How Can You Ethically Volunteer Overseas?

Every year countless young Australians head overseas to give their time to those in need. Now, school-based volunteer travel company World Challenge has announced an end to trips to orphanages in developing countries after research showed the practice was harming vulnerable children.

So what can you do if you want to volunteer overseas? Here’s how you can lend a hand in an ethical way.

If it involves children, consider your impact

Leigh Matthews, a coordinator at ReThink Orphanages, who conducted the research into the impact ‘voluntourism’ had on children, said it was important to consider your impact on other people’s lives.

“I think you have to be careful with any activity that volunteers with children,” Ms Matthews said.

“It’s very hard as volunteers to properly evaluate the impact and potential harms that might arise from your involvement. We advocate steering clear of volunteering with children, in particular, in residential environments.”

Look beyond orphanage placements

Ms Matthews said there were a whole host of other opportunities for young people.

“We would advise going with organisations that work with from a process of education and the idea is that [if] you understand the issues, you can then become a change agent in your own community back home,” she said.

“Volunteers can get involved working on community development projects, environment projects. Those are both safer options than working with children.”

Assess the cost of the trip compared to giving a donation

Another option is to donate some of your money, not just your time.

Have a think about the total cost of a volunteer stint, including flights, travel insurance and vaccinations.

If you want to travel, you can allocate a portion of your funds to go to a charity directly doing work within the community.

“It is also good to support charities that are already working in communities, starting with undertaking some research to find out about charities that are involved in the type of work and locations that you might be passionate about supporting,” Red Cross Australia international deployment manager Vanessa Brown said.

“There is some amazing work across the globe being undertaken and mobilised by local communities who are commonly the best placed respond to a certain local need, so our support for their growth can be the best way to have a positive impact.”

If you find a project, read the fine print

Ms Matthews said you should first have a look at the organisation’s reputation.

And she said to make sure the project you work on is one that’s been discussed and approved by the local community.

“Is there transparency … do they tell you where your placement is? How much of your money goes to that organisation, and is there a way you can evaluate your impact while you are there?” she said.

“Basically, do your due diligence.”

“There are many wonderful charities doing great work in local communities and those charities are both big and small. Support a charity that is effective … and is transparent in how it helps, and as longs as it aligns with a cause you care about, then I think go for it.”

Ms Brown said there were a lot of ways in which people can get involved in helping people overseas which can create a positive impact.

“The challenges that have been raised through the international volunteering in orphanages and ‘voluntourism’ unfortunately is looking at a very specific type of volunteering, in a very specific sector of humanitarian work that has had significant implications in its practice and on the local communities it has operated within,” she said.

“There are still highly valuable and meaningful (both to the community and volunteer) programs that are being undertaken every day.”

Red Cross Australia is also trialing a new international volunteering program in the Asia Pacific.

“The program will be targeted at utilising highly-skilled volunteers to undertake short to mid-term pieces of work predominantly online but also within country to support resource gaps that have been identified by our local Red Cross counterparts in those areas,” Ms Brown said.

“The model is based on reciprocal learning, whereby our counterparts will also be supported to come to Australia and other countries within the Asia Pacific region to participate and share their knowledge within the program.”


Source: ABC News

Future Melbourne Residents Could Trade in Rainwater To Cut Down On Bills

Future Melbourne apartment dwellers may trade unused rainwater from rooftop tanks with their neighbours, cutting down on their water bills.

South East Water is exploring a water-saving concept for Fishermans Bend in Melbourne’s inner south, which would give up to 80,000 future residents a financial incentive to reduce their water consumption. Called “rainwater micro-trading”, it has never been attempted in Australia and is similar to solar energy systems, whereby households save on power costs by selling electricity back into the grid.

%environmental recruitment%talent nationMelbourne by Peter Mackay (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Development plans for Fishermans Bend stipulate that every residential building in the suburb must have a rooftop rainwater tank. The tanks will serve two roles: to provide water supply to occupants, and to capture stormwater to reduce the risk of flooding from heavy downpours, which are expected to become more likely with climate change. The proposal by South East Water is another way in which Melbourne’s government-owned water corporations are planning for a drier future.

