Meet a Geographer — Working outdoors

Natalie Stalenberg

Senior Policy Officer, Department of Water, Land and Biodiversity Conservation

Natalie Stalenberg

Natalie’s role is to work with a number of community advisory committees and the local Natural Resource Management Boards on developing policy recommendations for water management in the Mount Lofty Ranges. She also assists in providing briefings to the Minister for Environment and Conservation and State Cabinet; as well as contributing to the development and implementation of communication materials and strategies to engage and inform the community and industry groups on water issues.

The best aspects of my job

The best thing about my job is working … to develop ways of better managing water use.The best thing about my job is that I am working in a region I grew up in with a team of people, including community representatives to develop ways of better managing water use. I grew up in Balhannah in the Onkaparinga Catchment of the Mount Lofty Ranges. I believe growing up spending weekends ‘down the creek’ was a big influence in my decision to study environmental management. I am now happy to be working in water management, and even better is knowing that I am making a difference to an area that I have a connection with.

My career pathway

My current career is a result of a career change that I deliberately embarked onMy current career is a result of a career change that I deliberately embarked on in 2000. Prior to 2000 I had spent 10 years in the radio broadcasting industry working as a journalist, announcer and copywriter with commercial radio stations in Adelaide and country Victoria and Queensland. After I completed by Bachelor of Environmental Management at Flinders University I won a graduate position with the Environment Protection Authority for 12 months as a Project Officer on their Water Catchments program. Here I enjoyed working on stormwater policy and developing professional relationships with different stakeholders including local government and the housing industry. In December 2003 I was employed as a Communications Officer on the Water Proofing Adelaide project and was quickly promoted to Communications Manager seeing the project through to its completion in March 2005. The project worked closely with the community implementing an extensive and innovative communications and engagement program. The Water Proofing Adelaide strategy is recognised as a blueprint for the South Australian Government to secure water supplies for the Adelaide Metropolitan Area to 2025.

Future career options

… there are opportunities in private consulting firms and non-government agencies … As a Senior Policy Officer there are a number of career options. By developing further experience in the job and taking advantage of career development opportunities (e.g. “Acting” in higher positions) someone in my position could move into a management role supervising others and working strategically within government, or become a direct adviser to the Minister or Chief Executive.  Another is to undertake further study in a specialised field and become a knowledge leader in that area. Alternatively, there are opportunities in private consulting firms and non-government agencies which value people with good knowledge of the workings of government.

Studies in Geography

My studies in Geography have been at the secondary level and then later as a mature age student at university. My university studies included environmental management topics such as: sustainable urban development, ecosystems, geographical information systems, environmental impact assessment, ecotourism, and research development. I supplemented these studies with some science subjects including freshwater ecology and biology.

Advice to people considering this type of career

I would suggest studying environmental law.Apart from studies in environmental/natural resource management I would suggest studying environmental law. This is an important component of policy development and one that I am now undertaking myself. It would also be beneficial to do some volunteer work in your field while studying. For example, with a Natural Resources Management Board on an extension project with landholders. I completed several different stints as a volunteer whilst studying my degree and this gave me a broader understanding of the different issues in environmental management and the stakeholders involved.