Senior Environmental Officer, working for a civil engineer firm
I work as an environmental and cultural heritage consultant for a civil engineer firm in outback QLD. My work is based in Barcaldine in central-QLD but I frequently travelling to other communities including Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia and Winton to name a few. My work predominantly involves leading pre-construction environmental surveys, looking at resident flora and fauna species, waterways and ecological communities on a project site and providing recommendations based off Legislation and on-ground observations. My career is more than just a job that pays the bills, it’s a passion, first sparked from my childhood spent outdoors on the family farm that I have followed throughout my schooling, into university and beyond. I enjoy the challenge of working remotely and bringing environmental values to the attention of rural local governments. In my spare time, I can be found running my way around outback QLD, with my dog by my side.
My company provides civil engineering services to 535,963km2 of QLD, working to improve the lives of those living in rural and remote communities. I manage environmental compliance across the company ensuring that all projects meet the required Federal and State environmental legislative triggers. I also assist 5 remote shires in the management of their drinking water schemes. Most recently, I have obtained my fauna-spotter catcher license so that I can work on construction sites to remove fauna out of harms way during vegetation clearing. Finally, I have undertaken an erosion and sediment control course so that I can assist Council’s in managing erosion and sedimentation on-site.
Whilst environmental compliance in construction is prevalent on the coast, many individuals out west remain stuck in the old style of thinking. Rural QLD is not as progressive as coastal QLD. People don’t quite understand the full impact of vegetation clearing or the notion of ecological sustainable development, believing environmental construction mitigation measures unnecessary and a waste of money.
This is where I try to make a difference. Through my work, I aim to bring the environmental values of outback QLD to the fore, working with local Government to understand the importance of their environmental legislative requirements and why the environment is something you can no longer turn a blind eye to.
One project that I have been working on is an investigation into the impact of Council operations upon threatened species populations in the area. When I first brought the idea to Council, they were hesitant, believing it to be unnecessary. However, through my work, I have been able to make Council understand the importance of knowing their full impact upon threatened species and are currently working with them to draft up a species management programme.
Another issue close to my heart is drinking water, something that is taken for granted by many in Australia. Australians expect potable water to come out of most taps not properly understanding the effort that goes into making sure it is safe for consumption. I assist Council in understanding their requirements under drinking water legislation and the importance of regular water testing to ensure their product is safe.
So, in short, the work I do benefits the communities and environment of rural and remote QLD, giving environmental values a voice when they might otherwise be ignored.
It’s 11pm on a Sunday night and I can’t sleep. All I can think about is this application which has made me realise how much I have changed since I first began to envision a career in STEMM. Twelve months ago, I would not have applied for an award like this. “People like me don’t get awards.” That’s what I would have told myself. You see, I’ve spent my entire school career being told and subsequently firmly believing that I was average. As hard as I tried, I was not a scholarship child. I was never picked for extra credit or the gifted and talented classes. I was the girl who went home from school crying in year 11 because I had been told that if I wanted any chance of a good ATAR, then I should not take year 12 chemistry. My favourite subject. My only science subject. The subject that would lead me into an undergraduate Science degree and my current career in STEMM. It’s crazy to think how some decisions can shape a life but even crazier to think of how those who influence our decision making can shape our lives. Had I listened to my school, I would not be sitting here filling out this application.
I have built my career off dedication, hard work and most importantly grit. Letting those who tell you “you are not good enough,” fuel my desire to prove a point and become good enough. This is why I believe I am a good role model for women but especially young girls. Because I have been told I am not good enough, I have been expected to fail but I have also ignored everyone who ever said I couldn’t do something. I understand what it’s like to be told you can’t. But I also understand what it takes to rise above that and prove that you can. I am a firm believer that anyone who puts their mind to something and works hard will achieve what they want. I believe this is something that women and particularly young girls need to be told and need to understand because even the smartest people will be told that they will not succeed at some point in their career and they need inspiration and role models to show them that they can.
In summary, I believe I am a good role model simply because I am your average person who knows how to put in the hard work to get where they want to.
I’m flying in four-seater plane. Behind me, the sun is beginning to rise. In front of me, the QLD Channel country spans out, one endless mass of floodplain. I’m flying to some of the most remote communities in western QLD to investigate their drinking water infrastructure, looking for any improvements that can be made to increase the safety of each town’s supply. While my body sits in the plane, my mind is far away. I have had many career highlights but for me, the pinnacle was my acceptance as one of 100 women from around the globe to be a part of the Homeward Bound seven cohort. This was something I had been dreaming of since I’d first heard about the Homeward Bound initiate in 2016. Homeward Bound is a global initiate, aimed at educating women with a STEMM background to become better leaders, providing them with the skills so that they can speak up, have the courage to put themselves into leadership positions that will influence outcomes to help tackle the climate crisis. As part of this programme, I am set to voyage to Antarctica, November 2023.
Being a part of the Homeward Bound initiative has not only enabled me to work collaboratively with like-minded women but it has taught me so much about myself. I used to shy away from leadership. Not because I didn’t want it but because I was scared that I would not be able to bring my best self to the table, too worried about what other people would think to be of any real influence. Homeward Bound has made me realise that imposter syndrome is real and that I am not alone in these feelings of inadequacy
Homeward Bound stands out as my most significant STEMM engagement and promotion activity, however, other things that come to mind include the following.
For the last two years I have been invited back to my high school to speak with the year seven girls about my career in science and how they too can forge their own paths. I have also taken the time to speak to the children at the Barcaldine local state school and the local Catholic school about my career in STEMM.
In 2018, I undertook a research internship at the Cloudbridge Nature Reserve in Costa Rica where I was able to collaborate with likeminded ecologists, working at a not-for-profit research station which had been set up as an experiment to study the regeneration of land in the Cloudforest that has been saved from agriculture. This work involved a lot of community engagement to show to visitors and locals the positive impact that the reserve has had upon bringing flora and fauna species back to the area.
Finally, my other large contribution to the scientific community was the publication of one of the chapters from my Honours thesis.