Alumni in profile

Image of Leah Newey

Leah Newey
Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours) 2006
Bachelor of Arts (Eco-Communication) 2005

Leah Newey says there are not many things she doesn't like about her job. In her current role, as a Project Officer with the East Gippsland Landcare Network she helps local landowners protect and restore native vegetation on their properties throughout eastern Victoria.

Ms Newey says the Network is a support body for the Landcare Groups in the East Gippsland Area and provides support staff to groups who are employed through government grants and funding schemes such as the Second Generation Landcare grants and National Heritage Trust.

'I get to meet a lot of different people when I visit farms and properties in some really beautiful country, she said.

'It's great to see when landholders have done work restoring creeks, wetlands and rainforest gullies on their properties - within a few years they can look amazing.'

Ms Newey travels to areas from Wellington all the way past Lakes Entrance and up into the foothills.

'I love learning about the plant species and vegetation in the area and helping landholders choose indigenous species for their projects,' she said.

'I like the administration side of the job as well, such as working with nurseries to grow the seedlings and sourcing planting materials.'

Leah explained that she is currently working on important native revegetation projects.

'One of my main projects at the moment is the Red Gum Plains Recovery Project that aims to revegetate areas in the Gippsland plains region,' she said.

'The Gippsland plains contain a number of Ecological Vegetation Classes that are endangered. For instance I am working to restore the plains grassy woodland which has only 5% of its original vegetation left due to clearing for agricultural production over the years including the endangered Forest Red Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) which is a closely related species to the River Red Gum and only is found on the Gippsland plains in Victoria.'
Ms Newey says a large part of her work involves distributing trees to Landcare members for their properties so they can restore the original native vegetation.

'I work with landholders to select the right species for their property, show them how to prepare the ground for planting, and give them their trees and guards in autumn to plant. This can be up to 9000 trees or 30 hectares of bush protected per landholder,' she said.

Originally from Traralgon in Victoria, Leah graduated from Deakin University's Warrnambool Campus in 2006. As part of her course she was able to combine studies in arts/communications and the environment at both TAFE and university level which she believes helped her to develop a wide skill set to use to great advantage in her work.

'I undertook my undergraduate course at Deakin because it offered public relations and communications as well as the sciences and management,' she said.

'This appealed to me because I wanted the knowledge of management and environmental science but also wanted the skills and abilities to work with people and their communities. I believe there is no point in having all the knowledge if you can't work with people and communicate that knowledge.'

Ms Newey went on to complete an honours year in Environmental Science to obtain stronger science credentials.

'My (honours) project was similar to what I am doing now, where I researched successful restoration in the Bay of Islands Coastal Park,' she said.

Ms Newey says she enjoyed her time at the Warrnambool Campus.

'I enjoyed studying in Warrnambool as it was close to the beach and is a beautiful laid back town with loads of outdoor activities,' she said.

'I enjoyed the smaller campus as you can get to know your lecturers and get more support that way. I felt that Deakin was good at promoting the practical side of the course. I had a few classes that were run through South West TAFE where you learnt more relevant and practical skills than you can in a theory-based course.'

During her time at Deakin, Leah lived on Student Residences and was actively involved in the local community including being a Deakin University Student Association student representative (environment representative), Enrolment Officer, Warrnambool Campus coordinator and representative on the Deakin University Student Council, Secretary for the Warrnambool Soccer Club and the Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare group.

Like many environment graduates, Leah initially found it difficult to obtain employment in the sector and she has some poignant advice for universities offering degrees in this area.

'I think one of the great challenges for Deakin and other universities is being able to implement more tailored careers support to help students break into the environment industry.'

She said this includes giving students access to careers counsellors who have experience in the industry and have the relevant contacts, people who can organise paid summer placement programs, volunteer opportunities, internships and traineeships in the industry and people who can tell you what other courses you can do to be more employable, what graduate programs are out there, where to look for jobs and how to apply for them.

'This can only make graduates more employable because they would have the skills and have had the opportunities to gain invaluable work experience throughout their studies.'

'I believe it is the responsibility of all universities to do as much as possible to make sure graduates end up with relevant jobs at the end of their studies,' she said.

As for the future, Leah has some clear career goals that may include a potential foray into the political arena.

'I intend to keep working and learning more and simply take opportunities when they come to me. I would like to one day work overseas in a developing country and when I'm old and wise do something in policy formulation or politics,' she said.

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Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

26th November 2009