University of Tasmania
Bachelor of Science with Honours (Plant Ecology)
Indoors? What's all that about! For the past decade most of my study, work and play has been in the great outdoors: monitoring photosynthesis levels of alpine plants on Tasmanian mountain tops, feeding eucalypts to brush tail possums as part of an evolutionary biology research project, picking tomatoes and digging fields on a farm in Japan, and spending long hours in the bush searching for elusive threatened species. It's been outdoors, it's been hands-on, and it's been fun.
So I thought I'd give this indoor-living a bit of a go. It would mean a big shift in lifestyle, but I'd come to the realisation that most decisions that affect our day-to-day lives are actually made indoors. I wanted to be part of this decision-making process, and have some input towards Government policy. Plus, I always wanted a job that involved wearing a tie.
Water Governance Division - Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder Section
Wow, what an exciting introduction to the Commonwealth! As part of the Government's Water for the Future policy, the Commonwealth is spending up big on water entitlements, which will be used to protect and restore environmental assets across the Murray-Darling Basin. The section where I spent my first rotation was responsible for advising the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder on priorities for the use of this environmental water.
My role in this team was to investigate a particular catchment area of the Murray-Darling Basin, and determine which environmental assets should receive environmental water from the Commonwealth. My other major role was to develop a risk assessment framework for the Commonwealth's environmental watering activities. One of the highlights of the three-month stint was celebrating the first ever release of Commonwealth water for the environment.
I was amazed at how interested and involved I became in the work. It was not only challenging, but also very high profile, and appeared in the media around the nation at least once a day. It also gave me a new appreciation for the true value of water.
Marine Division - Tropical West Marine Conservation Section (Hobart)
This section is responsible for preparing a Marine Bioregional Plan for the Commonwealth's North-west Marine Region. The region encompasses over 1 million square kms of ocean and sea floor, and includes vast areas of high-priority conservation features, including unique geomorphic features and areas of whale migration and turtle breeding. It is also one of the most significant areas in Australian waters for the multi-billion dollar industry of oil and gas production. Talk about conflict of interest!
My role in the section was to help identify and map Areas for Further Assessment (AFAs) - a precursor to the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas. As part of this work, I undertook a training course in the use of ArcGIS software, and soon after became the GIS support officer in the team. I was mapping like there was no tomorrow, and by the time I left the section I had provided significant input into a large briefing package for our Minister with recommendations for the development of the draft North-west Marine Bioregional Plan.
Working in a remote DEWHA office provided a unique opportunity to witness the diversity of the Department's operations. Within my first few weeks I was given a tour of the complex, which included visits to scientific laboratories, the mechanical and electrical workshops, the Antarctic gear store - and even a tour of the Aurora Australis - the icebreaker ship which takes DEWHA expeditioners to the icy continent down south. An incredibly valuable experience indeed.
Land and Coasts Division - Forest Policy Section
Forests. They're in the news all the time - and for a very good reason. Everyone's got their point of view on how they should be managed, and people are usually very passionate about what they believe. So needless to say, this was a very busy section to be working in!
Technically speaking, matters relating to forestry come under the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). However, the existence of Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) means that DEWHA and DAFF are jointly responsible for the conservation and sustainable management of Australia's native forests. The Forest Policy Section has primary responsibility for DEWHA's input into RFA matters, as well as community-based forest conservation incentives and DEWHA's input into the development of the Australian Government's illegal logging policy.
My work in this section involved a diverse range of policy tasks, which provided me with invaluable experience in policy development and whole-of-government relations and processes. I was also able to attend Question Time in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and Senate Estimates, which gave me a very interesting insight into Federal Politics and accountability within the Australian Public Service as part of my learning and development opportunities.
Marine Division - Tropical North Marine Conservation Section
My final placement is in a sister team of my second placement - this time based in Canberra. Together with the rest of the team, I'll be helping to develop a Marine Bioregional Plan for the North Marine Region.
The Plan will provide information on the conservation values and the current and emerging pressures within each region. It will also describe key conservation and heritage priorities and the range of legislative and administrative tools available to the Government to manage them. The proposed network of new marine reserves and their zoning arrangements will also be presented.
It's an exciting time in marine conservation, as we create a national network of marine protected areas throughout all Commonwealth waters. I'm looking forward to being a part of history in the making.
'the best thing about working for us ... is the environment'