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It took some advice from a mate and a touch of luck to launch Kevin Dodd on the journey that has carried him through his professional life.

Kevin is an equity partner and director with leading Territory surveying and planning provider Earl James and Associates (EJA).

He has just clocked up 40 years’ service at EJA, founded in 1980 by business partners Earl James and Gary Nairn. While Kevin was happy to let his 40th anniversary pass without too much fuss his colleagues had other ideas.

When he took his family to the visitor centre at Darwin’s George Brown Botanical Gardens to “meet some friends” he found himself the centre of attention at a surprise anniversary event.

Originally from Gunnedah in centralnorth-western NSW, Kevin graduated from university only to find there were few surveying jobs going in his home state.

A mate from university advised Kevin to write to an engineering firm he was working with in Darwin. Kevin did just that and landed himself a surveying job in the Top End.

But six months later the company closed its surveying arm and Kevin next found himself working as a brickie’s labourer. His timing was far from perfect. “I was mixing mud in the wet season, and it nearly killed me.”

He was playing with the South Darwin rugby league club and had a teammate with a surveying job with EJA.

“I used to go to footy training and say, ‘this is stuffed. I’ve just done four years study and I’m mixing bloody mud’.”

But his teammate then decided to leave EJA because he no longer wanted to “go out in the paddock”, Kevin says in reference to field-work as a surveyor. So, Kevin took his mate’s position at EJA, happily ending his career as a brickie’s labourer.


When he started with EJA in 1984 there were 3-4 employees. EJA now has a team of more than 20 and has established itself as the Territory’s premier provider of high-quality surveying and planning services.

The EJA team now includes licensed surveyors, engineering surveyors, survey graduates, survey assistants, drafters, GIS personnel and administration staff.

It is a dynamic team capable of handling projects of any size or complexity. But EJA continues to look to the future and Kevin says that means mentoring and training the next generation to “gear us up for the future”.


Kevin’s commitment to the job has meant decades of long hours both inside and outside the office. “My wife Deb has been such a great support. I haven’t been around to do a lot things. And it’s been Deb who has taken the kids to everything after school. To every sport, to swimming and to music.”

While Kevin doesn’t leave the EJA office now as much as he used to, he looks back fondly to some of those early jobs. In one of his first jobs, he spent almost two months working in and around Pine Creek.

“Pine Creek was just great”.

For the duration of his stay Kevin stayed at the Pine Creek Hotel.

“Everything revolved around the pub in those days. Volleyball was Tuesday nights with darts on Thursdays. The ringers from Jindare Station would come in for volleyball. But they really weren’t interested in volleyball, they just wanted to sink beer.”

On another occasion he spent weeks surveying a pastoral lease in the Victoria River District near Timber Creek. Nights saw the survey team camped by a fire behind the dozer used for clearing survey lines.

Survey teams used to be made up of 3-4 men. But the days of hand-held longline survey tapes are gone. New technology means long-line surveying is now done by 1-2 people with electronic distance measuring and GPS replacing the old steel tapes.

The company also employs Robotic total stations, GPS, 3D scanners, drones, digital levels and a diverse range of software and computing hardware, allowing EJA to provide digital information for clients.

Machine control has become a big part of civil construction projects and EJA is at the forefront of providing digital files and control to support the construction industry.

By using the latest technology, including 3D laser scanners, jobs are now completed much more quickly and efficiently saving clients time and money.

“EJA has really developed an ethic of providing a quality service and looking after local clients.” EJA’s willingness to embrace the latest in industry advances and its decades of hands-on experience has seen it involved in some of the Territory’s biggest projects.

These include the Darwin to Alice Springs railway, Darwin liquified natural gas plant, the Darwin Waterfront development and the vast majority of the large-scale sub-divisions in the Top End. They have also worked on numerous high-rise projects, mining and pastoral jobs as well as work in Aboriginal communities.

“Our clients include a list of great Territory companies. And in turn we’re pretty proud to say we’re a company owned and operated by Territorians,” says Kevin.