Not long after graduating from university, Sara Wiseman signed up for Working for Victoria and landed a rewarding job suited to her interests and studies.

Sarah smiles and stands beside a bridge in her Melbourne Water orange uniform.

Sara at work cleaning and rehabilitating local waterways as part of Melbourne Water's Waterway Blitz.

Sara Wiseman was thrilled to land a role as part of Melbourne Water’s Waterway Blitz – her first job out of university.

Sara’s crew is cleaning and rehabilitating waterways in Melbourne’s south-east – Patterson River, Dandenong Creek, Blind Creek and Mordialloc Creek – including litter collection, revegetation and weed control and management.

“Pulling litter out of the water all day might be a bit disheartening but I feel so blessed to be working outdoors and to be making a difference to these beautiful places,” she said.

A Monash University environmental science and global studies graduate, Sara had been applying for jobs since early this year. She signed up for Working for Victoria and began a six-month contract in August, not long after graduation.

So far her team has pulled a whopping 42 cubic metres of litter from the bed and banks of the Patterson River.

“That was a huge job! Sometimes there were four crews working out there,” she said.

“We were finding a lot of Styrofoam, industrial packing waste and household rubbish. A lot of balls and dog toys, and a lot of shoes, for some reason. Today we found a drone and a couple of phones. And the number of plastic bottles is ridiculous.”

While some of her colleagues share backgrounds in sustainability and environment, others come from industries impacted by the pandemic, including hospitality, construction, people management and education.

Sara says she finds the work particularly fascinating after her years at university.

“It’s been really good to get out there and assess the kinds of problems we have with waste management,” she said. “Why the waste is here and why it’s a problem. The infrastructure around that is really interesting and it’s cool to troubleshoot in a very theoretical way.”

For example, popular council-operated areas might encourage people to pick after their dogs but not provide waste disposal bins.

“It’s also really encouraging to meet members of the public who come up and say they come on the weekends and to pick up a couple of bags of rubbish.”

Sara said her team was equally inspired about what they were doing and the way they could make a difference.

“This job has changed everyone’s outlook, even in simple ways such as reducing waste at home. Everyone is becoming a bit more conscious of what they consume and how they consume, as well as the bigger issues, such as how the garbage and recycling system works.

“Waste reduction is a practical, real-world problem and this has definitely been an eye-opener, but it’s exciting because there is potential for change.”

Sara is employed on a six-month contract, but would happily extend her role.

“I don’t know what I expected from my first job out of uni, but Melbourne Water actually cares about its employees as people,” she said.

“I’d like to think this job experience will give me opportunities and working longer term for Melbourne Water would be such a blessing. The work they do is integral to the functioning and flourishing of our ecosystems and green spaces.”

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