Recent analysis by the water corporations found that, at worst, the city’s demand for water could outstrip supply by 2028 and that on more moderate projections chronic water shortages will hit within 25 years. Matt Mollett, a spokesman for South East Water, said its researchers were looking for ways to use less mains water in Fishermans Bend by making much better use of rainwater, stormwater and recycled sewage.

“Water trading is currently used for agricultural irrigation supplies, and enables under-utilised allocations to potentially be used for the benefit of other users, or the water network more broadly,” Mr Mollett said.

“The rainwater micro-trading project seeks to explore whether or not these benefits could be transferred into a residential or urban context in the future.”

The rainwater trading concept is unproven, and will only proceed if investigations find it is feasible. Apartments would each be assigned a quota of free rainwater from the communal tank, which could be used or traded to other residents, leading to a reduced bill from South East Water. The concept is complicated by the likelihood that rooftop tanks in Fishermans Bend will be drained ahead of forecast downpours, to reduce the risk of flooding from runoff. The tanks will automatically respond to weather data from the Bureau of Meteorology. They will also feed water into a large water recycling plant to be built in Fishermans Bend, which will supply treated water for non-drinking uses. It is expected mains water use in Fishermans Bend will be 45 per cent lower than in other built-up parts of Melbourne and 400 megalitres of rainwater will be reused each year.

Professor Tony Wong, chief executive officer of the Co-operative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities, said the benefit of rainwater trading would depend on how many apartments per building were using the same tank; a higher number of residents would reduce the available savings to be traded.

“Thinking of rainwater almost as if you are thinking of renewable energy and feeding into the grid is certainly a new concept,” Professor Wong said.

But he said the concept of using a market mechanism to save water in high-density cities was worth exploring.

Fishermans Bend is a 490-hectare development zone planned to be built over the next 30 years into Australia’s largest urban renewal area, with 80,000 residents and 60,000 jobs.


Source: The Age

Victoria Continues Renewables Leadership With VRET Legislation

Victoria has again thumbed its nose at federal energy policy dithering, announcing it will enshrine its Victorian Renewable Energy Target into law and hold reverse auctions for 650 megawatts of renewable projects.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the VRET legislation would set targets of 25 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2025.

Mr Andrews also announced the state’s first competitive renewable energy reverse auction for up to 650MW of renewable energy capacity – enough to power 389,000 households, or all homes in Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley combined.

It is expected to result in $1.3 billion in investment and create 1250 jobs during construction and 90 ongoing jobs during the operational phase.

The successful tenderers for two major solar farms that will supply the Melbourne tram network were also announced.

Syncline’s Bannerton Solar Park near Robinvale will expand to 100MW, and French company Neoen’s Numurkah Solar Farm near Shepparton is expected to add 38MW on completion. It is estimated the two projects will result in additional investment inflows of $198 million and create 325 jobs during construction.

Mr Andrews said the VRET was expected to cut average household power bills by about $30 a year, save medium-sized businesses $2500 a year and large companies about $140,000.

It will also reduce Victoria’s energy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 16 per cent by 2034-35.

“The renewable energy sector will now have the confidence to invest in renewable energy projects and the jobs that are crucial to Victoria’s future,” minister for energy, environment and climate change Lily D’Ambrosio said.

“Government investment will be capped to ensure the best value for money for Victorian taxpayers.”


Source: The Fifth Estate

Rise of Electric Cars Has Us Speeding To The End of Internal Combustion Engine

Of the 1,145,024 new cars sold in Australia last year, a mere 219 were electric and 12,625 hybrid. Yet all cars sold in Australia are likely to be purely electric far sooner than such starkly contrasting numbers might suggest. The issue is not whether the internal combustion engine, one of the most transformative technologies in history, is set for extinction, but how fast and how well the transition to electricity happens.

The Australian government is looking far from agile so far in this global public policy conundrum. It is crucial businesses be given certainty so that they can have the confidence to make the necessary investments in design and in the national installation of recharging infrastructure. Failure by the Coalition government to provide such certainty through policy stability has been the biggest brake on investment in the renewable energy that, combined with electric cars, will be fundamental to the commitment Australia  has made internally and internationally to reduce carbon emissions.

