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Journey south leads to career sea change

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When Kalian Barnes packed his possessions into a car in January 2013 and left the News South Wales south-coast town of Batemans Bay, he headed south with no particular destination.

Never could he have dreamed he’d end up in Tasmania helping rebuild a fire-ravaged community and embarking on a career as a Naval Architect.

The drive that January down Tasmania’s east coast saw Kalian arrive in Dunalley, south-east of Hobart, which had been left devastated by fierce bushfires just weeks earlier.

“When I entered the charred remains of what must have previously been a beautiful landscape, the devastation of the fires was vastly apparent,” he said.

He found the Blaze Aid organisation set up on the Sorell Oval and volunteered immediately, spending four week assisting landowners to clear debris and rebuild.

One of the landowners at Bangor offered Kalian full-time work and that’s where he stayed for five months, helping replace 40 km of fence line, rebuilding a shed, repairing damaged equipment and returning the farm to operational levels.

The landowner noticed Kalian’s affinity with the ocean and suggested he apply to the Australian Maritime College to study maritime engineering. That night, Kalian researched the degree online, decided university was for him and enquired about naval architecture the next day.

Four years later, and Kalian has now graduated from AMC with a Bachelor of Engineering (Naval Architecture), First Class Honours.

His degree included a third-year exchange at the Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) in Canada, which has a strong maritime engineering stream and where former AMC principal Neil Bose is now the Vice-President (Research).

“The MUN maritime engineering degree has a strong focus on gaining work experience before graduation, with a mandatory, five-year Co-Op program where students spend a collective year working in the industry,” Kalian said.

And there were some off-campus benefits too.

“The time spent in Canada was an unforgettable experience. I saw the northern lights, snowboarded in the Rockies, travelled to central America, hiked through the snow to and from university, climbed, played ice hockey, and built friendships with students from around the globe,” he said.

His four years at AMC were highlighted by a scholarship for Academic Excellence in 2014, a term as AMCSA treasurer, summer stints in Darwin refitting and refurbishing a 40ft yacht ‘Hagar’ and work experience at the Pearl Marine Engineering shipyard in Darwin where knowledge gained at AMC was applied in practice while developing workplace skills.

But it is access to the AMC’s word-class testing facilities and the focus on hands-on learning that Kalian believes has provided some of the greatest benefits of his time based in Launceston.

“Throughout my studies there has been a large focus on hands-on learning, particularly through the use of AMC’s testing facilities," he said.

"I was fortunate enough to complete my research dissertation experimental testing in the towing tank, measure bubble size in the cavitation tunnel, build submarines, boats and bridges in the workshop, determine vessel motion in the wave basin, operate a ship in the bridge simulator, test material strength and other various experiments.”

“This hands on-approach can be lacking in other universities and I am lucky to have studied at AMC where the use of these facilities by undergraduates is commonplace.”

Kalian’s now looking to transfer that experience into a career, with ambitions to build a future in the marine surveying and consulting sector.

“Engineers working in this sector are highly prized and are employable throughout the world. Marine surveyors ensure vessel compliance and safety at a personal, commercial, port, state and national level amongst other commitments,” he said.

In the meantime, Kalian is continuing his commitment to helping others, and will spend the summer helping build his parents’ house in Batemans Bay.

Published on: 12 Dec 2017