After completing degrees in Civil Engineering and Arts (with a major in International Development), I joined the Department in 2001 and did three placements in very different areas of the Department – working on sustainable industry issues, landscape conservation, and assisting Papua New Guinea to develop a forest biodiversity policy. At the completion of the graduate year, I obtained acting higher duties and stayed on in the International Regional Unit working on the bilateral relationship with PNG.
I spent 2002 broadening my knowledge of issues affecting PNG and affecting the Portfolio's ability to engage bilaterally with PNG to achieve environmental objectives. As well as the usual section activities, such as coordinating departmental briefing on PNG-related matters, I had the opportunity to pick up some GIS skills and undertook an analysis of PNG's forest types. The analysis looks at how the various forest types in PNG have been affected by logging and agriculture over the last 25-30 years, and predicts the likely impacts of these land uses in the future, and aims to assist PNG with policy development in the area of forest conservation. Part way into this exercise I decided that I wanted to gain some real insight into PNG by working in country for a while.
I developed a proposal for an AusAID Youth Ambassadors for Development assignment and gained the support of the PNG Department of Environment and Conservation as a 'host organisation'. The Department supported me by approving a year's leave without pay and providing mentoring assistance while I was working in Port Moresby as a ‘Forest Conservation Policy and Data Advisor’. The experience was amazing, and more challenging and rewarding than I could have hoped. As well as training about 25 people in GIS and database analysis techniques and finalising my analysis, I was supervising staff, negotiating with external agencies, and advising the Department's Secretary on a regular basis. I cherished the opportunity to live and work in such an exciting place and experience a little of the amazing culture and landscape that makes PNG so unique. I also experienced first hand some of the capacity needs of Australia's nearest neighbour. Having returned to the Department in March 2004, I am again working in the International Regional Unit. My responsibilities now include building relationships with the Pacific, working bilaterally with some countries including New Zealand, and working through the South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). Regular tasks involve effectively coordinating and preparing briefing for officials and Ministerial level meetings, building relationships with other agencies both domestically and internationally, and developing and ensuring a strategic approach to how the Portfolio engages with the Pacific.
'the best thing about working for us ... is the environment'