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Spotlight on a Regional YWP: Sarah Collum

This is part of a series of Regional Young Water Professional Spotlight articles, with an interview with Sarah Collum, who works for Snowy Monaro Regional Council. The Spotlight articles highlight the experiences and contributions our regional members make to their industry and communities.  

Q: Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do. 

I grew up in Melbourne, Victoria and have always been interested in the environment. I am extremely passionate about being outdoors and protecting the environment, and enjoy spending a lot of time in remote environments. I find that seeing damage to the environment such as urban sprawl and environmental damage can light a fire in you.

I moved to the ACT to study at the Australian National University to do an environmental science and law double degree (I’m still finishing the law degree). In 2019, I moved to Snowy Monaro Regional Council to become the Quality Compliance Officer. I did this for two years, and have recently become the Strategic Planner for Water and Wastewater. This is an interesting role that involves me working on documents such as Council’s Integrated Water Cycle Management Plans and Development Servicing Plan, completing capital works planning for Council’s water and wastewater section, and any other works that help provide a long term plan for Council in the water and wastewater area.

Q: What brought you to work at Snowy Monaro Regional Council? 

I like the lifestyle and environment of a regional town hidden in the mountains. It means that I can use my degree as well as live in a regional area such as the Snowy Mountains. I’m a passionate mountaineer, hiker and skier so being in this environment is great, and the flexibility of working at Council means I can take advantage of that.

Q: What is the best thing about working in a regional area? 

I think the people here are great and I enjoy getting to work outdoors, but I also like the professional opportunities available at Council. I am a bit of a generalist, so I thrive on the variability of my job and learning a variety of things. Council is also supportive of me finishing my law degree and provides me with the opportunities to get the necessary experience and apply my degree in a practical setting while completing it.

Q: What is the most difficult thing about working in a regional area? 

I think making industry connections can be difficult. One of the benefits of COVID has been the change to online for many networking opportunities, which has been good. I was lucky to be sponsored by the Water Directorate to attend OzWater this year in Adelaide, which I found was invaluable to networking and being able to make connections in the water industry.

Q: What moment/achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? 

There isn’t one moment in particular, more a collection of moments. Being part of a team that helps safeguard and protect the environment can provide a lot of moments of pride. This can include successfully managing poor water quality events and making sure it doesn’t impact the community, or delivering infrastructure that helps to deliver health and environmental benefits.

Q: If you could go back five years, what advice would you give yourself? 

Surround yourself with a supportive team that listens and amplifies your voice. As a young female it can be challenging to be heard, so having a supportive team can be invaluable.

Regional YWP’s are making a difference in their local areas and the industry as a whole. If you are a YWP living, working, or studying in a regional area and would like to get involved or share your story, please find more information on our Young Water Professional page.