Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria. After completing high-school and while studying at university for five years, I worked as a senior sales assistant at Bakers Delight. In the third year of my undergraduate degree, I participated in the Monash Science Student Ambassador Program in 2016, representing Monash University’s Faculty of Science at several career expos, open days, and information sessions. In the final semester of my postgraduate degree in 2018, I undertook an internship at the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH), where I gained experience in and an understanding of workplace processes and culture, while exercising skills obtained through study (i.e., report writing, facilitation, and data analysis skills). During my final semester, I also spent seven days in Beijing, China where I travelled around the Yellow River Basin for a field-based unit called ‘International River Basin Management.’ The trip allowed me to develop an understanding of the complexity of water resource management outside of Australia.
How did you get to your current job position?
I applied for the DELWP Science & Planning Graduate Program in the final year of my postgraduate (master’s) degree in 2018. I found the details for the application process on the DELWP website. Through this process, I applied for two of the advertised graduate positions, one of which being the Graduate Water Policy Officer position, which I am currently in.
I believe I was offered this position due to my passion to work within the water resource and catchment management sector, supported my academic knowledge and transferable skills (i.e., written and verbal communication, data analysis, etc.) strengthened through University and my internship experience in a government-based organisation, the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.
I have been part of the Graduate Program for just over a year now (starting in January 2019), in my second of three rotations.
Our two-year graduate program allows us to rotate between three teams/locations. For my first rotation (January – September 2019), I started in the Licensing Groundwater & Unregulated Systems team at DELWP. I then moved to the Groundwater and Streams team at Goulburn-Murray Water for my second rotation (October 2019 – May 2020). For my third and final rotation, I will be placed at Melbourne Water.
While most graduate positions within the program rotate within the department (DELWP or DJPR), my position has been structured around gaining experience in our stakeholder organisations (i.e. rural and urban water corporations) in order to understand their operations, procedures, and their regional water resource management issues.
How did you choose your specialisation?
Prior to applying for the DELWP/DJPR Graduate Program, as the application process for this program opened later in the year, I applied for other Victorian and Australian Government Graduate Programs. I was looking for programs that targeted applicants with an environmental science background. I was, however, particularly interested in applying for programs with ‘water/catchment management’ related positions, which is how I came across the DELWP/DJPR Graduate Program, who were offering two positions within this area at the time. I was also interested in working in Victoria, liked the idea of rotating between teams and experiencing work in regional areas, which is where water resource management is critical and complex.
What was your interview process like?
The application process involved four key stages:
The first interview, which was part of the assessment centre, was a one-on-one interview with a recruitment officer. This was a very casual interview, with a conversational atmosphere. The interviewer casually asked me 4-5 questions, while she took notes. She even asked additional questions, to ensure I (the applicant) provided all the essential details to support my responses. Overall, questions related to my motivation for participating in the program and working for DELWP; interpersonal skills and teamwork, adaptability, and verbal communication.
The second and final interview was the last stage of the recruitment process, with a panel of 4-5 participants. The panel typically included a member of the DELWP/DJPR Graduate Management Team, a manager from each of the positions you were applying for / were offered an interview for, and someone else from within the department group you would be potentially is working in. I was unable to attend the interview in person, so they offered and set up a phone/ Skype call so I could participate. I appreciated the flexible interview arrangements. Questions within this interview related to motivation and skills (communication and collaboration) for the position of interest, taking initiative, having difficult conversations, integrity, and linking your values with DELWP’s values.
What does your employer do?
The Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) is a government department in Victoria, Australia. DELWP brings together Victoria’s climate change, energy, environment, water, forests, planning, local government, and emergency management functions into a single department to maximise connections between the environment, community, industry, and economy. DELWP focuses on creating a livable, inclusive, and sustainable Victoria with thriving natural environments – where the community is at the centre of everything the department does.
What are your areas of responsibility?
My position falls within the Water & Catchments group at DELWP. Water & Catchments is responsible for effectively managing Victoria’s water resources to meet future urban, rural, and environmental needs and works in partnership with stakeholders including water corporations and catchment management authorities. This includes the management of groundwater, catchments and waterways, infrastructure, water savings, and re-use projects, governance, and water legislation.
Within my first rotation, in the Licensing, Groundwater & Unregulated Systems (LGUS) team at DELWP, I was involved in drafting forwards, diagrams, and charts for policy documents; analysing data to produce a Key Performance Indicator report; writing ministerial correspondence and presenting in stakeholder meetings, etc. Overall, LGUS is involved in policy development for groundwater resources (e.g. setting extraction limits for groundwater catchments), unregulated streams (e.g. monitoring rosters and restrictions on the taking & using of surface water), and water compliance (to reduce the unauthorized take of water and meter tampering incidences).
Within my second rotation, in the Groundwater & Streams team at Goulburn-Murray Water, I have undertaken risk-based assessments of groundwater use applications, which assesses potential impacts of groundwater extraction from this user on the environment and neighbouring groundwater users; the collection, input, and analysis of groundwater use data; presentations to teams and community committees and fieldwork (e.g., shallow groundwater bore monitoring and water quality testing in irrigation drains). The Groundwater & Streams team is responsible for managing groundwater resources and surface water in unregulated streams in northern Victoria.
