Meet Shannon, our Pollution Hotline trailblazer!
Shannon Henderson is a Senior Environmental Officer in the Community Response Team in Brisbane.
Mesmerised by her Science teacher’s passion for the environment, Shannon followed in his footsteps. In 2019, as part of her Bachelor of Science degree, she started work experience with the department’s Pollution Hotline. Since then, Shannon has achieved incredible career progression.
Impact on the ground
Shannon points to the training, mentorship and support she’s received for getting her to where she is today. But as you’ll discover, it’s her community-focused approach that has seen her become an outstanding senior environmental officer with the Pollution Hotline.
Shannon responds to dozens of calls a day from members of the public, other government entities and businesses. Her job is to advise them on the next course of action in relation to major and minor pollution incidents. Shannon also works closely with our compliance officers across the state, freeing up their workload so they can attend to high-priority incidents.
“We take pollution reports from members of the public or industry and assess the situation in real-time for environmental damage and community impact,” explains Shannon. “We also determine whether the incident is under our jurisdiction or another agency, such as the local government or council. We’ll then dispatch compliance officers or direct the caller to the appropriate authorities.”
The best thing about her role, Shannon reflects, is serving the community through protecting and managing the environment.
“It’s a very customer service-driven role. We’re not always able to provide the outcome people hope for—the incident may be exempt from the Environmental Protection Act and therefore there is no action that the Community Response Team can take to resolve the issue. But what’s important is being a friendly voice that encourages someone to tell me their story and how the incident is affecting their quality of life. We’ll do our best to help that person, because we care.”
Shannon is based in the Brisbane CBD, but that doesn’t mean she can’t connect with some of the callers she supports.
“We recently had the opportunity to meet some of our callers face-to-face. As part of a ‘30-day surge’ operation, several employees put their hands up to join the Odour Abatement Taskforce. We visited the area surrounding a site that had attracted a number of odour complaints. Some of us collected reports from nearby properties and others visited the site in question. To date, the efforts of the Taskforce have led to significant infringement fines—it’s a huge win for that community.”
The trail to today
After completing work experience with the department as part of her degree, Shannon successfully applied to join our team on a full-time basis. Since then, Shannon says she’s experienced outstanding career progression, aided by extensive training and support from her leaders.
“In September 2020, I stepped into the role of senior environmental officer. My managers have always encouraged me to put myself out there. At first, I was intimidated by the idea of applying for the senior environmental officer position, as a young person. However, my managers and team leaders have been so supportive. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them or my team.”
And given the high stakes of the Pollution Hotline, Shannon shares, a supportive environment is critical.
“Sometimes, people can become very upset when we don’t provide them with the answer they were hoping for. This can be confronting, so our team leader always checks up on us after a phone call that could be distressing.”
Shannon's advice to current and future employees at the department
- Embrace as many training opportunities as you can.
“The department provides excellent training—no matter what your role, you can undertake learning and development in all sorts of areas. From crime and corruption training to wildlife spotting, vegetation management and serious incident response training, the opportunities are endless. I did Authorised Officer training whereby we went through the Environmental Protection Act to determine our powers as officers under the Act. It was one of the best things I’ve done to really develop my capability as an environmental officer.”
- Use every day as an opportunity to absorb knowledge.
“We say our roles are ‘infinity plus one’ because we encounter new and obscure situations every day. We’re constantly thinking on our feet and refining our impact-assessment skills.”
- Ask smart people ‘silly’ questions.
“When you come in, you look around and think, ‘Wow, these people have so much knowledge’. It can be intimidating. But at the end of the day, I like to stick around people who have experience and learn as much as I can from them. Everyone is willing to lend a hand—so it’s a great learning environment.”
- Keep your head held high.
“When I told people that I wanted to work in this space, they doubted me. People asked, ‘What can you do with an Environmental Science degree?’ But there are so many jobs out there! Whenever I meet someone who wants to pave a career in the environment, I get really excited because it can be tough for women in science. Start running and don’t stop!”
Thank you for your incredible work, day in, day out, Shannon. Your work ethic, passion, and customer service are second to none!
Are you interested in working with us?
If you’re looking for a career managing and protecting the natural environment, explore opportunities with us today.