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Three women have joined the field staff at Southern Rural Water’s Eastern Irrigation Business, further diversifying the rural water authority’s workforce.

With a strong commitment to a diverse and inclusive workforce, SRW has females in more than a quarter of its positions in what has been a traditionally male industry.

The new officers have quite diverse backgrounds, taking very different routes to their current positions, but all are enjoying their roles.

Amy Zabaneh from Heyfield and Samantha Dean from Kilmany are Water Services Officers, with Samantha working in the maintenance team, while Sally Kneebone of Heyfield has joined the Planners.  Although largely office based as a Planner, Sally currently is spending some time in the field as part of her familiarisation as she’s the first person to take on a planning role without first working as a field officer.

Amy joined Southern Rural Water two years ago after leaving school, spending six months with Groundwater and Rivers updating licensing information on the Victorian Water Register. She was then offered a position in the Business Service’s team as an Assessment Officer.

She’s always enjoyed the outdoors and being hands-on, and had become really interested in the work of field staff.  So there was no hesitation when the opportunity came up to move into a field role – even though her first few days were during the heavy rains in December which saw Glenmaggie weir spill.

Amy says she was definitely a bit nervous but very excited to start in her new role, especially as the first female in her team.

“But straight away I realised I had no reason to be nervous,” she says. “Everyone was very welcoming, supportive and helpful.”

She enjoys the customer interaction, and finds the work itself really interesting and sometimes quite challenging.  She also likes the fact that there are always new opportunities and training available, and the wide variety of tasks.

She has found SRW to be supportive, flexible and diverse with good support and encouragement for females.

Samantha Dean grew up on a dairy farm and also loves the outdoors – she and her son love camping, fishing, hunting and walking their two Mastiff hounds.  Sam has worked in a range of jobs from farming to on-site accommodation venue manager, and compliance in the oil and gas industry, which all provide a perfect background for her new role.

Sam says she’s in her element and she and her new job are a ‘match made in heaven’.  Being able to work outdoors, continuing to improve her skills and the stability of a corporate role are the main pluses.  She’s also found it liberating that her supervisor has demonstrated faith in her abilities and trusted her to carry out tasks independently.

Sally Kneebone has a strong background in scheduling and logistics including working as an air traffic controller at Tullamarine for a decade and spending six years in the regular army.

She is looking forward to being up to speed as an Irrigation Systems Planner for the start of the new irrigation season in August.

She describes SRW as an amazing work place – well ahead of many others she has worked in – with excellent facilities, a pleasant environment and offering flexibility and a good work/life balance.

SRW has women in a range of roles in IT, engineering and other project management, the environment team, people and culture, accounting, communications, and customer and business services.

Graduate Project Engineer Alexzandra Graczyk works with the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation team.  She has a double degree: Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor of Industrial Design.

She enjoys project work, the favourite part of her university course, and working in a team.  In her first 12 months, she also took on a relief role as Manager, Business Services.

“I like the opportunity and encouragement to upskill and try different roles within the organisation. It brings variety and challenges to my work and allows me to learn new things.”

She also notes that she’s not treated differently because she is a woman.   “I’m just regarded as one of the MID2030 team members.”

Becky Van Baalen had completed her environmental science studies when she moved to the local area with her partner, but started in Groundwater and Rivers dealing with bore applications.  She enjoyed her work but, returning from maternity leave, was offered an opportunity in the Environment team.

The team is involved with a range of issues from blue-green algae, salinity, renewable energy and working in project management.  Changing legislation, and a shift in SRW’s operations with the modernisation projects raising new issues, has extended the team’s role.

Becky has found working with SRW rewarding.  She has loved her various roles and taken the opportunity to explore other areas of the operation with three months in the field with GWR and stints with HR, and Accounts.

ICT support officer Rebekah Dawkins joined SRW’s Business Services team after similar roles on completion of her Business Administration studies at TAFE.

She was encouraged to apply for a helpdesk role when the IT team was expanding.

“I’d never really thought about it,” she says.  “I’d worked in business administration and was pretty good at it and thought that’s what I’d always do.”

“I’d always liked working with computers and mastered a number of programs, but this gave me the opportunity to think about alternatives.  Now I love working in IT and can’t imagine going back.”

Her background gives her a strong user-perspective which helps her understand issues and the frustration of users to work through their problems.

She says SRW is a good place to work and her team has been very encouraging when she had any initial doubts about her own ability.

And like many other employees, she enjoys the evolution of her role and the opportunity to learn and take on new tasks.

SRW has five women, including Chairman Diane James AM and Deputy Chairman Kate Calvert, on its board, and among the local farmers on the Macalister Community Consultative Committee there are two women including Deputy Chairman Raelene Hanratty.