%environmental recruitment%talent nation

                                 Electric Car Charger by Kārlis Dambrāns

The government might do well to plug into policies driving the demise of the fossil-fuelled car, for they are being welcomed by manufacturers, designers and software engineers the world over. Key among such strategies is committing to a date after which all cars sold must be electric. France and Britain, for example, have nominated 2040. Other incentives to smooth the transition might include bonus payments or exemption from luxury taxes. Such incentives have been introduced in all the nations of Western Europe.

Rapid advances in battery technology and falls in the price of electric cars and of renewable energy are speeding the end of the internal combustion engine’s era.

The environmental, economic and health rewards of this inevitable change are massive and evident. There might well also be profound social benefits. The switch is coinciding with the popular embrace of ride-sharing and the imminent advent of self-driving cars. Currently, most cars spend 95 per cent of the time parked, and most commuters are alone in their vehicles. It is not hard to envisage freeways that actually flow with cars with multiple passengers.

There are about 1 billion cars in the world, of which 2 million are electric. More than a third of those electric cars were sold in 2016. The rate of growth of such cars is poised to accelerate sharply.

Smart phones have been around for only a decade but are ubiquitous and have revolutionised the way people live. The change to electric cars is likely to be similarly momentous and rapidly integrated into our routines.


Source: The Age

Solar Thermal Power Plant Supporters and Locals Welcome Greenlighting of Port Augusta Project

The Port Augusta community and its clean energy supporters have welcomed the news that the world’s largest solar thermal power station will be built in the region.

It was announced yesterday that US operator Solar Reserve would build the 150 megawatt power station known as the Aurora Solar Energy Project at Carriewerloo Station, about 330 kilometres north of Adelaide.

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill said the project would be on-line in 2020 and would supply 100 per cent of the State Government’s needs. The land is owned by the State Government but Scott Michael and his family have the pastoral lease on it. Solar Reserve will, in turn, lease the land from them.

Mr Michael said he missed the initial announcement that the project was going ahead.

“My phone was flat [Monday] and I had a fairly sort of busy afternoon. I got a phone call from Solar Reserve about 7:00pm,” he said.

“Before that I had seen it over the news and Facebook, but having a flat phone and a few jobs I hadn’t had a chance to sit down and acknowledge it.”

He said he had been talking to Solar Reserve for two years about the project and the company has had solar measuring equipment on the property since December.

Mr Michael said it would not interrupt the property’s current business of running sheep and cattle.

He said there are lots of renewable projects proposed for the region.


Source: ABC News

$1.76M Offered To Increase Energy Efficiency

On Friday, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, announced the funding for owners and tenants to make their commercial buildings more energy efficient.

Applications are now open from building owners, agents, tenants and facilities managers for the first round of the Better Commercial Buildings initiative.

A grant could improve a building’s rating under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) by 1 star, on average, and reduce energy bills.

NABERS data shows that there is huge opportunity to improve the performance of Victoria’s commercial building sector and help significantly reduce emissions.

The grants will help participants identify and implement improvements, measure their success and facilitate access to further finance options and pre-approved service providers – taking the guess work out of choosing a supplier.

“This is a great opportunity for owners to boost the value of their building by increasing its NABERS rating,” D’Ambrosio said.

“Reducing energy costs saves money, improves productivity, and increases the health and wellbeing of workers and the environment.”


Source: Inside Waste

#Blog: Exploring Impact in The Sustainability and Social Space

An update from Senior Consultant, Maxine Bazeley.

Lately I’ve been working to expand my network at industry events and introduction meetings in search of the real impact roles within property. Early last month Richard and I headed to Sydney, where we connected with engineering, asset management, property fund and real estate clients. We spent this time checking in on current and upcoming projects, including Barangaroo and the Sydney Metro, as well as getting a feel for the general vibe towards sustainability within different organisations.

