Maha Sinnathamby

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Maha Sinnathamby
Maha Sinnathamby at State Library of Queensland, 27 August 2015.JPG
Born 1939
Rantau, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia
Residence Brisbane, Australia
Occupation Property Developer,[1] Civil Engineer

Maha Sinnathamby [2] is a Malaysian Australian businessman and property developer. He is the entrepreneur behind the Greater Springfield Development in Queensland, the largest master-planned community in Australia.


Early life[edit]

Maha Sinnathamby is a Hindu of Sri Lankan Tamil descent,[3] born in Malaysia in 1939, where he lived on a rubber estate in the small farming village of Rantau, Negeri Sembilan, without power or water, and where he was educated at a Catholic school. His father survived three years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, thanks largely to his mother making regular and long journeys from the village to the camp to bring him food.

Maha had to travel 36 km every day by bus to and from school. He learnt two significant lessons from his parents – the importance of a good education and the value of a strong work ethic.


Maha travelled to Australia by boat in 1962 to study civil engineering at the University of New South Wales and after a few years he graduated and worked for different organisations as a civil and design engineer, including a stint with the World Bank. He started his own property business in Perth in 1976 and later moved his young family to Queensland in the early 1980s, convinced that bigger opportunities awaited him in the Sunshine State. He continued slowly building the family company with numerous small residential subdivisions and several commercial projects in the region.

In the early 1990s, Maha’s mind turned to the potential of the south-east corner as a fast-growing “sun belt” region. With business partner Bob Sharpless, he secured a 2,860-hectare parcel of land (an unusually large parcel of land to come to the market) in Ipswich , south-west of Brisbane, for $7.9 million in 1992. Maha became Chairman of Springfield Land Corporation which was established in conjunction with the purchase of the parcel.

Friends, family and business partners all marvel at his extraordinary passion and persistence. The family saying is: “It’s never a no, until it’s a yes.”

Maha’s lobbying and negotiating skills as he and his team lay the foundations of Springfield were extraordinary – he once approached Premier Wayne Goss at a business function and pounced on him on the way out the door, just so he could get a face-to-face meeting with Goss about State Government support for Springfield.

He lobbied the education and transport departments just to get their cooperation to help build basic infrastructure to the area. Eventually, it needed a special act of Parliament to enable things to happen and he achieved the extraordinary – getting all 89 members of Parliament to vote in favour of the legislation.

Maha assembled a team who shared his vision and commitment and has in just 15 years developed Greater Springfield - Australia’s first privately built city and the country’s largest master-planned community. It is the tenth largest master-planned community in the world. Greater Springfield has a present population of over 15,000 people. With an average number of three families moving to the city per day, a population growth of over 100,000 is predicted within the next 20 years.

Maha is passionate about education. He sees it as the golden ticket to a better life – just as it’s been with him. He has a vision of socially uplifting society around him – in this case the Ipswich and Western Corridor - through education. Maha is married to Yoga and has three daughters – Raynuha, Meera, Uma - and a son Naren. All of them work for Springfield Land Corporation.


Sinnathamby founded Greater Springfield[4] almost 20 years ago on nearly 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) outside of Brisbane. Springfield is now a community of more than 26,000 residents. Predictions are that the population will swell by more than 100,000 people within the next 20 years into a city the size of Darwin[citation needed].

Sinnathamby is passionately committed to uplifting society through education, which he credits as having played a transformative role in his life[citation needed]. This passion has been translated into a booming education precinct within Greater Springfield called Education City which boasts 8,500 students and a university, a technical college and ten schools. In 2014 the first stage of a 52-hectare (130-acre) major health and wellness precinct was commenced. He has also established a program of scholarships within Greater Springfield and takes a particular pride in seeing people with limited access to education blossom and reach their potential.[5]

An equivalent health precinct, Health City, is under construction and will offer Springfield residents and the wider region access to a range of professional health services.

Sinnathamby’s desire to build a city with a strong sense of community is evident in his commitment to social philanthropy and he has donated more than $200 million of land and funds for vital social infrastructure[citation needed].

His company has donated land for schools, an ambulance station, a police station, a highway and a heavy rail line which opened in 2013.[6]


Sinnathamby’s work was acknowledged globally in 2010 with the emerging city being named the world's best master-planned community by the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI).[7]

Other awards include:

  • Centenary Medal for regional development in Australia [8]
  • Honorary Doctorate from the University of Southern Queensland for his services to education [9]
  • Ernst and Young Master Entrepreneur of the Year [10]
  • Paul Harris Fellowship by Rotary International for community development [11]
  • Australian Institute of Management Medal for Management Innovation.[12]
  • Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin (GOPIO) International Renowned Entrepreneur Excellence Award 2010 [13]


Further reading[edit]

  • McCreadie, Karen (2012), Stop not till the goal is reached : the 10 principles for fearless success that inspired Maha Sinnathamby to build a city, Milton, Qld. John Wiley & Sons Australia, ISBN 978-1-74246-856-3