Paul explains what it was like working in a different role and how stepping out of your comfort zone can be empowering.

‘I’ve worked in the VPS for just over 12 months, having recently completed the Grad program and three rotations across DELWP, the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF). I found out about the Expression of Interest form from another DELWP graduate who passed it on while I was working at DTF. I am used to changing workplaces thanks to my rotations, so it was a logical next step to want to take this opportunity.

I ticked the rural placement box on the form because I wanted to see what life is like outside the ‘Melbourne bubble’. I had never been to Orbost and had only been to East Gippsland once before. I understood that regional offices would be the most understaffed due to a combination of high demand on services and a reluctance for people to leave their home to work elsewhere.

This was my first time helping at an ICC. From 3 to 7 February my role was in ‘front of house’ reception, primarily taking calls and issuing road access permits. It was as busy as I expected it to be. On my first day the phones kept ringing from 8am until 12pm. I had to adapt my questioning to be able to help people as quickly as possible. It was also a great way to rapidly learn the geography of East Gippsland.

I had a wide variety of experiences including when a man came into the office emphatically asking to speak to ‘whoever’s in charge’. He had lost his home near Bonang a few weeks ago. He told me he still didn’t have shelter or running water and was obviously quite distressed. While both office phones were ringing and there were others waiting behind him, I managed to listen to him and calm him down somewhat while we waited for the Deputy Incident Controller to be available. It was stressful, but I’m thankful I had such supportive colleagues who took some of the pressure off.

One day a man called via satellite phone and said that he was sitting under a tree that DELWP wants to cut down (hazardous trees that may fall onto the road at any time). In a busy office environment, there is no time to explain the nuances of forest and road management. My colleague, Bree, helpfully suggested I transfer him to the police working in the office.

I met quite a few Americans in the office. They were great to work with and commented on how different our culture is. One of them couldn’t believe how we would collaborate and be so friendly. She said if this were in America, they’d be shouting at each other whenever there’s a difference of opinion.

This was a terrific adventure. I loved the fast-paced nature of the work and practicing my soft skills like listening and being empathetic. As someone who has had difficulty with social skills growing up, it was really empowering to see that I can defuse difficult situations and adapt to a stressful environment.

I encourage anyone who can to go on a regional placement and experience some of the front-line work DELWP does coordinating multiple agencies and serving many communities.’

To find out how the EOI process worked, check out part two with one of the team members from the Office of the Deputy Secretary who helped match people to roles across the department.

Page last updated: 04/03/20