Ben Johnson

Position: Customer Service Centre Project Officer

Location: Ballarat


My name is Ben Johnson, I studied a masters of environmental and business management at Newcastle University.

The DEPI Grad position for Business Services, Comms and Engagement, which is the position I took, has really allowed me to mix my study in environmental and business management with my business background.

I think having not studied science myself and having studied a mix of environmental and business management the grad program is a great opportunity for someone of my background.

I'm currently based at the customer contact centre in Ballarat. They take phone calls for DEPI, CFA, and DPI from the Victorian community. One of the projects I've been working on recently is making the customer contact centre more user friendly for the deaf, speech, and hearing impaired members of the community.

My time at the customer contact centre has been quite dynamic in my first five months. They've been making a lot of changes down there in terms of technology use. So I've been involved in writing a number of business cases.

My next role in the grad program is Business Services, and following that next year I'll be involved with engagement and communications and I'm really looking forward to the engagement side of it.I think the beauty of the grad program is its flexibility. Over the next few years I'm hoping to get a taste of a few different areas and hopefully shape a career for myself into the future.

The advantages of working for DEPI are that it's an employer of choice, and for me personally having an interest in environmental management it's somewhere that I wanted to end up and forge a career.

Candace Jordan

Position: Public Land Services Project Officer

Locations: Anglesea, Geelong, Traralgon, Box Hill


My name is Candace Jordan and I grew up in Warrandyte, so the north eastern suburbs of Melbourne. So it's the bush, really close to the Yarra, so I've always had a connection to the environment, growing up there near the state park.

I studied a bachelor of science with honours at Melbourne University, and I majored in geology, and after that I did a one year masters of environment, focusing on climate change and water management.

I was always more interested in saving the planet than ripping it up and destroying it.

Being away from home and living on my own and having that independence has been fantastic. I've really enjoyed it and I'm in a great spot on the coast for my first year and it's a beautiful environment to live in.

The work-lifestyle balance that I've got in my job is fantastic.

I've got four placements, I'm in Anglesea, Geelong, Traralgon, and Box Hill. So I get to see different offices, different locations around Victoria.

You can choose where you want to head, whether it's biodiversity, climate change, coasts, land and fire.

The support within DEPI is excellent. Most grads get to work in a small team. We have a location supervisor who is there to support you, mentor you, guide you through your program. You also have team members who help you with your work and guidance as well. There's also the grad support team who run the program and they're always there to offer support if you need it.

Everyone has a common goal and views towards the environment and everyone is striving to protect it and lead to a more sustainable future.

Also the friendships you make with the other graduates is fantastic. Even though a lot of us are scattered throughout the state we have grad meetings and times where we catch up at training. It's always good to hear how everyone is going. It's the sort of friendships that you could make for life.

Tess O'Reilly

Position: Biodiversity Officer

Locations: Anglesea, Bendigo


Hi, my name is Tess O'Reilly, I'm from northern NSW. I studied environmental science in Wollongong. I'm currently in Bendigo, in the DEPI graduate program, doing biodiversity services with the threatened species team.

My first year of the grad program was down in Anglesea. A lot of my work was through the Otways, down along the Great Ocean Road. Did a lot of driving along the Great Ocean Road inspecting properties and things within the parks boundaries. Just a beautiful part of Victoria and just such a nice way to be at work, driving along the Great Ocean Road, through the mountain ash forests, working on the coasts and doing a lot of work with erosion and coastal processes. And then coming up here to Bendigo and working with bats and goldmines now.

So the placements within the grad program are different for everybody. I have two twelve month placements. Some people have three eight month placements, and some people have more depending on what jobs you're doing.

My two placements within public land and biodiversity were part of that role. If you apply for the different jobs there's different placements that you do.

You have all these people around you that are experts and just learn so much going out with them doing fieldwork. But the value that this job has added to what I've learnt and how much I've actually used my degree through the job has really surprised me actually. A lot of the things that I never thought id use again are the things that I've used the most.

Just to follow on from that and to keep working towards why i started studying and why I was first interested in learning about the environment and what we can do to help it.

Gemma Pech

Position: Statutory Planning Services Project Officer

Location: Bendigo


My name is Gemma Peck and I'm with the DEPI science graduates program. I started in February this year, and I studied at Melbourne Uni. I did an arts and science degree. I went on a field trip in the summer of my first year and that got me into botany and so basically for the next four years I spent a lot of time studying plants.

In the last four months I've been learning a bit about the role that I'm taking on this year, which is working in the statutory planning services. That's sort of dealing with applications that are coming in from the councils or applicants that are sending them to us directly so I've had to learn about some of the issues surrounding development in Bendigo, and in the Goldfields Region more generally.

Every graduate that comes to the program is given a learning and development budget. So in my first five months of the program I've had $2500 to spend on training. Part of that is training that is related to the role that I have now, part of it is compulsory training, and part of it is for training that interests me.

Just last week I was in Melbourne for a training course to learn how to use a database that will help me analyse some of the reports that I'm putting through the office. If I'm able to use that program to analyse the data that's coming in, hopefully I can make some findings that could change the way my role and others around me work, so that would be really cool.

