Job title

Marteena McKenzie undertaking community energy planning with the women of Nguyarramini, southeast of Tennant Creek, in the NT 2011

Marteena McKenzie undertaking community energy planning with the women of Nguyarramini, southeast of Tennant Creek, in the NT 2011

Project Manager, Research and Policy

Who do you work for?

CAT Projects

Where is your job based? 

Alice Springs, Northern Territory

What does your job involve?

I design, develop and manage household energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in remote Indigenous communities.  I have worked on projects in the Northern Territory (Central Australia and the Top End), Queensland (Northern Peninsula Area and the Torres Strait), South Australia (the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands) and Western Australia (the Kimberley).  Projects are normally government funded and I work closely with remote-generating utilities in their roll-out.  These projects involve working with residents to provide energy efficiency education, assisting them to make informed decisions about household energy consumption.  The ultimate aim is to assist in reducing disconnections and cost.  Projects are located in communities which are either off-grid, or use pre-payment meters for their power.      

Why did you choose to work in this sector?

I sought out interesting work at the interface between sustainability and Indigenous equity issues, and have been very fortunate to have contributed to both of these fields.  I began working with the Bushlight renewable energy project in Alice Springs, and have taken this knowledge and experience and applied it in larger remote Indigenous community settings. 

What is the most rewarding part of your current job?

Contributing to projects that have direct material benefit for residents of remote Indigenous communities.  It’s wonderful to see the ‘light bulb’ moment when people make the connection between the behaviours and technologies in their homes, and the amount spent at the power meter.  It’s also wonderful to work with a group of dedicated professionals who are very good at, and care deeply about, their work.

What has been one of your recent achievements?

Helping see a project through from initial idea to full implementation is a great achievement.  I contributed to the funding application for the Manymak Low Income Energy Efficiency Project in 2012.  Along with the other consortium members, we were successful in winning $12 million funding to design and deliver a large scale energy efficiency program across six communities in East Arnhem Land.  We’re now at the stage of project completion and it’s been gratifying to be involved along the way. 

What is the most challenging part of your current job?

Working in an environment where government programs and funding shift rapidly and unpredictably, and seeing how funding cuts have negative impacts on service delivery on the ground in remote communities.

What do you hope to do in the future?

To build on the experience and skills I’ve developed over the past few years, to expand my work in energy equity in Indigenous households.  The exciting thing about this kind of work is that you never know what’s around the corner!

What are some of the benefits of your job?

It’s interesting and challenging, and I get to spend time engaged in work that is rewarding and fulfilling.  I’ve also visited many remote and beautiful places that most Australian’s don’t get to see.  I have also spent a great deal of time working with Indigenous people who are living on country, which has been a great privilege. 

What training did you have for this job?

I took science (biology and chemistry) and advanced maths in upper secondary, and studied a Bachelors of Environmental Science at university. My honours was in Environmental Management, and I undertook a research project on remote renewable energy policy.  This honours projects gave me connections and experience that helped forge my career.

 Why is mathematics important in your job?

Mathematics does not come easily to me, but it has helped me comprehend what the engineers are talking about, and to find my way around a spreadsheet!  Maths is also important in my day-to-day life, and I’m really pleased I put the effort into (somewhat!) working it out.

What career advice would you give to school students interested in a similar career?

Find out what you like and get good at it.  Perseverance and attention to detail will take you a long way in securing a satisfying and rewarding job.  You don’t need to get the best marks, but you do need to consistently work hard to get where you want to go.