My name is Keenan Smith and I am a Wirangu, Mirning and Kokatha man from the far west coast of South Australia. I am an undergraduate environmental scientist at AECOM and I work with the Impact Assessment and Permitting (IAP) team in Adelaide. I joined AECOM through the Career Trackers program as an intern in the winter of July 2017. Since then I have worked consecutive internships over summer and winter with AECOM in both the Adelaide and Melbourne offices.

I study environmental sciences at Flinders University, where I am in my third year and enjoying my studies. I chose this degree with little thought regarding my career post-graduation, I just really liked the courses that were involved in the study program. Prior to my internship with AECOM I had no idea what environmental consultancy was. My perception of consultants was based on those annoying and random phone calls you get from people trying to sell you unnecessary things. During my time with the IAP team, I’ve enjoyed the experience and work that I have been involved in and am applying for the graduate program when I complete my studies.

In the Adelaide office there isn’t a typical week per se, our work week is determined by the projects that we are working on and that usually dictates whether we’re in the office or not. Out of office we could be out in field on the project site surveying parcels of land with endangered native flora or fauna. In office work could be developing environmental management plans to reduce impacts to native flora or fauna and associated environmental risks.

Environmental works that I’ve participated include the following aspects: biodiversity, air quality and green house gas emissions, Aboriginal heritage and non-Aboriginal heritage, sustainability and resilience, and waste management. The type of works involved include report writing, environmental & heritage auditing and surveying, outlining processes for environmental permits and approvals, drafting of environmental management plans, resilience adaptation and mitigation measures, and assisted on bids and tenders for large projects.
As I am First Nations, one thing that is important to me and what I look for in a work place, is that my cultural background is understood and respected. AECOM have been great; my manager has supported me in branching outside of IAP to work on Indigenous related work both internally and externally. This has included joining AECOM’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Working Group, and organising events in our office for significant dates like NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week.

The environment sector is growing and we are realising that our actions are having devastating consequences on the health of our planet. Our clients are wanting innovative solutions to these associated problems. To be apart of an organisation that is apart of these solutions and being able to contribute what ever way I can has been lifechanging. I look forward to assisting on future projects and also on my personal growth as a future environmental consultant.