Will in the Northern Territory during his time as a jackaroo
The opportunity for carbon project development in Australia is making headlines and attracting huge interest in the agricultural sector. For William Devilee, working with South Pole's Climate Projects team in Australia has allowed him to combine his knowledge of agriculture with his passion for sustainability. Here Will shares his highlights and learnings after six months with the team.
Growing up in the regional Victorian town of Mildura, I spent a lot of time on my grandparent's farm. When I went to boarding school in Geelong, most of my mates were from farms too, and for most of us farming was a regular part of life. But it wasn't until I spent a year working on a remote cattle station as a jackaroo (an Aussie term for farm hand) in the Northern Territory that I really saw the impacts of climate change exacerbating drought and having a devastating effect on the landscape and the people and animals that call it home.
I absolutely loved my time up north, however, I came to realise the challenge of enacting large-scale change from the saddle. Hence, I decided to move back to Melbourne in 2020 to undertake postgraduate studies in Agricultural Business and Science, after which I landed a traineeship with South Pole.
My time as a trainee with South Pole over the past six months has been a brilliant introduction to both the corporate world as well as the private sector's role in addressing the climate challenge.
Coming from an agricultural background where much of my previous work experience was on a farm, my first few weeks at South Pole, or the “Iceberg," presented a fairly significant learning curve for me. I was required to swiftly familiarise myself with the vast array of carbon abatement methodologies under the Australian ERF system whilst also learning the ins and outs of the impressively diverse global organisation that is South Pole. And not long after getting up to speed with all of this, I jumped into the next challenge of helping to organise field trips, facilitate expressions of interest, and assess agricultural properties for carbon sequestration potential.
Whilst this sounds like it would have been a lot to deal with in a new job and entirely new environment, due to the incredibly supportive and accommodating team at South Pole, my traineeship has been anything but. Undoubtedly, the defining aspect of my time at South Pole thus far has been the people that I've worked with - my fellow “penguins." Despite a significant chunk of the last six months marred by lockdown-induced working from home, the professional relationships I have developed with my colleagues are second to none.
Virtual team building to celebrate South Pole's 15 year anniversary
Another striking element of the work environment worth noting is the incredible diversity of the Australian team in both nationality and experience. I have found it to be both fun and eye opening to be constantly working (albeit often virtually) alongside people of such a vast array of different perspectives.
Another huge highlight of my time as a trainee has been the three field trips we took to the Upper Murray region of North Eastern Victoria prior to the state's 2021 lockdowns. These trips, taken with the aim of spurring engagement in agricultural soil carbon projects in the region, also provided me the opportunity to learn intensively about how we work with our clients, listen to what their needs are, and develop the trust required to effectively deliver their projects. Being back on farms and talking to farmers was great and helping them learn about the opportunities for carbon projects was really exciting. Soil carbon projects can not only generate carbon credits but also improve farm productivity so it's a real win-win for farmers. Knowing the potential benefits that this can bring to farmers, I am incredibly grateful to be able to share this knowledge with them.
Will and colleague Audrey on a site visit in Victoria
As a trainee at South Pole, I have also been given great exposure to many of the different aspects of the business. Being a global company with activities that touch on all aspects of carbon and climate action, the variety of my training has been brilliant. I have worked in the sourcing, development, and implementation of carbon projects, as well helped with biodiversity projects and marketing campaigns. The varied experiences I gained have allowed me to find my strength in project implementation, which has led to my permanent position with the company in the project implementation team.
Living in Melbourne and dealing with the lockdowns as a young person over the past few months has been challenging. But if there's one thing that perfectly characterises South Pole as an organisation, it is the unwavering support they have shown to all of us during this time. South Pole has given us financial assistance to set up a comfortable home work station, allows us to work flexible hours, and gives staff time for breaks or much needed, sanity-maintaining exercise. I was even sent a care package when my housemates and I were required to quarantine for 14 days due to a Covid exposure.
All in all, my traineeship at South Pole has been a very positive experience. I've learnt lots, been exposed to multiple facets of the business, and built many valuable professional relationships. I also find it really rewarding to be able to share what I'm learning at South Pole with my personal network of other young people in the farming community. It is great to think that I might be able to help them out as they deal with the challenges of climate change.
I am extremely grateful for the time I have had on the South Pole "Iceberg" and am even more excited for what lies ahead as I settle into my permanent role in the Project Implementation team. I encourage anybody else interested in making a positive climate impact to apply with South Pole.