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Geoffrey Paul (Geoff) Youdale (1946–2014)

by Gavin Donald

from Sydney Morning Herald

Geoff Youdale, n.d.

Geoff Youdale, n.d.

As you drive along the streets of Sydney, you can thank Geoff Youdale and his fellow civil engineers for your smooth ride. From the mid-1970s, Youdale specialised in pavement structures (that is, the road surface).

Through the 1980s, he contributed to the development of pavement structural design, to the laboratory testing of pavement materials, and to full-scale wheel-load testing of real pavement structures. He was also a leader in introducing a new manual of road pavement thickness design throughout Australia.

In the 1990s, Youdale managed the development of road technology, directing innovations in Australia and contributing internationally through committees such as the United States Strategic Highway Research Program, the World Roads Association (based in Paris) and the Global Road Knowledge Exchange Network. This helped to accelerate the move to the computerised pavement design methods now used throughout Australia.

In 1996 Youdale was awarded the Australian Road Federation's John Shaw Medal in recognition of his contribution to road technology. In 1999, he was awarded the AusIndustry Innovation Award as part of the National Engineering Excellence Awards as a member of the RTA/CSIRO team that developed the "RoadCrack" high speed measuring vehicle. After his retirement from the RTA in 1995, he continued to contribute to the industry as a consultant, and to the establishment of and teaching at the Centre for Pavement Engineering Education.

Geoffrey Paul Youdale was born in Sydney on December 24, 1946, a sixth generation descendant of the First Fleeters. He grew up in the Cammeray area and attended North Sydney Boys' High School. He graduated from the University of Sydney as a civil engineer in 1968 after being a cadet in the Department of Main Roads (later the Roads and Traffic Authority), where he worked for another 27 years.

In 1970 Youdale married Margaret Smart, an arts student he had met at university. In 1973, he took a Master of Engineering Science in Engineering Construction from the University of NSW.

Increasing kidney disease caused Youdale to retire before he was 50, but nearly three years later he received a transplant and decided to contribute to the wellbeing of his fellow patients. He became an active member of the renal community and a strong patient advocate. He served as vice-president of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Association for 10 years and as president of the NSW branch of the Australian Kidney Foundation for four years.

From 2004, Youdale was a consumer representative of the NSW Renal Services Network of the Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce, where he was chairman of a transport advisory sub-group looking at transport for dialysis patients in NSW.

In addition to committee work, Youdale frequently worked in peer support activities of Kidney Health Australia and spoke at patient education forums. In 2008, Kidney Health Australia presented him with a Kidney Angel Award.

Another long-time beneficiary of Youdale's expertise was the Asquith Golf Club, which in 2005 made him an honorary life member for outstanding voluntary contribution. Apart from his general administrative efficiency, he made a major contribution to the club in the 1980s when the golf course was severely disrupted by construction of the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway (now the M1). This cut through a large section of the course, requiring the construction of six new holes, the redesign of other holes, and the construction of a dam. Youdale managed the entire project.

Despite his illness, he was on site no later than 6am every day and again after work at the DMR. The work involved negotiations with eight Government departments, instrumentalities and councils. He also negotiated contracts with outside contractors, all to the benefit of the club.

Youdale was the author or co-author of 60 technical publications. He was twice awarded the Australian Road Research Board Directors' Prize (in 1992 and 1994), for work which best translated research into practice. He was a co-author of the Austroads Guide to the Structural Design of Road Pavements (1987 and 1992), which has been widely adopted across Australasia. In 2011, Youdale was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

Geoff Youdale is survived by Margaret, children Katrina and Derek and grandchildren Zoe and Toby.

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Citation details

Gavin Donald, 'Youdale, Geoffrey Paul (Geoff) (1946–2014)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 26 February 2024.

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