Jemma on Working at the National Zoo

Yorta Yorta, Pangerang Land (Strathmerton, Victoria)
Bachelor of Political Science and Bachelor of International Relations,  Australian National University (ANU)
Customer Services Manager, the National Zoo and Aquarium
Rural education, wildlife conservation, politics

Jemma’s Journey

Ending school with a gap year

I finished high school in 2015, and decided to defer my university offer and take a gap year.  For 12 months I lived in Italy where I worked as an au pair (like a nanny). It was a big jump for me to move to Italy for 12 months, knowing I didn’t really speak any Italian. 

The double degree worked for me

I was lucky to be able to defer a university offer at the Australian National University (ANU).  In 2020 I completed my double degree in political science and international relations. The double degree was definitely beneficial for me. If you can do a double, I would definitely recommend it in fields like politics or international studies. It’s only an extra year and adds a whole new layer to what I was studying. It let me study multiple areas or interests, which I wouldn’t have been able to learn had I just done the single degree. 

Not everyone does this, but I chose to work full-time and study full-time for most of my degree. I was lucky that my work was supportive and flexible. But I had to learn to manage my time, really, really well. Otherwise assessments just wouldn’t have got done. 

Working with CEP and Rural Inspire

I was part of the Rural Youth Ambassador (RYA)  program in 2014/15 and I’ve stayed involved in CEP ever since. 

In 2015 I was really lucky to go with CEP to Malaysia as part of the Student Leadership conference, and was also able to talk at Regional Education Conferences in Sydney and to some organisations like the Melbourne Declaration for Education. I was also involved in 2016 when I piloted the first Leadership in Me program.

In 2020, I started officially working with CEP as the NSW and National Project Officer. I’m doing NSW and the National programs again in 2021. In this job I work with our young people in NSW, I help to facilitate their forums, and strive to give them the chances that I was given in 2014/15 when I participated in RYA. It’s really powerful and I feel privileged to get to do this work. 

Working at the National Zoo in Canberra 

I started working at the zoo in 2017 as a job to get me through uni. I started down in the Visitor Services team working front of house, doing ticket sales.  Slowly, I got the chance to move up in the department and do some other things at the zoo. 

I’m now the Customer Services Manager at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra, where I get to work with our team across both the zoo and the Jamala Wildlife Lodge. 

I started as a casual, then became a supervisor, then started working part-time, within that team. Then one of our staff members decided to leave the management team, so I got the chance to take on my current job which has been really good.

My advice to you

Trust your gut. It was a big jump for me to move to Italy for 12 months, without knowing any Italian. Then I was the only one that moved to Canberra from my region back home. I didn’t know anyone else here. Then trusting my gut in knowing that staying at the zoo was the right thing for me to do. I guess that’s been the biggest thing I’ve learned.  

Want to know more about what Jemma’s job is like working at the National Zoo? Click here

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