James - 2012 Graduate Program

Home state

  • New South Wales


  • Macquarie University


  • Bachelor of Science in Biodiversity and Conservation
  • Master of Wildlife (Habitat) Management


After I completed my BSc, I took a role as Environmental Graduate (and soon promoted to NSW Environmental Manager) with a manufacturing/mining company as I felt that industrial environmental management could be a career that I would enjoy. After a short period of time I came to realise that whilst I was gaining good skills and experience, I did not want to build a career in industry, so I began to study my Masters part-time. After three years, I left the company after successfully gaining an offer for the graduate program from DSEWPaC.
I find the work with DSEWPaC much more rewarding than my previous position and the culture of the organisation is also excellent.

First Placement — Species Information Section, Heritage and Wildlife Division

Species Information Section has three main roles: Managing and maintaining the Species Profile and Threats (SPRAT) database, providing science-based line area advice on threatened species to Environment Assessments and Compliance Division (EACD) and creating science-based policy guidance for proponents in regard to environmental impact assessment. This role fitted like a glove and I hit the ground running; starting work on policy guidelines for the Greater Bilby, Marsupial Mole and Grey-headed Flying Fox within my first week.

Throughout the rotation I also had the opportunity to provide several pieces of line area advice to support EACD decision-making in regards to species such as the Spot-tailed Quoll. In addition, I assisted in the preparation of a week-long expert workshop on arid zone species recovery and planning in Alice Springs. I learned valuable corporate skills through this task, such as procurement and travel management; the best thing, however, was that I was able to attend the workshop as a DSEWPaC representative and talk to the experts first-hand. Finally, I was given the opportunity to analyse species referral data and make recommendations about the future direction and priorities for the section. This analysis was well-received by the team and has played a significant role in guiding the species policy development occurring in the section today.

Second Placement — Marine Mammal Conservation Section, Marine Division

Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are the ‘sexy’ (read: popular) animals of the sea and the chance to work with the section that manages domestic Cetacean policy was a dream come true. Part-way through the rotation, some redistribution of work through the division occurred and the section became responsible for the management of the Convention on Migratory Species secretariat and issues around Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions etc.), dugongs and sharks (among others). The core business of the section was developing domestic policy (such as whale-watching guidelines and ship-strike guidelines), providing line-area advice to EACD, assessing and managing permits for the research of Cetaceans and managing some of the Department’s international obligations around migratory species.

I was exposed to all aspects of the section’s work, liaising directly with permit applicants conducting cutting-edge Cetacean research, meeting with whale-watching industry groups to discuss the guideline review and providing advice to EACD on the impacts of actions such as seismic testing on populations of whales and dolphins. The time that I was with the section was also the lead-up to the annual International Whaling Commission meeting and a time when South Korea announced that they would be joining the summer hunt for whales in the Southern Ocean. It was a dynamic and interesting space; balancing the expectations of Australia with international diplomacy.

Third Placement — Approvals Monitoring South Section, Environmental Assessment and Compliance Division

With my industry experience and interest in the process of project referral, assessment, approval and post-approval monitoring, working in EACD was high on my wish list. Approvals Monitoring is responsible for the monitoring the compliance of projects after they have been approved by the Department. This rotation involved a significant of contact with proponents and industry representatives, via phone, email and face to face meetings. Working in this section gave me a good grasp on the complexity of some projects and the interactions between science, environment protection policy, politics, economics and social matters.

I was given the opportunity to take the lead on several large (and often publically controversial!) projects, and gained experience in critical analysis, collaboration, brief-writing and writing approval conditions. I also developed basic skills in conflict resolution and tactfully working and negotiating with proponents to achieve good environment protection outcomes. Aspects of this rotation also overlapped with the Compliance Section and the Environmental Investigations Unit, which take over matters when breaches of environmental approvals are escalated.

Final Placement — Executive Support Section, Policy and Communications Division

For my final placement, I was lucky enough to negotiate a position with the Species Information Section, where I spent my first 3 months with the Department. It felt like coming home and I have picked up where I left off, albeit minus Flying-foxes and plus marine turtles. The section is dynamic and we are currently working on ways to continue to produce good volumes of quality threatened species policy guidance in a resource-constrained working environment. I am collaborating with species experts across the Department and also externally, maintaining networks with people on the front-line of threatened species research. The impending merge with our Marine Division colleagues is a great opportunity for more collaboration and to close the gap between policy for terrestrial/freshwater and marine species.