Sophie - 2010 Graduate Program

Sophie

Background

Home State: Tasmania
University: University of Tasmania
Qualifications: Bachelor of Arts (Honours in History)
Master of Arts (English)

Hobart to Canberra is a summary of my life journey so far. Having grown up in Hobart, it was time to experience the wider world and engage in meaningful employment with an agency which is driven by values and integrity.

I have always been committed to social justice issues and interested in people and how we relate to our environments - natural, social, and constructed. The Department seemed to balance all these interests. While initially drawn more towards the arts and culture aspects of the portfolio, I have really embraced the environmental work and am inspired by the ways in which this is interlinked with culture and heritage, especially highlighted by the Department's Indigenous programs.

This is my first "proper" job after finishing uni and I have really enjoyed embarking on a career in such a supportive environment and meeting many wonderful people. I was both excited and apprehensive to move here initially and while there have been some challenges, the total experience is one of the best things I have ever done.

Placements

First Placement: New South Wales State Office, National Network, Arts Division

The National Network oversees the delivery of Indigenous arts and culture programs to fulfil the Australian Government's "Closing the Gap" agenda. The rotation was a good foundation in program, contract, and grant management, risk analysis, and assessing applications for funding. Particular highlights were the site visits to engage with the funded organisations and learn about better ways to support them: it allowed a practical understanding of the implementation of funding and the tangible and intangible benefits of cultural support.

Second Placement: Water Strategies Section, Water Policy Branch, Water Reform Division

This was my favourite rotation as it was very dynamic and raised fascinating issues. The Section is responsible for broad national water policy reform as well as strategic international engagement to encourage integrated water governance (i.e. considering water systems as entities which cross state and territory boundaries). The rotation enabled a great overview of the entire Water Group and I gained appreciation of some incredibly difficult issues and the pressures of attending to competing needs. I worked on briefings, organising meetings with foreign delegations, and responding to the shifting needs of policy and politics. The work was based on written, analytical, research and communication skills, international relations, and "big-picture" strategic issues, all of which closely align with my personal interests.

Third Placement: Victoria and Tasmania/Environmental Assessments Executive, Environmental Assessment Branch, Approvals and Wildlife Division

In this rotation, I was divided between a Branch improvement and coordination role and nitty-gritty assessments of referrals to determine the likelihood of significant impacts on environmental matters which are protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). This was an excellent balance between high level analysis of corporate processes and actual implementation of the regulatory functions of the Department. The work was a mixture of independent self-management, cooperation, and direct liaison with others to achieve sustainable environmental outcomes. Interpersonal, written, and analytical skills were essential and there was a real sense that every protected matter is important and that our assessments do have an impact. I found this rotation the most challenging due to the vast amounts of information, tight timeframes, and new legislative processes to learn, combined with my lack of experience in the environmental field. However, I was always supported by my supervisors and team members, and I'm extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in a core area of the Department and learn about the multiple strands of our portfolio when trying to attend to environmental, social, and economic considerations.

Final Placement: Water Quality Policy, Aquatic Systems Health Branch, Water Reform Division

I love my final placement in Water Quality Policy! I knew I wanted to return to a Water Group policy area after my second rotation and kept searching until I found this position. Despite feeling out of depth at times, the graduate year was incredible preparation for a permanent career in the public service. This team is brilliant and I felt really at home from the beginning - five words to describe them are welcoming, supportive, fun, intelligent, and open-minded. I've been exposed to many aspects of the Section's work and have freedom to self-select projects I am especially interested in. A brief snapshot of my role: briefings and policy advice, EPBC Act engagement and advice, internal liaison, development of professional fact sheets and conceptual models, and involvement in a Branch working group to improve the way we do our business and interact across Sections. I asked to be involved in the EPBC Act work after my recent stint in Approvals and Wildlife Division - this is one example of how valuable rotations are with exposure to cross-cutting issues and formation of networks and contacts.

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