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Get to know SA committee member Hannah Ellyard

The Australian Water Association’s South Australian branch sat down with committee member Hannah Ellyard to find out more about her.

Hannah Ellyard Hannah Ellyard

Qualifications

Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science (Ecological Management). Yes I was an ecologist once upon a time.

Current position and employer

Acting Manager Urban Water Strategy - Department for Environment and Water.

What has your career path been like?

It’s been varied. I started in water resource management, did a stint in consulting with a lot of EIS [environmental impact statement] work, went back to water resource management, then branched out to strategic planning for natural resources management, working with regional natural resources management boards and community committees. 

Now I’m back to where it all started with another stint in water resources management, this time in an urban context.

What can’t you do without?

Coffee.

Describe a typical workday

Working in government policy I don’t get away from the laptop much – on a good day we’re working to set the policy direction for urban water management for the state, which offers exciting opportunities to be at the forefront of innovative sustainable water use (plenty of buzz words of course). On a bad day I write a lot of ministerial briefings on anything from the benefits of a ‘drain sock’ to water supplies in remote communities.

Do you have children?

Yes, one 11-year-old boy.

How do you maintain balance between your work and personal life?

Learn to say no to the things that aren’t important, and even (or especially) when you are busy take a few minutes to do something that is just for you. Also holidays – book that plane ticket and go.

What changes or trends are happening in the water industry?

I’ve mostly worked at the resource management end of the water industry. Coming back after a few years away doing other things, it felt a bit like we were still grappling with the same complicated problems 10 years later, so some days it feels like nothing is changing. 

I’m optimistic though that with all the focus on drought, fires and floods it might be a good time to really make some changes to address the significant challenges ahead of us. From a water point of view, I think that’s about making the best use of all of available water sources to meet demands and to set us up for a more secure water future. The whole water industry has a part to play in that.

Rugby, AFL or soccer?

It used to be AFL but these days because of the influence of an obsessed 11 year old it's, ‘football with the round ball’. There’s only so much sporting information I can take in at any one time so the AFL has had to go in favour of the multitude of European football leagues – there’s a lot of stats to try and keep track of there.

Hobbies past or present?

Travel and photography. My preference is to combine them as often as possible.

Do you have any other volunteer roles?

Yep: team manager of my son’s soccer team (see previous response to sports question!).

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A documentary filmmaker, inspired by David Attenborough.

What would your dream holiday be?

Anywhere I haven’t been yet; the world is big and I’d like to see it all. I’ve made a pretty good dent with regular trips overseas but there is still a lot left to discover.

What was your first job?

Working in a seafood shop (the kind that sells actual fresh fish not fish and chips).

What's the most unusual thing that's happened to you at work?

The weirdest job I had when I worked in consulting was an environmental audit of the bulk loading facilities at the Outer Harbor docks. Back in those days (without admitting my age it’s fair to say it was pre-9/11) you could turn up at Outer Harbor with a clipboard and an explanation and wander straight up onto the ships. I haven’t been on a bulk wheat cargo ship before or since. I’m guessing security is a little tighter now.

What advice would you give to a young person just starting out in our industry?

Take the opportunities that come along as you never know where they may lead. Don’t be afraid to try something new that pushes you outside your comfort zone. Ask questions to help you understand, listen to a variety of views and form your own opinion. Enjoy what you do – life is too short to spend in a job you hate.