Laura - 2012 Graduate Program

Home state

  • New South Wales

Universities

  • The University of Sydney
  • The University of Newcastle

Qualifications

  • Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences
  • Master of Environmental Management (with Honours)

Background

During and after finishing my studies I’ve been involved in environmental issues across a variety of different spaces, including volunteering for a community climate action group and a climate policy NGO, as well as working for a local government on environmental health issues  and working in a consultancy on sustainability and energy use.

I’ve always been interested in the ‘big picture’ and working for the federal government seemed like a good opportunity to see how policy is developed and implemented from on high! I’m also really interested in how environmental policy connects with the economic and the social, which is another reason I was interested in working for the Department.

Placements

First Placement—Monitoring and Reporting section, Biodiversity Conservation Division

My first rotation involved quite a bit of coordinating work putting together the annual Caring for our Country report card with input from the many sections involved in the program. I was given quite a lot of responsibility for managing the report card process and it was a great opportunity to develop both organisational and people skills! It also provided me with a helicopter view of how the division fitted together to deliver a multi-billion dollar program, as well as the broad spectrum of issues around natural resource management, from weed and pest management to the Indigenous ranger program. I also got to know people throughout the division through the coordination work, which was a real advantage.

In this section was I was also exposed to the Monitoring, Evaluation, Reporting and Improvement (MERI) process more broadly, including work to evaluate and report on the first five-year phase of Caring for our Country.


Second Placement—Planning, Tourism and National Landscapes, Parks

Working in Parks was a great experience to get a better understanding of conservation and protected area management. I was working on the new ten-year management plan for Kakadu National Park and was focused largely on analysing and evaluating the previous plan and helping to identify ways to improve the new plan. This involved looking at the messages coming out of consultations with traditional owners and Parks staff, as well as advice from leading conservation scientists and other experts. As part of this I was very lucky to be able to travel to Kakadu to interview line-area Parks staff and incorporate their feedback into the new management plan. This gave me a real insight into the challenges that are experienced in managing a protected area on the ground.

In this rotation I also assisted with stakeholder engagement around the new management plan, including identifying who we needed to be speaking with, as well as keeping everyone in the loop through newsletter updates. I was also exposed to early-stage conceptual development of new indicators and monitoring systems to use across the parks managed by Parks Australia.

Third Placement—Chemical Policy section, Environmental Quality Division

I was attracted to the chemical policy section because of my interest in environmental health issues, and working here I was exposed to everything from the implementation of international treaties like the Stockholm convention and the Rotterdam convention to the development of a new national framework for managing the environmental risks of chemicals (NChEM). I found it was a really interesting and stimulating challenge being exposed to the science around the various different chemicals the section was focused on.

One of my tasks here involved putting together a draft plan of action for the development of NChEM through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). I also took responsibility for updating the chemical policy content on the Departmental website which was a good way to get an understanding of all the issues the section dealt with. I also assisted with processing applications to import chemicals to Australia under the Rotterdam Convention and developing briefs for the OECD Joint Meeting which is focused on chemicals issues. Finally I also undertook some research on a number of chemicals that had been added to the Stockholm convention, to be included in the Regulatory Impact Statement being developed as part of the treaty-making process.

Final Placement—Monitoring and Reporting, Biodiversity Conservation Division

In my final placement I returned to the first section I worked in, to work on monitoring and reporting for the second phase of Caring for our Country, as well as assisting with the reporting on the last phase — specifically the final Caring for our Country report card. I’m looking forward to the challenge of developing improved monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes for the program that can help to tell us what impact Caring for our Country is having and how we can continue to improve the work that it does.