An honourable passion

13 Jan 2013

Author: Heather Jacobs

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In November 2012 when cricketer Sachin Tendulkar was presented with his Order of Australia, Dr Vijay Joshi was invited to attend the ceremony at the Mumbai Cricket Association Club in Bandra.
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For Joshi – who received an Medal of the Order of Australia in July 2012 for his services to the Australian steel mill industry, and to the Indian community of New South Wales – it was a great opportunity to return to his native India and celebrate the award with one of India’s greatest cricketers.

Born and raised in Thane City, India, Joshi settled in Australia 20 years ago as a 35-year-old civil engineer. He got a job at Australian Steel Mill Services (ASMS) and in 1991 was asked to find a use for slag, the waste material from steel and iron manufacturing. Joshi spent the next three years testing and analyzing the material in order to prove it was a quality product that could be used in the construction of roads and airports.

In 1994 it was used in the construction of third runway at Sydney Airport and has since been recycled for use by the RTA on many major road projects including the North Kiama bypass. It is used as substitute for the stone and gravel over which the asphalt-bitumen is laid.

Joshi was so determined to solve the problem of how to use slag that he started a doctorate at the University of Wollongong’s Department of Civil and Mining Engineering. He got his PhD in 1997 after completing his thesis on “the effect of base course and properties on the performance of slag pavements”.  At the time he was living in Wollongong, but his family is now based in the Liverpool area.

“I was the only PhD candidate who worked full time and studied full-time and it was pretty tough,” he says. “My wife would get home from work at 7pm and then I would go to work at the university around midnight, come home at 3am and go back to work again the next day. At the time we didn’t know if it would work but in the end it was a success story – it’s all about having the passion for making it work.”

Not only was it a resourceful use of a material destined for landfill, but Joshi claims the quality of the roads were improved if slag was used along with asphalt. He says the roads constructed using this technology remain in good condition even 20 years later and have reduced maintenance costs.

Joshi’s expertise on the use of the product is now in demand internationally. He’s been invited to various countries to explore its potential use including Thailand, the US, Japan and India.

He’s now working with the New Zealand-headquartered company Fulton Hogan, which has a product called GripPhalt made of 60-80% or recycled product (including slag), which maintains its durability, strength and superior skid resistance properties even after years of use.

Joshi concedes that ‘slag’ is a strange sounding word, and that there’s been a lot of discussion among the community about whether they should change the name. He thinks not.

“Even if you change the name it will still be the same product,” he says. “We can call it Lucy, but it will not change the personality.”

He’s also heavily involved with the Marathi Radio show, Akashwani Sydney. The community radio station was started in 1996 by a group of Maharashtrians in Sydney who wanted to bring the rich Marathi culture from India to Australia. Joshi was initially involved behind-the-scenes helping on the technical side, but when one of the presenters didn’t show up, he took to the microphone.

“The show must go on,” he says.