Cadetship at CSIRO

During the summers of 2016/17, I was employed at CSIRO (Commonwealth Science Industrial Research Organisation) for a total of twenty-four weeks as a corporate communications officers in the Land & Water business unit.

The opportunity to work with Australia’s most reputable research organisation was an amazing experience, and allowed me to apply the knowledge gained through university on projects which could impact the long-term prosperity of some of Australia’s largest industries. These included Australia’s mining and agricultural industries, where I assisted in cases such as the restoration of mining legacies in the outback, and the tracking of feral animals in the Northern Territory.

The twenty-four weeks I spent at the organisation provided an opportunity to strengthen my research and communication skills, and taught me how to adapt these skills to different roles in the organisation. This ranged from accompanying scientists to conferences and assisting them in gathering communications content for the office, preparing communications plans for a research trip independently, aiding senior management in preparing research briefs and writing features for the CSIRO ECOS magazine.

Other roles included preparing the monthly newsletter through the Sitecore CMS, managing the organisations image database through the Tardis system, and attending meetings to gain a better understanding of the Australian governments expectations of the organisation, and what that means for our future communications strategy.


RESEARCH BRIEF

During my time at CSIRO one of the tasks I was delegated was to prepare a research brief for senior communication officers to aid in the construction of a portal that compiled vast swaths of research concerning CSIRO’s Future Cities project. It involved searching through the current research available to the public, and outlining the most crucial sections to include in the portal page.

The Future Cities project specifically addressed the rising population in our capital cities, and the importance of these areas in the future, and the challenges that would arise. The central themes to the research included studies on socioeconomic development, designing infastructure to be more resilient to extreme weather conditions, and how to be more energy efficient in concentrated areas.

On completion of the research brief I had gained an appreciation for the scale of the research being conducted at the organisation, and how the organisations vision allowed it to conduct numerous smaller research projects, with the purpose of compiling the research into an easily accessible and understandable guide to a rising issue for the future development of our societies. It is this that irked my interest in learning more about the theories behind development in the modern era, and am currently doing a graduate diploma in international/community development. 


ECOS ARTICLES

Throughout my cadetship I was provided the opportunity to be published in CSIRO’s ECOS publication which provides in-depth articles on the current research being conducted. The two articles I got published surrounded the use of LiDAR technology to detect invasive plant species which are terraforming the ecological landscape of Australia and altering the fire cycles behaviour, and one on the use of new tracking technology in the Northern Territory to provide real-time information on the movement of feral animals.

 

The writing of these articles required me to do background research on niche areas of scientific expertise before interviewing the scientists themselves and easing out some of the more complicated aspects of the topic. The process while difficult at first since not coming from a purely scientific background became easier throughout my cadetship as I was slowly exposed to the language and jargon used in the scientific community.


FIELD TRIP TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

The field trip to the Northern Territory was an amazing experience to gain first-hand experience collecting communications content in the field and to create from scratch the communications plan that outlined the purpose of the trip. I joined the research team to document the trip and to collect information of the research the team was conducting on the movement of feral pigs and buffaloes in the region.

The ten hour days would see us setting up the base station in the Australian scrub, planting relay nodes in the surrounding area to pick up a signal and traveling out onto the flood planes to set-up the traps. It was an eye-opening experience which showed me just how much effort goes into collected data directly from the field and how much content can be derived from just a five-day trip.

During the field trip, we interviewed all the scientists on the team to outline the part of the research project they were responsible for and how their work contributes to the overall project. This information allowed us to construct two separate articles for the CSIRO blog and ECOS as mentioned previously. In the future, a video will be created from these interviews to show to the ministers in the Australian federal parliament.

 

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ASSETS FILMING

One of CSIRO initiatives is to incite more indigenous high school students to consider a career in the STEM fields. To do this the communications team interviewed four indigenous employees (of which I was one of them) to talk about the path from high school to finally entering the workforce.