Can you describe a typical workday?
A typical day within Rotation 1 (Jan 2019 – Sept 2019): At DELWP, in the Licensing, Groundwater & Unregulated Systems (policy-based) team of the Water Resource Strategy division.
This rotation was very office-based and 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 am: I would arrive at work after a 50-minute train ride.
Logged into the computer and responded to emails.
Before lunch, I worked on any assigned tasks. These could include responding to ministerial correspondence, data analysis for KPI reports, researching for a Water Compliance Training Manual, creating DELWP Domestic & Stock Licensing webpages, or presenting at a workshop.
Every second Monday I completed a Rosters & Restrictions (of unregulated waterway systems) update, which involved 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 presenting slides for the Minister.
12.00 pm: Lunch was typically 30 minutes. This might have been 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 pm: After lunch, I would 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 pm: I sometimes took a quick tea break with a friend in the kitchen or others from my division.
4.00 pm: On Mondays, we had our weekly team meeting, where we discussed individual and team achievements from the previous week and/or upcoming events and tasks.
5.00 pm: Headed home!
A typical day within Rotation 2 (Sept 2019-May 2020): At Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW), in the Groundwater & Streams team of the Water Resources unit.
My second rotation was mainly office-based, although there were opportunities to do fieldwork. The aim of this rotation was to develop an understanding of regional (northern Victoria) water management issues through exposure and involvement in varying organisational procedures (e.g., groundwater application assessments) and projects (e.g., water compliance communications).
7.30 pm: If I drove to work it would only take 6 minutes, or walking took 30 minutes.
8.00 pm: Sometimes I got to work, and I was told I was going on an adventure, for example heading to Wangaratta to meet the Diversion Inspectors, Wodonga to meet with a groundwater bore license applicant, or to Waranaga Basin to measure groundwater bore levels.
Otherwise, I started by logging into my computer and checking emails.
After this, I worked on the task I’ve been allocated. This typically involved collecting water use information online via the Vic Water Register or Local Management Plans or starting to assess a groundwater bore license application in relation to impacts on surrounding groundwater users and/or nearby waterways.
I also had the opportunity to work with other teams (e.g. Drainage Systems, Water Quality, and Legal Services) within the organisation. This has allowed me to assist with additional tasks like data analysis of groundwater use survey results, database entry of water quality information, and drafting customer correspondence letters.
12.00 pm: For lunch, I would to the kitchen or walk down to the local lake or shops.
12.30 pm: I continued my tasks from the morning, or I attended a meeting about a project, aiming to expose me to other activities across the organisation.
4.00 pm: Left for the day.
What are the career prospects of your job?
From here, you can stay within the department and either move sides ways through secondment opportunities to gain a broad experience across your department group and/or move up to become a senior project or policy officer, who takes lead on a project or policy. If you’re interested in managing others, you can make your way up to be a manager or director, etc.
As you gain experience within your group, there are always opportunities to move to another department group (e.g., from Water & Catchments group to Environment & Climate Change group) to gain further experience within the department or move out into a consultancy or work for a stakeholder (e.g., water corporation, Parks Victoria, catchment management authority), who have more practical applications of the policies and guidelines developed in DELWP/DJPR.
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
As I have already finished my postgraduate degree, I would most likely still be working for Bakers Delight as a sales assistant, while seeking environmental volunteering positions and applying for other water-related entry-level positions within the public service.
What do you love the most about your job?
I enjoy the opportunity to work across varying projects, to gain an understanding of the varying responsibilities the department/organisation has.
I enjoy tasks that require research or seeking knowledge from others, including those I feel I can take ownership of. I also enjoy being given the opportunity to present on work I have been involved in, which allows me to not only develop a stronger understanding of the project, but also practice presentation and public speaking skills.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed contributing to the overall decision-making process in Victorian water management, whether it be undertaking a groundwater license application assessment or data analysis to produce diagrams and tables, to be incorporated in policy documents. Through this, I’ve enjoyed exercising knowledge gained through my university studies into real-world projects.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job?
So far, there have only been two limitations to my graduate position.
Working in policy typically means my position was to be heavily office-based. Although, moving into regional Victoria for my second rotation allowed for opportunities to do fieldwork (e.g., going out to test water quality in irrigation drains, meeting with customers, and measuring groundwater levels across the region).
As a graduate, the tasks you undertake are usually quite simple. These include collection and simple analysis of data, creation of graphs and tables, and taking meeting minutes. Although, I have come to realise, that being able to now successfully complete these tasks shows that you can follow processes, learn, and are ready to tackle more challenging projects.
As a graduate, it is your aim to network, shadow others, and exposes yourself to varying projects across teams, which will allow you to have a broader understanding of the department’s (or group’s) responsibilities and ongoing projects.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?