What’s involved in conservation campaigning?

Julie Melrose is Assistant Director for the Conservation Council Australian Capital Territory. She is a passionate advocate for progressive social and environmental change with over seven years experience managing a variety of projects and campaigns like Earth Hour for WWF.

WHY DO YOU HAVE A CONSERVATION JOB?     

I have been working for environmental NGOs for the last seven years. My passion for environmental conservation started at an early age – my parents were keen explorers and used to take my sister and I bushwalking and trekking in the Australian bush. My mum was an environmental outdoor education teacher, and taught me to work towards protecting the places I love. Having a conservation job allows me to work towards that goal every day

WHAT DOES DOING YOUR JOB ENTAIL ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS?             

My current job involves running a variety of projects and campaigns related to environmental conservation in Australia’s capital city – Canberra.

One of our main campaigns is calling for greater action on climate change at a national level, at a time when the new Federal Government is planning to remove Australia’s carbon price, cutting environmental programs, and rolling back investment in renewable energy. With other environment and social justice groups, I am helping to organise a National Day of Climate Action on the 17th November 2013.

With a background in environmental law, I also manage the organisation’s engagement with government and legislative processes, including writing submissions to Strategic Environmental Assessments of development applications and their impact on matters of national environmental significance under Australian environmental legislation.

WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF THE JOB?

The best part of my current job is working with so many diverse groups and individuals on a range of different projects. The Conservation Council has over 35 member groups, bringing the community together to work on conservation priorities. I enjoy learning from so many diverse people from a range of different backgrounds – farmers, politicians, public servants and more.

WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF THE JOB?

The worst part of the job is working with very limited resources, and having to spend quite a lot of time fundraising to make our work possible. In a small NGO, everyone becomes a fundraiser, despite not having trained in fundraising or marketing. This becomes an essential part of the job, but does sometimes take away from the real campaigning and policy work.

WHAT KEY STEPS IN YOUR CONSERVATION CAREER HAVE YOU TAKEN?

In 2008/9, I was offered a high level project management job with WWF Australia as National Coordinator of Earth Hour. I was only 22 at the time, and hadn’t had a huge amount of practical experience yet. My manager said she saw huge potential in me, and decided to give me a chance. This made all the difference. Ever since that position, I have taken on progressively more responsible roles within the environmental NGO sector.

In 2009, I decided to spend a year oversees working as a Divemaster on the Belizean Barrier Reef, leading dive trips and helping educate the community about the importance of the reef. In 2013, I am lucky enough to be working on a consulting project with the UN Environment Programme helping to develop a Global Coral Reef Partnership on coral reef protection. Having lived on the reef in Belize for a year, I have a practical understanding of the challenges facing coral reefs, and I am really happy that I made the choice to do some practical work to compliment my academic and other professional life.

Another big step was running as a candidate for the Australian Greens Party in the 2013 Australian Federal Election. It was a chance for me to campaign on the issues that I care about – especially action on climate change. I wasn’t elected but I learnt a lot about myself on the campaign trail, had the opportunity to improve my public speaking skills and become more knowledgeable on a range of policy issues. ”

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WISHING TO FOLLOW IN YOUR FOOTSTEPS?

I would say to people to be proactive – seek out new opportunities all the time and continue to challenge yourself.

Campaigns, Career Stories, Careers Advice

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