It was a rewarding experience and allowed us to flesh out the challenges of graduating from high school/university whilst trying to decide the career you want in the future. Filming the interview was particularly rewarding and I was tasked with constructing the interview questions which would be used to highlight this journey.

 

 


My responsibilities included

  • Handling resources in the image database
  • Preparing the monthly newsletter for ECOS
  • Writing stories for the blog/ECOS
  • Drafting case studies to showcase research CSIRO has done
  • Creating research brief for upper-management to create a site portal
  • Constructing a communication plan for a field trip to the Northern Territory to collect a range of content.
  • Going to the Northern Territory to conduct interviews and photograph the research being done in the field.
  • Engaging in sector meeting to provide input on future content the communications team can potentially pursue.
  • Filming a short video to persuade high school students to pursue a career in the STEM field.

 

The Wilderness Society

During my final semester at Griffith University, I completed an internship at The Wilderness Society and utilised the knowledge I gained through my dual undergraduate degree in journalism/business to campaign for a deforestation pledge in the upcoming Queensland election.

The role required me to coordinate our supporters, prepare press releases/volunteer emails, phone banking our supporters, managing The Wilderness Society Queensland’s social media page and providing leadership during campaign actions. Throughout this time I developed a greater appreciation for the amount of coordination required for instigating a grassroots campaign, the relationship building required to mobilise supporters behind a cause and the importance of mindful leadership in the not-for-profit sector.

The sections below provide an insight into the work I completed during my time at The Wilderness Society and how my dual degree provided me with the knowledge to provide support for The Wilderness Society’s upcoming campaign surrounding land clearing in Queensland.


During the early stages of the internship I created emails to send out to our supporters. The emails targeted those in the electorates we are campaigning in, long-time supporters of the organisation and recent supporters who expressed interest in aiding the land clearing campaign. The response rate from the emails is quite small, however, it wasn’t a surprise to the organisation, with research showing that emails are only effective on 5% of those who received it.

The simplicity of the emails and the recipients mean that I didn’t need to spend a considerable amount of time considering the language of the message since it aligned with previous communication activities. However, I was mindful to reply promptly to those who did reply outside of office hours and ringing those who required more information to provide more substantial information.

I want to help end the land clearing crisis in QLD 

Hey ________,  
I am Sharn from the Wilderness Society, I’m sending this email because you’ve expressed interest in being a part of the Wilderness Society and the movement to stop the land clearing crisis in Queensland, where an MCG sized area is lost every three minutes.  

The Queensland election is approaching and in the past four years’ council rates have tripled, our carbon emissions continue to rise and the injury, displacement and death of our native wildlife will continue without action. The coming months are a critical time to mobilise and to implement change within our state.   

To achieve this, we need your help, and we’ll be creating our land clearing team on the 19th of June, where we’ll be providing information on how you can get involved within your local area and turn the tide of land clearing in Queensland.


The first thing I would do when entering the office on Monday would be reading through my emails of potential content and discussing with supervisors which actions, information or calls to actions should be published on the social media page. The posts would usually require most of the morning to complete, with others in the organisation handling content which appeared later in the week.

The writing of the content followed the inverted pyramid style of writing, with a specific ask added at the end of the message to get our supporters to engage in our actions or simply interested in hearing about future activities.

Since my time at The Wilderness Society was limited I created a TWS volunteer social media guide for other volunteers to use. It outlined the basic strategies to posting content online and tailoring it to our communication strategies and tone of the organisation. 

 

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One of the most used tactics in TWS’s communications strategy is the use of personal narratives to find commonalities with potential supporters and establish a mutual understanding. Through this, you can engage with supporters in a genuine manner and continue the conversation long after you’ve stopped discussing the environment. It’s through this that you establish relationships throughout the community and allow you to mobilise them for support in the future. 

