In the early nineties, an enterprising property developer purchased 2860 hectares of bushland near Brisbane that had been beset by planning problems. He set about transforming it into Australia’s largest fully master-planned city, the only other since Canberra. The multi-award winning city is projected to have a population of 138,000 by 2030.
Lobbying various governmental departments over the last three decades to make this vision a reality, Greater Springfield is Malaysia born and UNSW trained civil engineer, Mahalingam Sinnathamby’s dream. As a major economic driver, it is also a vision of Australia’s urban future, boasting combined health, education, technology and transport precincts.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull rightly described it as a national and nation building project. Sinnathamby, who will turn eighty this year, has been recognised as a Member of Order of Australia (AM) for his substantial contribution to the building and construction industry as well as wider services to community.
“This is not my recognition alone. It has been a twenty six year old journey with eleven schools, three thousand teachers and forty one thousand individuals. When it went to the parliament for approval, eighty-nine members voted unanimously. The credit goes to every single person along the way who helped to achieve this vision,” he told Indian Link with great humility. “I owe it to my wife, my business partner and our families. If anything needs recognition, it is the breadth of opportunities this great country offers. I am only here to do a job,” he was quick to add while outlining the substantial legacy he has helped shape.
He has a very special message for the Indian community. “With 1.8% of India’s population spread across a country that is two and a half times bigger, Australians have unlimited natural resources, beautiful weather and a stable democratic system, where everyone is equal. What else can we ask for? Seize the opportunity, rise up and aspire for better.”
Despite very humble beginnings, his relentless work ethic and indomitable resilience have seen Sinnathamby stave off failures to become one of the wealthiest people in Australia. A recent publication Stop not till goal is reached unpacks his philosophy in life, drawing inspiration from the legendary Swami Vivekanada.
As Chairman of Springfield City Group, he has overseen the single largest planned city built by individuals. The project was awarded World’s Best Master Planned Community by International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) and Australia’s Best Master Planned Community by Urban Development Institute of Australia. It also won Urban Development Institute of Australia’s National President’s Award as well as Property Council of Australia’s Best Master Planned Community besides numerous state level recognitions.
By creating a master-planned community where people can live, learn, work and play in a city, while fully supported by high quality infrastructure, commercially viable and sustainable development, his goal is to enrich society and make a difference at an individual level.
He values education above anything else, reiterating its importance at every occasion. “Education is the currency of the future. It is one thing that can be cashed anywhere and at any time. No one can take it away from you.”
As patron of the Singapore Business Council, former president of Australian Malaysia Business Council and former member, Australia India Business Council, he has lent his business acumen to support emerging entrepreneurs.
He is also a patron of the Federation of Indian Communities of Queensland and Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (Queensland branch).
Inspired by the philosophy of Sri Ramakrishna and Mahatma Gandhi, he believes in giving. Philanthropy has been a big part of his life. Be it to his alma mater, where a number of equity scholarships have been established or to community groups and cultural organisations. He is a patron of the Vedanta Centre Sydney and a founding patron of its Brisbane chapter.
Exuding positivity at all times, Sinnathamby is an inspirational speaker who believes life’s challenges make one’s destiny. Always emulating simplicity, he is a firm believer that adversity and hardship have ingrained mental toughness in him.
Prior to the Order of Australia recognition, has been conferred with many accolades, including an honorary doctorate from the University of Southern Queensland, Centenary Medal for contribution to Regional Development; 2003 Ernst and Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year (Northern Region), Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International, Australian Institute of Management Medal for Management Innovation and the GOPIO International Renowned Entrepreneur Excellence Award.