Back in Melbourne, I attended CoreNet Global’s State of the Nation event at Cushman & Wakefield’s newly refurbished office. Economist Frank Gelber talked through the slow transition from our previously booming mining economy to other construction sectors and highlighted the increasing demand for space in Sydney’s commercial real estate. Potentially, this could attract businesses to Melbourne for competitive rent and high quality buildings. This was one of many events I’ll be attending in 2017 as a CoreNet Young Leader, after taking part in their amazing symposium in June last year ‘Is the future of work really all about the workplace?’. I’ve selected this membership as a valuable commitment for the year.

Last month also saw the political narrative shift toward renewable energy with South Australia taking control of its energy market in response to the Blackouts; and Turnbull’s promise to complete the Snowy Hydro expansion project. I attended a timely breakfast forum hosted by Umow Lai titled ‘The Paris Agreement, Renewables & Buildings’. Host Ken Loh introduced Shane Esmore, the Sustainability Director of Umow Lai Melbourne, who highlighted our current situation and the political context that got us into the energy crisis. Shane discussed projection modelling from the CSIRO that pointed to a diverse mix of energy sources in our future. What that likely means for the built environment is smart design that incorporates more commercial building or shared residential PV and battery storage that can adapt to distributed local power, micro-grids and eventually peer to peer electricity trading.

To loop back to the workplace and the behavioural side of building design, I attended a data debrief on ‘The Rise and Fall of Activity Based Working’ hosted by Westpac and presented by Leesman. Their survey took a control group of 240 companies and scored them alongside 40 Activity Based Working (ABW) organisations globally and asked questions around how their workplace supported productivity, pride, community and collaboration. Results showed that employees with high activity complexity benefited the most from well-designed ABW workplaces. It also showed that ABW works most successfully when these four elements are present; the technology and tools are fit for the tasks, adequate training is provided, the culture of the organisation supports the style of working and the design supports the required tasks. For more interesting insights, download the report here.

The common theme I’m still hearing is that initiatives can only thrive when they have the support of the C-suite and senior management. Until their agenda changes around ways of working and sustainability initiatives, their behaviours permeate from the top down through their strategy, actions and purpose. We have tools to measure and accredit sustainable design, building performance, staff satisfaction and wellness, but how can we measure purpose within an organisation? Some businesses, like Talent Nation, are certified by B Lab including Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Core Projects and Impact Investment Group to name a few. B Corp certification means that these businesses voluntarily meet a higher standard of transparency, accountability, and performance, harnessing the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Richard, Georgia and I represented the Talent Nation team at the latest B Corp drinks hosted by Nation Partners in their refurbished converted warehouse office in the CBD. The B Corp community welcomed their newest members Clarke Hopkins Clarke Architects and Monochrome Coffee. B Lab also introduced their newest team member Charlie who Talent Nation – through the awesome talent seeking skills of Kate Faulkner– discovered for the B Lab family. This is the space we’re in. Making a positive impact through business by connecting people and organisations who are doing good in the world.

Working with both social enterprises and property organisations that focus on sustainability and social outcomes hits a perfect balance between my commercial and compassionate sides. For information or a conversation about what is current and the requirement trends in the sustainability and social space, get in touch with myself or any of our team.

#Blog: Thank You For The Thankless Jobs!

Thank you for the thankless jobs!

Article by Richard Evans. 

Earlier this year I came across an article that highlighted the most in-demand jobs in Australia for 2017. This list of top jobs stimulated a lot of discussion amongst our team here at Talent Nation. In particular we found one job, a Payroller, a little left of centre.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that the role of a Payroll Officer is crucial and, having worked in payroll for a number of years, I know how challenging and critical the role can be. But it is a ‘thankless job’. Think about it. When was the last time you called Payroll to say; “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that my pay arrived in my account and was absolutely correct, thanks!” Unfortunately the calls a Payroller receives are generally when things go wrong, usually to no fault of their own, but they bear the wrath of the caller.