“Hello everyone my name is Sharn Kennedy and I just want to have a quick chat you about what being a part of The Wilderness Society entails and what it actually means to me as well. The difference I find with The Wilderness Society compared to other non-profits and volunteer organisations is that when I’m here I’m a lot more directly involved in the decision-making process. Because at the end of the day we’re all here because we are willing to sacrifice our time to support the environment.”

“Kaine and Gemma can write as many press releases or social media posts as they want but it’s us who are the driving force behind this organisation and the team here realises that. It’s why we are able to provide input to the actions we want to do, how we’re going to go about it and The Wilderness Society is willing to provide those resources so we can. I joined this organisation because it put the power back into my hands so that I can change my community for the better, and I honestly believe that’s why we’re all here tonight.”


The final part of my internship focused on directly leading a regional TWS team in the north of Brisbane. The team meets fortnightly to debrief on actions we had completed during the past fortnight and discern where we could mobilise to engage with those in our community. It involved being able to facilitate discussion amongst individuals who can be quite steadfast in their ideals, but, finding the common ground on larger issues to ensure our representation of the environmental movement is acceptable to the greater community.

The predominant actions we focused on are market stalls, a film screening of the film ‘Restoring Earth’ and direct actions in King George Square involving the deforestation campaign. Being a part of a dedicated and like-minded team was an incredibly rewarding experience. It showed me the true value of community organising and how those within a movement can be utilised to spur lasting change in our area.

I’ll continue to be a part of the Metro North Team throughout my time in the Brisbane area. In preparation for when I move away from the Brisbane area I am collaborating with other members of the team to transfer the knowledge I’ve acquired through guiding the team to ensure a strong sense of leadership and direction remains.


The opportunity to do an internship at The Wilderness Society was an incredibly rewarding experience, which allowed me to gain experience in another area of communications/environmental conservation in which I had no prior experience. I’ll be leaving TWS with a greater understanding of how campaigning, community organising and direct actions can influence our world, and applying it in my pursuit of starting a career in journalism.

On completion of my internship I did a critical reflection upon my experiences and how it aligned with the knowledge I gained through university. It has allowed me to shred preconceived biases and perceptions I held before starting the internship.

Comparing the knowledge and experiences I now possesses to my development throughout university has been eye opening. I’ll be graduating from Griffith University with a broader perspective of the world we live in and an understanding of the difficulties which await in my future development.


Log of TWS’s internship

Date Hours worked Roles carried out
12th of June 10am – 5pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Contacting supporters to invite them to our campaign launch on the 19th of June.
  • Drafting an email to our supporters to raise awareness of the upcoming election/deforestation issue.
19th of June 10am – 5pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Co-leading the TWS’s Metro North community team.
  • Drafting the letter to the QLD premier and opposition leader.
  • Inciting volunteers to commit to actions through the use of a personal narrative.
  • Leading volunteers through our volunteer campaign launch aimed at securing numbers to our September campaign training.

26th of June 

10am – 5pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Preparing the draft for TWS Queensland’s internal newsletter.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions
3rd of July 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
  • Co-leading the TWS’s Metro North community team.
10th of July 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
17th of July 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training.
  • · Co-leading TWS’s Metro North community team.
24th of July 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
31st of July 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
  • Co-leading TWS’s Metro North community team.
7th of August 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
21st of August 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
  • Co-leading TWS’s Metro North community team.
28th of August 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
4th of September 10am – 8pm
  • Managing the TWS Queensland’s social media page.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to invite them to the September campaign training. 
  • Co-leading TWS’s Metro North community team.
9th of September 7am – 4:30pm
  • Attended the official TWS campaign training day with our national campaign organiser.
  • Coordinated with team leaders to determine which days people can attend either door knocking or phone banking.
11th of September 10am – 5pm
  • Began creating a social media guide for the community teams.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Co-leading TWS’s Metro North community team.
20th of September 12pm – 8pm
  • Finishing the social media guide for the community teams.
  • Coordinating volunteers to upcoming events/actions.
  • Phoning our supporters to inform them of the land clearing campaign.