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Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF)

  • 1,000 - 50,000 employees

Abhi Aiyer

Anything from international negotiations, running seminars, inputting into policy, writing briefings, creating databases and analytical tools, being part of committees and consultation meetings – it’s all so diverse and this is the part of my job I love the most.

What's your job about?

My current rotation is with the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park team within Parks Australia. Our team touches all aspects of park management, park operations, research and on-park science, cultural education, and park governance as it is jointly managed with local Traditional Owners (Anangu). As a dual-listed world heritage site, all these factors are interconnected; and meaningful engagement with Anangu is at the forefront of all the work we do to ensure a sustainable future for Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

I am currently working on creating a decision-making framework and database to record and analyse all past (and future) resolutions and decisions that arise from Board-of-Management meetings with Anangu. This project is super complex and very sensitive in the subject matter. However, it mainly revolves around engaging meaningfully with Traditional Owners on decision making – and ensuring that processes are put in place to track decisions and create robust policy for a better future for Anangu and the park.

I chose this rotation because of my passion for meaningful Indigenous engagement and reconciliation, which combined with National Parks was a dream.

What's your background?

I am Australian, but my parents are migrants. I was born in and grew up in Sydney.

When I was younger I thought I was going to be a veterinarian like most animal-obsessed children. But making the choice to instead pursue wildlife conservation as a career was the best decision I ever made! My Honours project in the Kimberley; working on-ground with researchers, Indigenous ranger groups and state governments to save freshwater crocodiles from cane toads made me fall in love with remote work, fieldwork, stakeholder engagement and the synergy of when science meets on-ground action.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

Yes! If you have a genuine drive to engage respectfully with Indigenous stakeholders, respect the value of traditional knowledge and are open to learning and navigating the nuances that come from meaningful consultation.

What made you pick DAWE as your graduate program?

I grew up exploring the bush and rainforests around where I lived; looking for frogs under fallen trees, asking questions constantly, and thinking critically about what we need to do to protect our environment for the future. Getting to do this now at a professional level is an immense privilege.

DAWE was my dream graduate program/introduction into full-time work and working for and is exactly where I see myself working. The department is so diverse in its scope and has so much reach – internationally, with state governments and non-government organisations. I find the work so interesting, that if I could rotate through every section I would!

The graduate program structure itself also appealed to me and allowed me to get both a broad experience and more in-depth knowledge within sections where I have a specific interest. I wanted exposure to both policy and on-ground initiatives, which I have achieved during my time within the program.

How has DAWE helped you achieve your goals?

The teams that I have been a part of have been so welcoming and friendly – especially to a graduate. They have loved and embraced grads and are always looking for opportunities they can provide to further my development and skillset. I think this is a DAWE-wide attitude and has made the transition to the APS very enjoyable. The structured learning and development embedded within the program have also been very helpful in challenging me and showing me how I can achieve my goals even after the completion of my graduate year.

What is the culture at DAWE like?

Super friendly, the SES is so approachable, friendly and welcoming to graduates. Many of them were grads themselves – and they have been great at sharing their knowledge and experiences with our cohort. Everyone at DAWE is extremely passionate about their work, and how their work translates into positive differences. While it can be stressful at times, we are united by our shared vision for a sustainable future.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Get paid to learn and give things a red hot go!

I love the variety of tasks that graduates get to be a part of. Anything from international negotiations, running seminars, inputting into policy, writing briefings, creating databases and analytical tools, being part of committees and consultation meetings – it’s all so diverse and this is the part of my job I love the most. When I do feel overwhelmed, connecting back to my passion for this job and why I wanted to be here in the first place is helpful. Thinking about how the work that we do is going to have a positive impact on people, the environment or animals is crucial.

What was the best thing about your grad rotation?

Getting to travel to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, experience the work that happens on-park and meets so many exciting people. Sitting in on meetings that I couldn’t have even dreamt about being involved in has also been a ‘pinch me moment. I can tangibly see how the work I am doing will make a lasting and positive impact on joint management with Anangu, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of something bigger that will leave a legacy.

What 3 pieces of advice would you give yourself when you were a student?

Try and develop a growth mindset and embrace feedback. Do the uncomfortable – extend yourself, do things that challenge you and become okay with failure. It’s ultimately about the lessons you learn along the way, not the outcome. Set boundaries for yourself and don’t overload/overcommit. You can’t give it your best effort if you don’t have any fuel left in the tank! Rediscover and remind yourself of your passion and you're ‘why’.