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John Shaw Medal

CPB Contractors’ Gordon Ralph was honoured with the road industry's highest accolade, the John Shaw Medal, at the 2016 Award Dinner held on May 19.

Addressing the 550 industry leaders in attendance, Roads Australia Chief Executive, Ian Webb, described Gordon as a 'stalwart of the road construction sector for more than four decades, and a truly unique individual'. 

"How many people can claim the extraordinary achievement of initiating and delivering some of Australia’s most important construction ‘mega projects’, valued at more than $15 billion?" Ian said.

"Gordon commenced his career as a cadet engineer with RTA, and progressed to being the pre-eminent Project Director and Joint Venture Committee Chairman for some of Australia’s largest road projects, most notably EastLink, Airport Link and the Eastern Distributor.

"He redefined what is possible in mega project road construction, setting new standards in turnover, design, construction and sustainability.  Under his leadership, the art of road building rose to a new level, with finished projects offering users not just a major enhancement in transport provision, but state-of-the-art technology combined with unprecedented attention to aesthetics and appearance.

"An old-style construction boss, Gordon has the ability to manage the detail and interface of multidisciplinary teams at a level few others approach.  His strong focus on tight management and insistent schedules ensured the delivery of these award winning infrastructure developments ahead of schedule.  Clients, stakeholders and team members value his commitment to safer work conditions and his personal traits of perseverance and reliance.  

"Behind the scenes, Gordon provides valuable mentoring and advice to numerous senior construction personnel, encouraging and empowering the next generation of industry leaders and ensuring his legacy will be enjoyed for many years to come."

TOP RIGHT: (from left) RA President, David Stuart-Watt;  RA CEO, Ian Webb; 2016 John Shaw Medallist, Gordon Ralph; and Arup Australasia Chairman, Peter Bailey.

The Award

The John Shaw Medal honours an industry champion who has made a lasting contribution to Australia's roads.

The following conditions and guidelines apply:

  • Field of contribution - The field of contribution must be in the area of road transport. Indicative areas of contribution include road construction, design, administration, safety, services, freight, research, and policy development. There must be a clear connection between the field of contribution and road transport.
  • Level of contribution - The contribution must be outstanding and this will be assessed on the basis of its impact on the industry and the community. The area of unique impact is to be specifically identified in the nomination, in a form which can be incorporated in the citation.
  • Breadth of contribution - The extent to which the contribution was valued beyond any one section of the Industry and beyond jurisdiction (eg State). The contribution needs to be of National or International significance.
  • Personal achievement - It must be demonstrated that the candidate's contribution significantly reflects personal endeavour, as distinct from the work of others. The John Shaw Medal is not awarded in recognition of general corporate achievement.
  • Originality - Candidates will also be assessed on the originality and unique quality of their contribution. If the contribution is, for example, in a field of research, the spark of ingenuity must be identified. If the candidate's claims are in policy or management areas, the areas of leadership which distinguish the candidate must be clearly specified.
  • Durability - Candidates will also be assessed on the extent to which their contribution is likely to endure and be remembered by future generations. Contribution to corporate success alone is not likely to meet this criterion.
  • Further potential - Ideally candidates for the award will still have further contributions to make to the industry and the community. It is expected that the award will recognise their achievements to date and thereby enhance the opportunity for the candidate to make yet a further contribution.

The John Shaw Medallist is chosen by a Commitee of past winners. In addition to accepting nominations from industry, the Committee at its discretion may also consider candidates who emerge from its own discussions.

If you are aware of a suitable candidate for the Award in 2017, we would be delighted to receive a nomination addressing each of the selection criteria by April 15, 2017. Please confirm that the nominee is aware of and is prepared to accept the nomination.

For more information or to discuss, contact Ian Webb.


Past recipients

Amongst the past recipients of this prestigious award are:

  • Reg Leach, Golder Associates
  • Janet Holmes a Court, John Holland Advisory Board Chairman
  • Lauchlan McIntosh AM, Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS)
  • Ken Mathers, Linking Melbourne Authority
  • Greg Hallam, Local Government Association of Queensland
  • Arvo Tinni, Abigroup 
  • Dr Max Lay, ConnectEast 
  • Colin Jordan, RACV
  • His Excellency Dr Ken Michael AC, Governor of Western Australia
  • Don Aitken, Dept of Main Roads WA (dec.)
  • Erik Finger, Qld Dept of Main Roads
  • Geoff Youdale, RTA NSW (dec.)
  • Tom Wilmot, Stabilisation Services Ltd
  • Maurie Benveniste, Transport SA (dec.)
  • John Bethune, AAPA
  • Rod Payze, Department of Transport SA
  • Neil Doyle, Queensland Main Roads
  • Peter Balfe, VicRoads
  • Dick Wharton, Qld Main Roads
  • John Oliver, ARRB


John Shaw's contribution to roads

John (JAL) Shaw was recruited to the service of the then  recently established Main Roads Board of New South Wales soon after graduating in civil engineering at Sydney University in 1925.

In 1928 he was included amongst the first six divisional engineer appointments made by the Board, taking up a posting at Glen Innes. He served in Newcastle and Sydney before enlisting for service with the AIF in 1940. During his military service, Johh Shaw won the Distinguished Service Order.

He was captured by the Japanese and spent several years in Changi Prisoner of War Camp where he won the respect and affection of his fellow prisoners through his special efforts to improve their lot.

On returning to civilian life after the cessation of hostilities, John Shaw resumed duties with the then Department of Main Roads. He rose to Commissioner, holding that office from 1962 to 1967. He was Assistant Commissioner and Commissioner during the period of reconstruction which followed the war years, and was involved in many of the exciting works such as the Gladesville Bridge which were undertaken during that time.

After his retirement John Shaw served as a Commissioner of the City of Sydney and was National President of the Australian Road Federation. He is the only Australian ever to have been honoured by the International Road Federation as "Man of the Year".

The John Shaw Award, which was initiated in the Queensland Region of the Australian Road Federation, acknowledges his outstanding contribution to roads.