Thomas - 2010 Graduate Program

Thomas

Background

Home State: Victoria
University: Monash University
Qualifications: Bachelor of Environmental Engineering (Honours)

I studied Environmental Engineering because I wanted to gain a good understanding of the world around me, the problems that the world will face into the future, and how these problems can be addressed. To ground these learning's with the hard realities of business, industry and society; I completed three summer work placements. The first was in Western Australia in the construction industry, the second was in the Northern Territory with a Non-Government Organisation, and the third was in Victoria in the oil and gas industry.

With this background, I determined that the next step for me would be to complete a graduate program with the Australian Federal Government. Accordingly, I applied for, and was successful in attaining, a graduate position with the Federal Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (now the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities). My time as a graduate was a fulfilling experience, and one that taught me many important lessons about the Government's role in society.

Placements

First Placement: Mining Section, Environmental Assessments Branch, Approvals and Wildlife Division

My first rotation with the Department was with the Mining Section, working on the assessment of some of Australia's largest mining projects. During this placement, I worked extensively with the Australian Governments principle environmental protection legislation, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The highlight of this placement was the broad exposure I was given to a number of diverse mining projects and mining companies.

Second Placement: Ozone and Synthetic Gas team, Environment Protection Branch, Environment Quality Division

The Ozone and Synthetic Gas Team (OSGT) deals with Ozone Depleting Substances (ODSs) and Synthetic Greenhouse Gasses (SGGs) that are controlled under the Montreal Protocol. The OSGT deals with restricted imports into the country, international negotiations under the Montreal Protocol, the phase out of methyl bromide and the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. Whilst in the OSGT, I worked to quantify the cost/benefit tradeoffs associated with the removal of ODSs and SGGs from end of life appliances. Through this work, I was able to build a deep and comprehensive understanding of the Montréal Protocol, and of the practical realities of waste management. The highlight of this placement was learning why the Montreal Protocol continues to be one the world's most successful international environmental agreements.

Third Placement: Strengthening Basin Communities, Basin Communities and On Farm Branch, Water Efficiency Division

The Strengthening Basin Communities section assists people in the Murray Darling Basin to adapt to a future with less water. This is achieved by providing funding for planning and infrastructure activities that aim to reduce water use, and increase water use efficiency. While in this section, I had many opportunities to observe how the Federal Government interacts with state and local governments, and how practical, win win water savings initiatives can be implemented on the ground. My day to day work in this section predominantly consisted of contract management, and stakeholder engagement.

Final Placement: Mining Section, Environmental Assessments Branch, Approvals and Wildlife Division

For my final placement, I chose to return to the Mining Section because of the challenges it posed, and the variety of work that was offered. My work in this section is now predominantly focused on uranium mining in Australia, and in particular, the approval and management of new uranium mining proposals. This work is challenging but interesting because the projects are complex, and necessitate many multifaceted interactions between governments, the public, regulators and the proponents.

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