civil engineer, we always think about how to build things efficiently and effectively. When working on a tunnel project, we only think about how to build the tunnel and complete the project on time. By studying the Master of Construction Law, I can think backward and start to appreciate the origin of the contract. This is the key element in construction law – how people negotiate the contract and how to manage the risk during the project. It was a mind-opening experience and made me a more well-rounded engineer.
I not only increased my knowledge of the law, but I also learned how to listen to and communicate with others. The teachers really cared for the needs of their students and I would like to thank them for their heartfelt teaching, thoughtful guidance, encouragement and patience. I also made many friends in this course and am still connected with my classmates.
Studying at Melbourne Law School helped me think differently about the meaning of the law. One thing I was enthusiastic about is improving the culture of construction projects by encouraging more women and diversity in civil engineering projects. In exploring the reason why some construction projects fail, I discovered one of the key issues is this lack of diversity, so I’m pleased to see that increasing participation of underrepresented demographics is being addressed in the industry; such as in the NSW Government’s 10 Point Commitment to the construction industry.
I know I am not a lawyer, but I love helping people. I hope I can use my skills – including the ones I gained from this course – to contribute to society and help others. After completing the course, I had time to rethink my career and decided to spend more time volunteering. I recently started volunteering with the Haymarket Foundation, which provides crisis accommodation for people sleeping rough in Sydney. I helped with a project to transform their accommodation and make it more comfortable for people experiencing homelessness. This project might not be as big as other civil engineering projects I’ve been a part of, but it is definitely one of the proudest projects I’ve worked on in my whole life. I also recently had the opportunity to meet with the Hon Michael Kirby and talk about my experience and ambitions. He also gave me a copy of his book A Private Life with a personalised message: “For Peter Ng, Continue to volunteer to help the disadvantaged.”
The Master of Construction Law was worth every penny. It is the best choice I have made in my life. It strengthened my legal knowledge and broadened my networks in building, construction and engineering, equipping me with necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in my career.
I still remember my first day at Melbourne Law School. I was so excited to learn about the common law and how to solve legal problems. Now I am proud to be a University of Melbourne alumnus and I’m excited to use what I’ve learned to improve the construction industry and society more broadly.