Speech written for young planners event, 2013

Born and bred in rural Victoria, I have been working in planning and development for twenty years. My career began in the Caulfield Council Planning Department as a work experience student, where I folded A1 architectural plans to fit into an A4 file for six months, which is as exciting as it sounds. During this time I learnt a lot about the functions of local government, how to answer a phone without sounding like the work experience student, and that being a planner requires patience, people skills and some resilience. Before graduating from RMIT with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Planning), I was lucky enough to land a job as a statutory planner at the City of Melbourne, where I had a fantastic boss who taught me to read, understand and apply the provisions of the Planning Scheme and Act. The fact that I already knew how to answer the phone and fold plans helped me land that job.

Lesson 1 – we all have to start somewhere and we need to be willing to do the menial stuff in order to get the glory jobs.

After a year I moved to the Strategic Planning Department, where I got to work on the Melbourne Bicycle Strategy and met some really interesting people, many of whom I have come across again over the years in the planning field.

Lesson 2 – Try not to burn your bridges. It' a small world, and an even smaller industry.

Two years in local government led to a job in a small Melbourne based consulting firm, then on to a larger firm, with five years at Urbis as an associate director. Many people have misconceptions about private practice – that it is cut throat, and that developers are evil.

Lesson 3 - Developers are not evil, they are just people doing a job like anyone else. Many I have been lucky enough to work with have contributed to great architectural and community outcomes.

Consulting taught me to manage my time efficiently, as well as other people and large projects. I learnt to negotiate with all levels of government and the community. I learnt to discuss property economics and social planning with people from all walks of life.

Lesson 4 – Consultancy can teach you many valuable lessons in our profession.

I then made the move from Northcote to Chewton. I attempted to commute to work for almost two years, before realising that I had developed a real interest in matters outside of the city. I established Provincial Matters in 2007 in order to focus on regional strategic and statutory planning projects. Since then, I have worked on large scale solar energy facility projects, the Loddon Mallee South Regional Strategic Plan, and more recently Regional Growth Plans for state government and the Southern Loddon Mallee Region.

I have also managed an 18 month stint in the Department of Planning and Community Development. I had never considered working for state government, but it gave me a great insight into the mechanics and interplay of politics and bureaucracy.

Lesson 5- no matter how old you are, never say never; you might miss out on something valuable

I currently have a mature age planning student from Latrobe working with me a few days a week. When I take her to meetings and introduce her to people, she is often asked, “Why are you doing planning? Are you mad?” Often this question comes from other planners.

I love my work. Planning is a fantastic profession where you can diversify into a multitude of avenues- you can work for renewable energy companies, become a project manager, or move into social and community planning, transport, natural resource management or urban design. The options are endless; you can become a political advisor, a people manager, a development manager, a sustainability officer, a strategist. You can become an advocate for your interests within the profession- in my case raising the profile of regional areas, and helping people to recognise that metro centric solutions can't be cookie cut into regional areas. I hope that with each project I do, I make just a little bit of a difference.

Member MPIA, UDIA and VPELA.