The other graduates are a really good group of people to be around, we do things socially as well as in work contexts. I've just found it really positive.

Absolutely I'm looking forward to working for the DEPI.

Tim Hunt

Position: Land and Fire Services Project Officer

Locations: Bendigo, Alexandra, Benalla


My name's Tim, I studied natural resource management at the University of Melbourne for three years. Now I'm in the graduate program in land and fire services in Bendigo.

I always wanted to get into fire management. That was the one thing at university that really interested me. So I had a look at the grad program website and there were a couple of positions in land and fire services.

After the first stage of the application we went through to group testing which was quite interesting cause we got to meet a lot of other people in our position that had similar sort of goals so it was really interesting to have a chat to them and see where they had come from and where they wanted to go in their careers as well.

Then the final stage of testing was just an interview as a normal job interview situation, one on a panel. That was interesting to have a chat to some of the people from DEPI to find out where they started and how they all got into it.

In my program I've been at Bendigo for nearly eight months now. I've been completing a project that spans eight work centres, organising 30 people from the work centres to complete fuel assessment surveys.

I'm coming up to the end of my first placement which is at Bendigo. In a few weeks I'll be located in Alexandra, and then my last placement will be in Benalla.

At the end of the graduate program I'd really love to be a burn planner. There's an awful lot of decision making and problem solving involved and the grad program is really going to help me develop that so I'll be able to be where I want to be in a couple of years.

It feels pretty good that I'll come out with a full time position at the end of it, and the skills to do that position.

I'd definitely say to give it a go. There's so many opportunities and such a broad range of areas to work in that you really can't lose if you give it a shot.

Stephanie Spry

Position: Natural Resources Management (NRM) Research and Development Project Officer

Locations: Melbourne, Rutherglen

During Stephanie Spry's two-year DEPI Graduate Program she has explored the region where science meets policy. And the Bachelor of Science graduate who majored in Marine Biology has had the opportunity to understand the issues from both sides of the fence. "There's a lot of technical research being done by universities and other institutes," Stephanie explains. "And then there's the actual policy, where things get put into practice and implemented on the ground. Science can be very difficult and technical, not accessible to non-experts. So it's interesting to see how we can present the science in a form that is useful and that will allow it to get picked up and used sensibly in policy decisions, so what is implemented is effective and true.

"Stephanie's passion for combining research with reality is evident in the Forest Internship project, part of her Masters of Environment through Melbourne University, which she is attaining with the help of her Graduate Program education budget.

"It's a collaborative project, between DEPI and Melbourne University," she explains of her current placement. "I am researching whether soils fit into the Victorian Government's asset-based approach to assessing projects for investment.

"The theme running through these two years has been looking at science-to-policy," Stephanie says of her experience. "I've really been able to explore it and I've been very lucky to start in policy, to go out to the research institutions, then to come back to policy and put some context around it."

"Overall it is a really fantastic program and a great place to start your career," Stephanie concludes. "If I was giving advice to someone who was thinking about applying, I'd say don't think how you can mould yourself to fit the position, rather think how you can show your skills and who you are. If you are interested in it and it's something you want to do, and you are prepared to face the personal and professional challenges ahead, don't let anything hold you back."

Jill Gallucci

Department: DEPI

Position: Fire Management Project Officer

Jill Galluci was in the second placement of her Graduate Program, working in the strategic fuel breaks team at Woori Yallock, when the worst bush fires in Victoria's recorded history occurred. Fuel breaks are areas of land where burnable 'ground fuel' – scrub and wood – is cleared, to allow back-burning by fire crews. "With more than 600km of these fuel breaks it's a huge ongoing project," Jill says. "On the 8th of February 2009, crews were deployed to back burn, and they were able to prevent fire entering the Upper Yarra catchment area, because the fuel break was already in place. We produced a map afterwards of how the strategic fuel breaks were used, and during those fires they were used so much.

"During Jill's Arts Science degree at Monash University she majored in geography and atmosphere and completed Honours in the School of Geography and Environmental Science studying post-fire flash flooding. "I have always had an interest in weather, and studied overseas at the University of Oklahoma for a semester," she says. "I came into the Graduate Program thinking about fire behaviour, but I have become more interested in fire suppression, I've really enjoyed working with the teams." Jill has accepted a one year fixed term placement as Fire Planning Project Officer, based at Box Hill.

The work itself was broad-reaching. "You learn from experienced people who really go out of their way to help you," says Jill. "Everyone has been really welcoming, they become mentors and I feel so lucky to have worked with some of these amazingly experienced people.

"Plus being with the other Graduate Program people, that network of people who are going through the same sorts of things as you has been a highlight. You also have an instant camaraderie with the previous Graduate Program people, the network extends throughout the years. We keep in touch and they are there if I need to ask something.

"In any other job you would stick to your job description guidelines, but in the Graduate Program you get to a point where you can say, what can I contribute to the placement I'm in, where can I do new things and bring the experiences from other districts to my new district. That's just fantastic. Who would have the amount of experience we have, on their resumes after just two years?"

Page last updated: 09/06/17