Virginia - 2012 Graduate Program

Home state

  • Victoria


  • The University of Melbourne


  • Bachelor of Science (Majors in biochemistry and neuroscience)
  • Master of Environment


At the end of my Bachelors, I realised I didn’t actually want to be a scientist, and was quite interested in environmental issues, so changed course and enrolled in the Master of Environment.

During my Masters, I worked in NGOs such as the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society. I also managed my own cafe which prompted my minor thesis into the sustainability of small to medium enterprises, and worked in local Councils as an Environmental Education Officer.

I realised through my work at Council, I didn’t really know how government fit into the whole environmental picture, so I decided to enrol in the DSEWPaC graduate program to find out.


First Placement—Water Conveyancing Section—Water Efficiency Division

The Section was part of the Water Buyback program and it challenged my long-held view of irrigators and made me realise I didn’t really understand the social aspects of environmental programs. This was quite an eye-opener especially given the large amounts of time I spent campaigning for more water to be returned to the Murray with various NGOs.

I learnt how procurement processes worked in Government and how rigorous the process was. I also had my first taste of policy when I was asked to come up with a draft solution to how the Commonwealth would procure groundwater. I was also given my own little ‘grad project’ in writing up a document that linked all the sections together. This gave me the opportunity to talk to all the different section in the Division and develop an overview on the entire Water for the Future program and the history of water reform in Australia.

Second Placement—Policy Integration and Analysis Section—Sustainability Policy and Analysis Division

My first introduction to long-term policy thinking. It was quite a change from the short-term needs and operations of a program where the aim is neatly defined. My main work was to implement the Sustainability Framework and develop case studies from teams that were utilising different aspects of the framework. It gave me insight into how frustrating the policy space could be and how hard it was to develop a policy goal when the goal keeps changing or when the intent of the policy is unsure.

My work in the Sustainability Framework re-orientated me towards the ‘bigger picture’ in terms or remembering DSEWPaC is only one player in the environmental space and this section’s work was one of the linkages between policy and the rest of the world be it academia or NGOs.

Third Placement—Regional Sustainability Planning A—Environmental Assessment and Compliance Division

This was a really interesting section and probably the hardest one to explain. My section was responsible for the development of a regional sustainability plan (RSP) which is more or less an off-shoot of a strategic assessment under the EPBC Act. An RSP would be responsible for making sure long-term sustainable planning was being addressed in an area that would be predicted to experience high growth (economic or physical). This would be done predominantly through giving funds to research or local governments to ensure knowledge gaps were filled so that any growth would be sustainably managed.

My role was to research the Upper Spencer Gulf area (which was the targeted area for an RSP) and ascertain what the growth pressures were and the general background of the area. My research was then used to decide how we were going to develop an RSP for the area. This was quite an incredible insight to see research directly influence policy.

This Section was also interesting because it saw the nexus between politics, science and policy. The decisions the Section made not only had to be mindful of both Federal and State politics but also the scientific research it had funded to say what the best course of action would be.

Final Placement—Project Management and Governance Section—Environment Quality Division

I think my passion lies in waste so I think I always wanted to go into EQD. My section is responsible for co-ordinating a part of the Government’s Clean Futures Program which is the, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Program. This program is basically trying to price and collect the revenue from the gases under the Montreal and Kyoto Protocol that is classified as having high global warming potential. These gases are normally in refrigerators and air-conditioning units.

The role includes co-ordinating legal advice for the program, secretariat to the project management board and project planning to make sure the program is on track to be delivered in July 2013. It’s been quite an eye-opener to see how a big budget–high profile program works and the amount of public pressure and scrutiny it answers to.

One of my reasons in joining the public service was to ‘make a difference’ and to be able to see industry change its practises to one that is of lower carbon intensity due to the market signals the carbon price provides, and knowing that the program has helped make that happen, has been quite a rewarding experience.