Annette Stewart - Master of Environmental Management and Restoration - 2003

Annette Stewart

Fulbright Scholar

After a career in information technology and then financial services, CSU Master of Environmental Management and Restoration graduate Annette Stewart now works in the not-for-profit world of conservation.

In recent years, Annette’s role at Bush Heritage Australia has provided the opportunity to leverage her skills in a field she is passionate about – protecting Australia’s plants and animals for future generations. In collaboration with her colleagues, she has been able to enhance the way they plan, implement and monitor their work, finding innovative ways to significantly improve the way they manage the business of conservation.

Named the winner of the 2015 Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership, Annette will soon work closely with the Conservation Measures Partnership (CMP), a consortium of leading conservation organisations, agencies and funders in the US. 

Here Annette explains why helping people understand how their actions impact the environment is the key to protecting the planet.

I’m currently… working at Bush Heritage Australia in the role of Conservation Systems Advisor.  Bush Heritage is a national non-profit organisation conserving biodiversity in Australia; we do this by buying and managing land of outstanding conservation value, and working in partnership with other landowners. We help protect native habitats on millions of hectares of the most ecologically important landscapes.

I chose CSU because… it offered a distance education option for the degree I wanted, so I could do it alongside full-time employment.  I also wanted to attend a regional university, thinking that staff and students there would be better placed than city-based universities to understand the challenges of managing conservation values alongside the production values of land.  

My best experience at CSU... was meeting the other students, who came for all walks of life but shared a common interest in the land.   I built some great friendships there and they helped enormously with my studies, particularly in working through the assignments and sharing insights on field trips.  

My worst experience at CSU... the late nights working alone on assignments after a long day’s work. 

At university I was inspired… to learn from people who had “been there” – tutors and fellows with real life experience in trying to make a difference.  I was fortunate in that most of my lecturers had loads of experience and a wise head on their shoulders, and willingly shared their insights. Ten years later, I recall many more of these insights than the theoretical concepts in text books. 

Today I’m motivated… to help people and organisations who are trying to save wildlife and natural places.  In my spare time I’m keen to volunteer with local groups to do “hands-on” conservation work, but in my professional life I hope to get much more leverage – if I can help other groups better target their conservation actions, then their staff and volunteers will be able to achieve a whole lot more.    

In my profession it is important to… listen.  People always have ideas about how things could be improved, and where the real priorities lie.  

I’m passionate about what I do because... I care about the survival of plants and animals in a human-dominated world, not just for the sake of the animals but for future generations who ought to have the opportunity to marvel at wild landscapes, just as previous generations have been able to do.  The natural world is under all sorts of pressures mainly because our species has become the dominant one, yet much of the pressure is inadvertent – most people have busy lives and aren’t aware of the impact their actions are having.   Increasing awareness of these impacts, and creating viable ways to alleviate them, is key to protecting the planet.

I never dreamed I would… win a Fulbright scholarship!  Each year I have looked at the lucky recipients and marvelled at the projects they are working on.  Now that I’m one of them, I feel like there’s a very big hurdle to jump.  But I’ll give it a good shot.

The biggest influence in my life... the managers and colleagues that I have worked with in a wide range of roles in different industries.  All of them have had skills and experiences to share and stories to tell, good and not-so-good, and have helped to shape me and my work.    

I’m most proud of… the successes of younger people who I have had the privilege of mentoring over the years.

In the future I’d like to… find more ways to connect younger people with nature; if they don’t feel a close connection then they’re unlikely to care about protecting plants and animals.  

The best piece of advice I ever received... was to “have a go”.  It’s easy to think of reasons not to do something new or hard or different, but it’s amazing how these become easier once you make a start.  

The single-most important issue in the world is… sustainability. I wish more people understood the Planetary Boundaries concepts in the same way that  they understand economics; then they would be more likely to factor into their decisions the “externalities” around environmental impacts that are so easily ignored today.