I am a Telstra customer and have been for many years as I rely on good network coverage to be able to take calls whenever I am on the road (hands-free of course). There is no doubt that Telstra have had a few challenges in recent times with outages which, although inconvenient, are not the end of the world. However the individuals operating the call centres again bear the brunt of angry customers that have been wronged. I wonder how many callers in these moments are conscious of how they are speaking to the individual on the end of the phone and whether it is justified. The employee didn’t cause the outage, they are handling queries and putting in the hours helping Australians. When we have a problem however all that seems to be forgotten and, when people ‘finally get to speak to a person’, it’s not usually the most polite of conversations. The employee knows you have been on hold for 30 minutes, they know you are frustrated and I think we have to consider how we would feel if someone spoke to us in that tone, or to one of our family members or friends.

I’m guilty of making these calls when I am frustrated and it takes a great deal of self-control to keep things polite when I am told that there is nothing that can be done or that they are bound by policy. I have found myself on occasion apologising for my frustration because I know it is not the employee’s fault and I appreciate that they are trying to help. The times I have done this I could actually note the lift from the individual on the phone. Sometimes they have even thanked me for acknowledging that this is no fault of their own. I have asked a few times how many of ‘these types of calls’ are received and have been told that it is the majority. I also ask how often they get calls thanking them for sorting out an issue and I’m sure you can guess the answer to that one.

This led us to think about other roles that fall into this ‘thankless’ category:

  • Road workers – Yes it may take a bit longer to get to work, but the next month you’re in a wider lane, on a safer road. Beeping horns won’t speed this up!

  • Your IT provider- I don’t imagine they receive many calls telling them the connection is strong and the whole team is connected to the server?

  • Rubbish collector – Every week the rubbish disappears from the nature strip. How often have you stepped out at 5am to give them a thumbs up?

The list goes on.

So I would like to say thank you, to the thankless worker for taking our calls when we are cranky, for sorting out our payroll issues as we take leave and go on holiday, and to the operator who reconnected our internet when we thought the bill was on our direct debit… but actually we’d failed to set it up in the first place.

Admittedly I’m not quite in the space to thank the parking inspector for booking me when I was 6 minutes over the time limit last week; but I will try to remember this when I am able to find a parking spot in the same area next time.

We would love to hear about other ‘thankless jobs’ you might know of. If there is a story you’d like to tell, or someone in particular you would like to thank, go ahead!

#Reflections: Being Bold for Change – An Evening with Tracey Fellows

Reflections by Maxine Bazeley.

Last night I attended the CBRE offices in Melbourne for an International Women’s Day event organised by the YAICC. This group of young professionals had gathered to hear insights from the CEO of REA Group, Tracey Fellows. The interview led by YAICC’s Jodi Weinberg, began with some quick preference questions designed to get right to the important things, such as Melbourne over Sydney, Australia over Canada and Hilary over Trump. With politics out of the way, the conversation delved into Tracey’s career path, balancing family and executive life as well as sage advice for aspiring women leaders and those seeking to support them.

Tracey’s first job as a graduate was at IBM and their yearlong internship program instilled strong values around servicing the customer, this has remained a thread for Tracey throughout her career. She admits she hasn’t been very clear on her career path, and doesn’t advise not having a 1, 2 or 3 year plan but has always operated with the belief that doing an exceptional job would get her noticed and lead to the next opportunity. This way of working has certainly served her well with progression to Senior roles within IBM and then Dell before joining Microsoft as a Product Lead then becoming a Director.

Despite this Tracey still suffers occasionally from a lack of confidence. She said ‘No’ at first when she was offered the top job with Microsoft in Australia. Why? Because she was listening to her own insecurities telling her she couldn’t do the job. Luckily, Tracey was given the weekend to think about it and after unpacking her reasons, realised she was basing her decision on blocks she was creating herself. Her advice in situations where someone else believes you can do something, is to take their word over doubting yourself.

After taking the job she was assigned a mentor, the Microsoft country head of Italy, who gave her the best advice anyone could. Umberto Paolucci said over the phone – ‘It’s all about love’. This conversation taught Tracey that allowing people to ‘know what’s in your heart’ will lead them to follow you. She still maintains that business is from the heart and leading from this space is what got her through one of her more challenging leadership roles at Australia Post. Tracey says maintaining a strong culture is most difficult when you’re shrinking. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ she says, and straight away humbly qualifies that she’s likely quoting someone else.

