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Spotlight on a Regional YWP: Shanelle Smith

Shanelle Smith

We continue our series of Regional Young Water Professional Spotlight articles, with an interview with Shanelle Smith who works for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) in the Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage Program (ACWSP). The intention of the Spotlight articles is to form a series highlighting 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’m a Proud Gomeroi Yinarr from Moree New South Wales. I moved from Moree to Rose Bay Sydney to attend boarding school at Kambala All-Girls School Rose Bay and graduated from Kambala in 2017.  

I deferred uni to gain experience in the workforce and started working for Westpac as a trainee for about 15 months. The opportunity came up to apply for the “I’m Deadly” program which was an opportunity for Indigenous people to work with the Department of Planning Industry and Environment. I began working with the Aboriginal Communities Water and Sewerage team, which for me was the beginning of a new learning journey, with little knowledge about sewerage and water. Working in this environment every day, I was able to understand how the management of water and sewerage works, and the benefits of our commitment to ongoing maintenance for these remote Indigenous communities. The majority of the work I currently do is in communications with the Community. We work on various demand management tasks including water management and waste management. To succeed in this we work closely with community members and allow them to make decisions for themselves and to acknowledge what would work best for their community.  

Q: What brought you to work at Newcastle? 

At the time, my family had just moved to Newcastle from Moree, although Newcastle was still on the cards for me because of the distance from Sydney and Moree.   

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

I like that Newcastle has the best of both worlds, coming from a small country town it has more to offer, and it is big enough to have access to everything you need, but moving from Sydney also gives you a country vibe, as it’s not as busy as a big city like Sydney.  

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

Support networks are extremely important and moving from the country to the city could be hard, especially because of the distance from family. You have to be open to new friendships, join sporting teams, or attend work lunches; it will allow you to gain companions to create a support system in your home away from home.  

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

Something that motivates me is my family and my people, and the thought of giving back to the people before me is my biggest achievement. This didn’t just become my work, it also become a passion because I was benefitting my community and giving back to my people. I feel like in my position I am able to be a voice for my people, because of my lived experience in an Aboriginal Community I can advocate for them to be allowed the same rights as non-Indigenous Australians. Speaking up and yarning has been a way of me educating non-Indigenous mob to understand. 

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

I would tell myself that I am worth it, that I can do anything I put my mind to. I would also tell myself that it takes time to succeed and it doesn’t just happen straight away. You have to work hard and earn it.

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. NSW members can contact your YWP Committee Regional Representatives: 

Trevor Sultana | Trevor.Sultana@outlook.com 
Brendan Dagg | Brendan.Dagg@ghd.com