For International Women’s Day 2019, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific is celebrating the achievements of the College’s outstanding alumnae. Student correspondent Dorothy Mason spoke to CAP alumna Fiona Lord, who is a Senior Advisor at NSW Natural Resource Commission.
What did you study at ANU and when did you graduate?
I studied a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (2009-2010) and a Masters in Environmental Management and Development (2013 - 2016) at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific’s Crawford School of Public Policy.
What inspired you to get into your field and why?
I was inspired right from a very young age to work in the natural resources management field, with the idea of building a career in an area that I could make a difference to resolving environmental challenges. My first memory of this is as a five-year old, being inspired by a WWF advertisement on the back of a Weetbix box about saving endangered animals (gorillas, pandas, rare tigers). From there, as a child, I became interested in fundraising for WWF and other environmental NGOs, and mobilising my friends to participate in events like 'Clean Up Australia Day'. I later developed a deeper interest and knowledge in natural resources management and decided that a combined law and environmental management degree would give me the tools and knowledge to contribute to this field.
I later met some real champions of environmental governance and public policy through my undergraduate degree at Macquarie University and in my career in the public sector, who continued to inspire me in my journey. Over this period (studying and early career) I became particularly interested in the international context and working to resolve global challenges, particularly climate change.
Who is a woman in your field that you look up to?
I worked with a range of women that I looked up to at the Department of Climate Change, AusAID and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Two women that stand out to me are Ms Harinder Sidhu, who is currently Australia's High Commissioner to India, and Ms Clare Walsh, Deputy Secretary, Global Cooperation, Development & Partnerships Group, DFAT. Both Harinder and Clare have keen intellects, effective leadership skills and a strong focus on staff development. They were inspiring to work for as they can both effectively navigate international processes, at both multilateral forums and in bilateral meetings, to achieve strong outcomes. Learning from their example was very helpful for me when I was the Country Representative of the Global Green Growth Institute in Cambodia, and also in my current role at the NSW Natural Resources Commission in leading a cross-government process to establish a NSW Forest Monitoring and Improvement Program.
What was the best thing about studying at ANU?
The ANU attracts a lot of leading academics who stimulate your thinking and provide a platform for class debate and discussion. I really enjoyed both the formal coursework but also the opportunities to attend public seminars with guest speakers related to my work. I also found the breadth of experience amongst the students in the Masters program really interesting – I learnt a lot from students from around the world as they drew on their prior professional experience during our class. I also enjoyed the opportunity to do more applied learning at the ANU Masters program - for example, working amongst a team of students on an issue-specific project or joint presentation on real world problem.
What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women's Day is really important to me. I am hopeful that over time, our workplaces can work toward genuine equality between women and men, particularly in enabling more women in leadership positions. I would ultimately like to see an equal number of women and men in the senior management positions and governing boards of organisations both in the public and private sector.
Also on a lighter note, the day brings back positive memories of my time living in Asia in 2015 to 2017. On International Women's Day in 2016, I was visiting colleagues in Vietnam and I had the wonderful experience of seeing the Vietnamese tradition of staff showing their appreciation for the women in their office by giving flowers to their female colleagues on this day. It makes me smile to think about this tradition.
What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Think about your ANU degree both as an opportunity to learn and an opportunity to build your professional networks. I gained a lot of experience through my interactions with my professors and classmates at the University - many of whom I have lost contact with now. However, I am starting to rebuild some of these networks with other ANU students through alumni events.
What your best memory from ANU?
I have many good memories from ANU. However, the class that I enjoyed the most was with Dr Keith Barney, Research Methods for Environmental Management. This class had a great mix of students from across Asia, Latin America and the Pacific. I enjoyed learning about Dr Barney's research on hydropower in Laos, and learning from the other students in the class about their experiences in environmental governance. I remember there being many interesting guest speakers brought in over video-link to this class too, which opened up multiple perspectives on complex research and management issues.
See the full collection of profiles from 2018 and 2019 on our "Inspiring Women of CAP" page.