Tony - 2011 Graduate Program

Universities

  • The University of Adelaide

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Organic Chemistry)
  • Bachelor of Science (Hons)

Background

Growing up I was always interested in science, so naturally I undertook a Bachelor of Science at university. I then casually drifted into a PhD, as you do, to further pursue my interest in chemistry. After graduating I worked as a Forensic Scientist in Brisbane, and then as a Medicinal Chemist at a biotech company in Melbourne.

While working I had a nagging feeling that a career in science in a laboratory was no longer for me. I still found research stimulating but it can be quite isolated and I was no longer getting the same sense of satisfaction. So I began looking for alternative career paths where I could use my general skills and abilities and continue to grow and develop professionally.

I saw the Graduate Program as a perfect opportunity to develop new skills, meet some enthusiastic people from diverse backgrounds and gain a broad overview of the public service in a short amount of time. I was also confident that through the extensive training opportunities offered by the Graduate Program, my existing skills would translate well and allow me to make meaningful contributions to the Department. In hindsight I can honestly say that joining the Graduate Program was the right decision.

Placements

First Placement: EPBC Act Review Taskforce, Approvals and Wildlife Divisions

Coming into the Department I had never heard of the EPBC Act. In my first placement I quickly learned that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is the major legislation concerning the environment and biodiversity in Australia. Every 10 years the Act must be independently reviewed to ensure its intentions are still being met. The Taskforce is responsible for preparing the Australian Government's response to the independent review i.e. whether the government accepts or rejects the recommendations from the review.

I was involved with late stage bilateral and interdepartmental consultations concerning the recommendations, and I also assisted with the final review and drafting of several of the responses to the recommendations. As part of the broad reform package, I was also involved with researching and drafting an Environmental Offsets Policy which seeks to mitigate the unavoidable environmental consequences of developments. A highlight of this was attending a meeting with stakeholders from peak industry groups, environmental NGOs and leading scientists to hear their feedback on the proposed policy.

Second Placement: Ozone & Synthetic Gas Team, Environment Quality Division

During my second placement I assisted with efforts towards relocating the Commonwealth's National Halon Bank (NHB). The NHB is a repository for halon gases, used in fire extinguishers and air conditioners, which have been phased out under the Montreal Protocol due to their ability to make holes in the ozone layer. While the general focus of this placement aligned with my science background, I spent most of my time preparing legal contracts, which I surprisingly found quite interesting. The ability to perform tasks with which I had little previous experience has been one of the most useful aspects of the Graduate Program.

I also contributed to a small team that regulates the use of synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry. Through this I was given the opportunity to attend a board meeting of the Australian Refrigeration Council in Melbourne, where I got to meet key industry representatives. In addition I attended a compliance audit where I got to see how regulations and policies developed by the Department are put into practice.

Third Placement: Water Strategies Section, Water Reform Division

In my third placement I joined a team that manages Australia's international engagement on water related policies. This includes hosting international delegations to share knowledge on Australia's water reform and policy, planning Australia's involvement in major international meetings such as Rio+20 and the World Water Forum, and managing bilateral relationships with key international partners.

My work in this section consisted of researching information, preparing briefing packages, liaising with officials from other government departments and embassies, and attending meetings with delegates from Taiwan. Before joining the public service I had no idea the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes before any high level meeting takes place!

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