Since finishing up at Caulfield, Jacqui Kitchen (Class of 2008) has dedicated her efforts to environmental management and conservation. Jacqui says that seeking and taking opportunities, getting out of her comfort zone and following her passion for the environment has paved the way for her to live and work her dream.
After high school, Jacqui followed her calling and completed a Bachelor of Environmental Science at Deakin University. Jacqui found the freedom to organise herself the biggest change and surprise in the ‘real world’. Outside of work and study Jacqui loves getting outdoors to cycle with friends. Whether it be on the road, gravel tracks or mountain climbs; she’s done it all and has a bike to go along with it. Recently Jacqui completed the Peaks Challenge which is a one-day 235km road ride with over 4,000m of climbing in Victoria’s alpine region.
Another one of Jacqui’s passions is volunteering. Whilst backpacking across Europe, Jacqui had the opportunity to volunteer in some amazing places such as Croatia where she was a volunteer conservationist at Eko-centar Caput Insulae as well as Rosehill’s Organic Farm in Sweden where she worked as part of a sustainable initiative to grow local produce and educate the community on sustainable practises. More locally; Jacqui has also volunteered with the Wilderness Society, Parks Victoria and the Country Fire Authority (CFA).
Joining the CFA
In May 2013, Jacqui landed her first role in the CFA as a project officer, focusing on Strategic Land Use Planning. She was able to secure this position after working a fire season at the State Control Centre (Victoria’s primary control centre for the management of emergencies). Jacqui has also contributed to many different teams in the CFA, including planned burning and vegetation management, before getting to where she is now. Currently Jacqui works in Risk Intelligence as a project manager, a position she has been in for over three years.
The team Jacqui is a part of works on risk-based intelligence which uses a combination of knowledge, experience, research and data. “This enables evidence-based decisions to prioritise risk mitigation activities and target service delivery.” Jacqui has said that seeking and taking opportunities were the biggest steps she took in furthering her career. “I have been at the CFA for a long time, but I have worked in a number of different teams and applied for opportunities like secondments into different roles to learn different parts of the organisation. It has been critical to building my knowledge and network.”
“The favourite part of my job is that rewarding feeling of making a positive difference in making communities safer. I get to meet amazing people from different locations, different agencies, and backgrounds. I enjoy hearing about their experiences. I also love the complexities of bushfire behaviour and the science; it blows my mind.”
With Jacqui’s love and passion for environmental conservation and sustainability, she has a vision for where emergency services should be in the future. Jacqui wants emergency services to take an active role on climate change. “A successful emergency service is one that doesn’t need to respond to events because they have reduced the risk by working with the community to target the problem and delivering successful mitigation programs.” As emergency services respond to events that are often exacerbated by climate change, they should be taking a more active lead in the prevention of these disasters. The CFA has played a big part in researching climate change but has only recently started working on a climate policy and tackling climate risk.
In five years’ time, Jacqui hopes to be able to take on a regional role that works more closely with communities, with a focus on environmental conservation. Another goal of Jacqui’s is to work on climate risk projects or embark on a role that will make a positive difference by managing an environmental sustainability project. Jacqui looks forward to future on-the-job training as a fire behaviour analyst during fire seasons. She also wants to expand her knowledge on the ability to predict where and when fire will spread in landscapes through the understanding of weather, atmospheric conditions, vegetation, and topography.
The advice that Jacqui gives to current students and young alumni is to give it a go and keep asking questions. “If you’re interested in something, give it a go and if you’re not sure give it a go to see – why not?” You can learn so much from asking questions even if you are just asking those same questions of different people!
Blake Hillebrand (Class of 2017) is another Grammarian focused on sustainable efforts with his clothing company, baru.