Rebecca Black, Education Facilitator, with Lead Ted and Dusty, teaches kids about lead. Photo: EPA
Getting educational messages out there is often challenging. But when the audience is small children it’s especially important to make the messaging creative andengaging.
Enter Lead Ted and Dusty
These two characters, created by the EPA, have an important job – to teach schoolchildren about the dangers of lead and how they can protect themselves from it. Lead is a legacy contaminant that can impair brain function, leading to lower IQ, and it can also damage the kidneys. Decades of mining has spread lead dust far and wide, especially in places such as Broken Hill. Lead dust is hard to remove from the environment.
‘There are squeals of excitement from the children when Lead Ted appears, and our audience is immediately captivated.’
Lead Ted, a life-sized mascot, works with a trained facilitator employed by the Broken Hill Environmental Lead Program (and with Dusty, the lead-dust puppet). Together they use songs, games, animation and dancing to teach kids from kindergarten up how they can avoid absorbing lead. The kids learn about washing their hands after playing outside or with pets, good food habits, and ways to keep lead dust out of the house.
‘There’s something about a life-sized, cheerful bear that makes anyone, no matter their age, smile,’ said Rebecca Black, Education Facilitator for the Broken Hill Environmental Lead Program. ‘There are squeals of excitement from the children when Lead Ted appears, and our audience is immediately captivated. The children are excited to learn and share their knowledge, and the age-appropriate nature of the program ensures the children are able to immediately make connections to their everyday lives and walk away empowered the with the knowledge and skills to stay lead-safe.’
A few weeks after each session we reach out to the kids to find out how much they learned and how we might improve the sessions. This LeadSmart School Program is one example of how we tailor educational messages for their audience.
Since its launch in September 2019, the program has been delivered to over 500 preschool to Year 2 students in Broken Hill. Follow-up surveys of teachers highlight noticeable positive changes in children’s attitudes and behaviours to the lead issue directly following the sessions. n
The power of young people
Engaging with tomorrow’s talent today makes sound business sense, and any organisation worth its salt knows this. Young people can bring energy, drive, innovative thinking and fresh ideas to the workplace, all things that help an organisation stay resilient and thrive.
‘The program gives you not only a supervisor who supports you on the work side but also a buddy to talk to’
The EPA taps into the creativity of young people through graduate programs and internships.
We give graduates real-world experience
Our graduate program offers recent graduates employment across many different parts of the organisation. This lasts for two years and involves three different placements.
The graduates usually have tertiary qualifications in disciplines such as environmental science, law, engineering and technology. Their employment at the EPA gives them valuable real-world experience of the workplace, including lots of regular mentoring along the way, plus many networking opportunities.
Since 2021, we’ve had a total of 23 graduates through the program
‘Because of the graduate program, I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects within the Knowledge, Strategy and Reporting team and I’ve gotten to know everything the EPA is doing through these projects,’ says a graduate from the 2022 intake, Brian Lee. ‘And the program gives you not only a supervisor who supports you on the work side but also a buddy to talk to.’
‘Being a grad has been an interesting and helpful journey for me so far,’ says Armin Kavehei, from Environmental Solutions. ‘The graduate program is a great learning opportunity for skilled young people to learn about the different work that is being done at a large organisation like the EPA.’
EPA graduates of the 2022 intake celebrate the end of their orientation. Photo: Pilar Angon/EPA
We give students a taste of the workforce
For younger people the EPA runs student internships. Some are general while others target specific groups – Aboriginal undergraduates and people witha disability.
Since 2015 we’ve been partnering with CareerTrackers, an organisation that links young Aboriginal talent with employers for paid, multiyear internships. We also collaborate with the Australian Network on Disability through its Stepping Into program, which matches university students with a disability to employment opportunities.
Positive change, one keep cup at a time
The EPA’s sustainability group, Changemakers, does a lot more than distribute and champion the daily use of keep cups. But the EPA-branded re-usable coffee containers are probably the group’s most visible success.
Changemakers is a group with many sustainability strings to its bow. It regularly takes part in Clean-up Australia’s Business Clean-up Day in March, with staff volunteering to clean-up litter and dumped rubbish from parks and waterways near their offices. Unfortunately the 2022 event had to be cancelled due to heavy rain.
An EPA keep cup. Photo: GaryFishlock/EPA
Changemakers is a group with many sustainability strings to its bow.
The group also promotes Plastic Free July. This is an international campaign that raises awareness of how much plastic waste we generate in our everyday lives, and ways to reduce some of thatwaste.
In 2021 the EPA’s Plastic Free July campaign was totally digital. Twenty-six items were posted on the EPA’s internal communication platform, Workplace, leading to 91 comments and 316 reactions. ‘We were very happy with the level of engagement,’ says Christine Dundas, one of the campaign’s coordinators. ‘We had to cancel our planned morning tea because of Delta [COVID-19], so being able to reach that many people digitally was great.’
The EPA’s Love Food Hate Waste team gave away re-usable veggie bags as prizes in categories including Most Creative Post, Best Plastic Free Recipe, Best Photo and BestVideo.
Better than yesterday
EPA innovation and continual improvement methodology
How does an organisation keep up with an ever-changing world?
It works closely with other teams to deliver ongoing improvements and breakthrough change to our products, services and processes. It’s currently doing this in three ways.
First, the CI Team teaches other teams to step back and apply a ‘human-centred methodology’ – making the customer or user the focus of their work and listening to them with empathy to figure out how to best deliver value.
Second, it facilitates ‘innovation sprints’ – fast-paced events that bring people together from across the EPA to solve problems. Staff are trained in a live environment to apply innovation principles from Design Thinking – a set of processes for creative problem-solving – and Lean Thinking – which focuses on what the customer sees as value.
Sprints are used to identify how we can regulate for better environmental and human health outcomes. In 2021–22 we ran two innovation sprints, one on the uptake of the Food Organics and Garden Organics (FOGO) scheme and another on the future regulation of pesticides.
The Continual Improvement Team is on a quest to embed a culture of innovation and continual improvement in the EPA.
This year we also started trialling a third initiative: using ‘coaches’ in five branches to help facilitate innovation and continual improvement at a local level. The trial will continue into 2022–23. If it’s successful, we’ll start using coaches in other parts of the EPA.