From classroom to the real thing

By Country News on April 06, 2017
  • From classroom to the real thing

    Tusitha Kurunaratne has recently left GM-W for DELWP.

Former Goulburn-Murray Water staffer Tusitha Kurunaratne, who has recently taken a job at DELWP, has a long association with Victoria.

Mr Kurunaratne, known to most as ‘TK’, recalls studying northern Victoria’s dairy industry at a Sri Lankan school but for reasons that will become obvious, the assignment stuck in his mind.

As an aspiring engineer in Sri Lanka, the largest dam ever built in Victoria, Dartmouth Dam, was the subject of international interest in the industry.

‘‘So I knew something about the paddocks of north-central Victoria and I read a lot about Dartmouth Dam and I thought it would be a wonderful place to visit one day,’’ Mr Kurunaratne said.

‘‘But I never thought I’d be visiting Dartmouth about a million times, or one day be burying my bones in Bendigo.’’

Mr Kurunaratne joined G-MW in 1994 and over the years has gained a reputation as a jovial, passionate and consummate professional who has helped maintain and manage the authority’s 16 dams for the past 23 years.

Over the years he has worked on all G-MW managed dams and weirs, which collectively hold 70 per cent of the state’s water storage capacity.

Ironically, some of the busiest times for Mr Kurunaratne were during some of the worst times for water management in Victoria.

‘‘The 10 years of drought turned into an opportunity for us,’’ he said.

‘‘We were able to undertake a lot of maintenance and safety upgrades that you just can’t do when the storages are full.’’

Mr Kurunaratne said he was also fortunate to start work with G-MW at a time when engineers were much more hands-on than they were today and he had some ‘‘great’’ mentors. In his turn, he has mentored younger employees in recent years.

‘‘I was a timid migrant who can now get up in any forum anywhere and confidently speak about dams, which are my specialty.

‘‘I’m so grateful to G-MW, this place really made me who I am today.’’

Apart from G-MW, Mr Kurunaratne also credits Russia with helping him forge a successful engineering career.

The People’s Friendship University in Moscow remains one of Russia’s highest ranked learning institutions and, during the Cold War, it sought to help developing nations by giving promising students a first-class education.

Mr Kurunaratne’s high school achievements allowed him entry to the university, where he spent the first six months of a six-year bachelor’s degree learning to speak Russian.

‘‘It’s such a rich language but so hard to learn,’’ he said.

After earning his Masters in Birmingham in the United Kingdom, Mr Kurunaratne returned to his native Sri Lanka and met a visiting Australian delegation from GM-W’s predecessor, the Rural Water Commission of Victoria.

His desire to one day visit Dartmouth Dam suddenly became very real.

‘‘They sponsored me to come work here and there were some initial challenges in settling in,’’ he said of himself and his Sri Lankan wife.

‘‘But we just met so many really good people. We now have hundreds of friends and have had so many wonderful opportunities.’’

His first project for DELWP is to keep regional Victorians safe by streamlining emergency planning for floods or dam failure.

By Country News on April 06, 2017

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