For Tracey, culture is the most important thing and when hiring she evaluates whether the person is going to detract from the culture more than add to it. She admits she has an aversion to ego so can be quite sensitive to it and has learnt the hard way to trust her instincts in the hiring process. ‘Hiring people is the most important thing you do as a leader’ Tracey says and understandably the 4 stage interview process at REA is thorough.

The same goes for doing business with other companies. When selecting suppliers, Tracey looks for cultural alignment too. This is how she came to the final decision in signing the recent home loan agreement with NAB. It came right down to the people they would be working with. “Everything in business is as simple as the people’ Tracey says, stating that we spend too much time at work to be at battle while we’re there.

On work life balance, it’s about limiting contact to during the week. Tracey is strict about keeping her personal time and mostly sticks to the rule of not checking work messages on the weekends and holidays. This would be difficult for someone who is so clearly energised by her work. Her excitement is glaringly obvious when she talks through her Friday appointments as an example of how a work day might be. Within it she has 1:1s, informal client and internal meetings but is most looking forward to hearing the pitches from the REA Hack day.

One of Tracey’s regrets is where her biggest piece of advice comes from. She wishes she had the strength to speak up more when she was the only woman in the room. She advised the best way anyone can help in this situation is scan the room for who isn’t being heard, and give them a chance to voice their opinion. This goes for promotions too where people who don’t ask for them are often overlooked. Women have been more likely not to mention their ambitions and hope their dedication and work attract the reward of progression. Tracey says regularly checking in with people around their goals can help uncover an aspiring executive and perhaps a future CEO.

International Women’s Day is on March 8th and the 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange.

For information about events in your area and how to be part of the change, check out the International Women’s Day website.


#Blog: The SDGs and You.

The run into Christmas seems to be getting busier by the year and the phrase “limping to the finish line” rang true with a majority of people we were chatting to in 2016’s final weeks. We were no different at Talent Nation and it was a welcome relief when 5:30pm on December 23rd came around and we were able to ‘down tools’ for the year.

January has become the month of reflection for many people as the year does not seem to start in earnest until after Australia Day. Over the break, as I reflected on the year that was 2016, I reviewed my notes from the Sustainable Development Goals Australia 2016 Conference (SDGA16) and the Banksia Awards. In doing so I was reinspired by the stories told and the purposeful and positive work that people were undertaking around the globe.

However, one of the biggest challenges that arose was that people were struggling to identify what they could do with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as individuals. While we applauded the Banksia Award winners and the representative speakers from the organisations who had embedded the SDG’s into their business plans, it was still difficult to distinguish what someone could do on a personal level.

It is difficult to know where to start. We do need guidance and foundations in place around us so that our efforts have direction, and don’t get lost in the jumble. Yet in saying that, we can’t just sit around and wait for them to be built around us.

The following points are taken from the final session at the conference and I felt they summed up how we are sitting in both of these areas.

What we need from others:

  • The underlying ethical foundation and the movement of the narrative (to communicate in a way that is powerful)
  • Leadership and frameworks from the Government
  • Tools and information to make it easier for people to do the right thing
  • Monitoring, reporting and data; and accountability
  • Our actions enabled through policies and the private sector through climate finance
  • Need for partnerships, connectivity and alliances

What we can do ourselves:

  • Map what we can personally do with the influence already in place
  • Use the Sustainable Development Goals to guide personal decision making
  • Think long- term; even when there may be a quick fix and it may seem it is not in your best interest to do so
  • Be prepared to give some things up
  • Don’t be afraid to start small

Further details on the Sustainable Development Goals can be found here.

The thing that most resonated with me was the closing remark from Professor David Griggs (Monash Sustainable Development Institute) – ‘if we fail on any one goal we fail on them all’. This highlighted the absolute interconnectedness of the goals.

The list above is clearly a small sample; I would be interested to hear of any other actions people are taking to support the goals.

Richard Evans, Talent Nation.