“We can work towards bridging the gap between science and policy decision-making."
Emily went into the Master of Environment with a passion for water and clear goals: to better understand the environment sector and to develop specialised knowledge in sustainable water resource and catchment management.
After graduating with a specialisation in Integrated Water Catchment Management in 2018, Emily joined the Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning (DELWP) Science & Planning Graduate Program as a Graduate Project Officer to further develop her practical skills.
A day in the life
One year into the two-year program, Emily shared with us a typical day from each of the rotations she has experienced so far.
Rotation 1 (Jan 2019 – Sept 2019)
At DELWP, in the Licensing, Groundwater & Unregulated Systems (policy-based) team of the Water Resource Strategy division.
My first rotation was very office-based, located in the CBD. The aim was to develop an understanding of government processes, including networking with people across the Water & Catchments group.
8:30 I arrive at work after a 50-minute train ride.
Log into the computer, respond to emails.
Before lunch I work on any assigned tasks. These could include Ministerial correspondence, data analysis for KPI reports, producing a Water Compliance Training Manual, creating DELWP Domestic & Stock Licensing webpages, or presenting at a workshop.
Every second Monday I complete a Rosters & Restrictions (of unregulated waterway systems) update, which involves collecting information from Rural Water Corporation websites, placing this into excel, doing some analysis, then summarising the results into an email to our Executive Director and presentation slides for the Minister.
12:00 Lunch is typically 30 minutes. This might be in the kitchen with others from my division, downstairs in the Café or somewhere across the road with a few of the other graduates.
12:30 After lunch, I continue to work on my assigned tasks, attend a meeting with my supervisor or catch-up with my compliance team members to provide an update on my compliance project.
3:00 I sometimes take a quick tea break with a friend in the kitchen or others from my division.
4:00 On Mondays we have our weekly team meeting, where we talk about achievements from the previous week and/or upcoming events and tasks
5:00 Head home!
Rotation 2 (Sept 2019 – May 2020):
At Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), in the Groundwater & Streams team of the Water Resources unit.
I am now based in the GMW head office in Tatura on my regional rotation. The differences between the two rotations relate to the types of projects I will work on, from policy-based to a more practical application. I also have to adjust to flexible working conditions. Team members frequently work from out of the office.
7:30 If I drive to work it only takes 6 minutes, or I take the 30-minute walk.
8:00 Sometimes I get to work and I’m told I’m going on an adventure, for example heading to Wangaratta to meet the Diversion Inspectors or Wodonga to meet with a groundwater bore licence applicant.
Otherwise, I start by logging into my computer and checking emails.
After this, I work on the task I’ve been allocated. This typically involves collecting water use information online via the Vic Water Register or Local Management Plans, or starting to assess a groundwater bore licence application in relation to impacts on surrounding groundwater users and/or nearby waterways.
12:00 For lunch, I can move to the kitchen or walk down to the local lake or shops.
12:30 I continue my tasks from the morning.
4:45 Leave for the day.
The experience so far
While adjusting to a 9-5 lifestyle has been challenging, Emily feels confident in the communication, teamwork, research and data analysis skills that she gained through her Master of Environment. The presentation skills she took from an internship at the Victorian Environmental Water Holder have proven particularly valuable, and she has also been able to apply theoretical knowledge from specific subjects in the role.
“As a graduate, the level of work isn’t as challenging as assignments undertaken through a masters,” she says. Instead, understanding the unique processes and expectations of the workplace has posed the main challenge. “A graduate’s role is to understand processes of the team and government, and network across teams.”
Kickstarting her career with a graduate program has been beneficial for Emily in many ways. The networking, mentoring and learning and development opportunities have helped her to deepen her understanding of the organisation and feel confident in her ability to progress through the organisation once she completes the program.
“I was lucky enough to be selected to shadow an executive in one of the other water divisions for two half days. Through this experience I developed a stronger understanding of their division, day-to-day tasks and the interactions across the Water & Catchments group,” Emily says. “There is always someone to seek guidance from.”
Looking to the future
Emily has one more rotation to complete, which she will undertake with Melbourne Water.
Having enjoyed working in government, Emily hopes to stay on with the DELWP team after the program is up so she can apply the knowledge she has gained.
“I hope to move around the Water & Catchments group of DELWP to broaden my experience in this space, including the environmental water or waterway health areas.”
When asked what role she sees science graduates playing in society, Emily highlights their unique capacity to approach issues from a scientific perspective.
“Science graduates are extremely important in shaping our world today and into the future, as we bring a scientific understanding to any issue. We can work towards bridging the gap between science and policy decision-making,” she says.
“This can include effectively communicating scientific concepts to communities. Science graduates also have strong interests in learning, researching and exploring new ideas and approaches, which will improve current processes.”