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Thread: Questions for Australian planners about education

  1. #1
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    Questions for Australian planners about education

    Hi, posted this in the student lounge but haven't received a response so far. Hoping there are some Australian planners here with the time to answer some questions. Apologies if this is an inappropriate forum for these queries.

    Its always been a dream of mine to move to Australia ever since visiting family friends there a few years ago. Doing a masters degree there seems to be the most feasible way for me to do so. At the very least I'd like to pursue my interest in a lovely place before returning home. Presently I'm in my fourth year of a BA majoring in econ and geography at my hometown uni in Canada. I've done internships unrelated to planning with the provincial government and hope to do more after I graduate, so this is all a few years off. Unfortunately, planning-specific internships here are limited to those in urban planning programs (which are not offered at my school).

    I'm wondering about a few things:

    a) Which two-year masters programs in Aus have the best reputation? So far I get the impression that the University of Melbourne is tops, but I'd like to hear from those with experience at La Trobe or Adelaide's schools - they're less expensive and I haven't been able to find out much about their reputation online. Are admissions to these programs highly competitive?

    b) I've noticed that many planners in Aus begin there careers right after finishing their undergrad degree. Would my lack of planning experience prior to starting a masters hinder my chances of finding a job?

    c) I'm considering getting a GIS diploma after I graduate and working a year or two in that field. Is GIS considered a valuable skill in the planning field in Australia?

    Many more questions, thought I better keep to the basics for now. Loving these forums, hope to be a regular in the future.

  2. #2
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    Victoria, Australia
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    Hi Robert

    I will try to provide whatever answer I can, being canadian myself and am currently practicing in Victoria:

    I can't refer any specific programs as I did not do my studies in Australia. What's important to bear in mind is how the planning system is State-by-State based and basically if you study in Melbourne, you most likely will learn more about the Victorian statutes than let's say NSW. I have met planners coming from La Trobe, Melbourne U, and either seems pretty equivalent.

    Bear in mind that Victoria is probably the most 'anal' state when it comes to recognise foreign (aka outer state) experience. The requirement on the job application is always: 'Victorian experience and knowledge of the Victorian Statutes' so there is some sort of catch 22 when you start looking.

    What becomes important is how you manage to take advantage of the internship system to gather experience. A lot of council and employers offer the possibility to get acquainted with the profession, that's often how students build their network. Alternatively, they leave to the countryside to gain their minimum experience first. Unless the program would matter for private consultant, I would say the employers mainly look into experience and how you adress the selection criterions.

    From experience at Council, positions are very specifics between the domains: Strategic / Statutory / Compliance / Design / GIS and staff does not necessarily sits under the same directorate.
    Knowledge of GIS is never a loss (any skills for that matter)... but depending of your position, you might not even get to use it on a day to day basis.

    As example, at our Rural Council:
    Strategic work is mainly done by consultant
    Statutory Team deals with application
    Compliance is split between the Planning Compliance Section, the Amenity Department, the Assets Department or the Environmental Health Department
    Design sits with the Engineering Department
    GIS sits with the IT Department

    Cheers

  3. #3
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    Thanks a lot for your thorough answers MapleFanta. What sort of entry-level planning positions were available to you when you moved to Victoria? Do you enjoy your job? Which Canadian grad school did you go to?

  4. #4
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    Jan 2013
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    Victoria, Australia
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    Hi Robert,

    As much as the Victoria planning system (or local government) has some very positive elements, there is always some let down. In general, I like my job and working environment but more when I get to achieve some outcomes but on the other hand there are many days that are simply frustrating.

    The downside is that planning is centralised statewide, which I consider bad for creativity and addressing local particularities, you're more processing the centralised (and often unapplicable) zoning provisions dictated by the State Government. So unless you get the chance to really be involved with strategic work, you get some headaches when having to understand an application that doesn't fit the provisions.

    I basically started all over as my canadian experience did not really matter. I went through inspection/compliance then statutory and eventually I will aim for strategic work some days. Although at the end I also consider my current position as just a process to something else with more responsibilties and challenge later on. Strategic planning just seemed off-limit as the demand was high.
    So, I first applied for temp jobs (statutory or enforcement) for various Councils as matter to obtain a minimum of local experience. All my past experience has been in the public sector, so I did not consider private consultants.

    But as a student planner, you would have access to some mentorship/cadetship (Councils often offers it) which would enables you to gain experience too. I also think that other Councils probably would challenge their staff a little more than my mainly rural/conservative employer.

    My grad school (planning and development) was Laval University in Quebec City.

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