Cherisse - 2010 Graduate Program

Cherisse

Background

I grew up in a small country town with little experience of the big smoke until I was awarded a scholarship which catapulted me to the centre of one of the world's largest cities: Tokyo. This sparked a great interest in exploring the world's cultural and social diversity, and after completing undergraduate study in Australia, I spent most of the next ten years overseas travelling extensively and living for extended periods in Europe and Asia. These travels taught me to marvel at the world's environmental richness, and they revealed the pitfalls of pursuing economic growth at the expense of environmental sustainability.

In Germany I started co-running a small business, which I ran for almost five years, embedding effective communication and negotiation training skills into simulated workplace situations for engineers working at Airbus, Germany. Concurrently, I started a Doctorate in Humanities at the Australian National University, which I completed in late 2009. The doctorate developed my skills in argumentation, critical analysis - and persistence!

The Graduate Program attracted me because it offered a compressed way of translating my extremely varied experiences in the private sector and at University into relevant skills for the public service. It lived up to its promise.

Placements

Rotation One: Parks Australia Division

My task in this rotation was fabulous: I set up a project tracing the long-standing and continually evolving relationships between Parks Australia and Indigenous people and their communities. This work is continuing, and will, in time, become a book.

This first rotation provided me with an excellent opportunity to improve my oral and written communication skills in an APS context and to engage with a great diversity of stakeholders within the department and externally.

Rotation Two: Product Stewardship Packaging Team within the Environmental Quality Division

Recycling and waste reduction are increasingly pressing problems for us all, and the chance to see what role the Australian Government plays in these matters attracted me to this area. I was exposed to a wide range of policy-related work, including creating a five-year Australian Government Action Plan for the new Australian Packaging Covenant (APC) and supporting work on two Regulatory Impact Statements (RISs) - these are required to assess the possible impacts of new legislation).

This rotation further enhanced my APC-related written skills, as I drafted typical materials like ministerials, briefs, annotated agendas and a chapter in a RIS. I also acquired a better understanding of APS clearance processes, a better appreciation of the effort that goes into wording policy appropriately, and an introduction to the challenges involved in interpreting and implementing policy.

Rotation Three: Irrigation Efficiency Northern, New South Wales (NSW) Priority Projects within the Water Efficiency Division

Water use is one of the most pressing environmental issues this dry continent faces, and, besides, it's full of controversy and the need for complex negotiations, which I find very appealing! My work included supporting the team in its due diligence assessments of a number of business cases provided by NSW and the Australian Capital Territory for multi-million dollar projects aimed at more efficient water use.

In this rotation I acquired understanding of government procurement processes and an appreciation of the complexity involved in program development and delivery.

Final Placement

I negotiated a place in the Water Efficiency Division with the team which oversees large-scale water efficiency projects in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. Currently, I am receiving further formal training in Project Management, while assisting in the development and oversight of some fairly hefty water efficiency projects.

'the best thing about working for us ... is the environment'