Meet a Geographer — Helping people

Edward Brockhoff

Youth Development Coordinator for the East Kimberleys
Save the Children

Edward Brockhoff at the summit of Mt Kilamanjaro

Save the Children is the world's leading independent child's rights non-governmental organisation. Established in 1919, it has operations in over 120 countries. My role here in the East Kimberleys, halfway between Darwin and Broome, is to design and implement programs to engage at-risk indigenous youth in the region. This involves liaising with local elders – to ensure appropriate levels of cultural sensitivity and effectiveness; other governmental and non-governmental entities – to ensure that we collectively meet the needs of the community; and with our own indigenous staff – to ensure that what we provide to local youths will be sustainable in the long term.

The best aspects of my job

… my current position … is very much a hand's-on, practical role in which I am able to directly engage with those who are the participants in our programs. What I enjoy most about my current position is that it is very much a hand's-on, practical role in which I am able to directly engage with those who are the participants in our programs. I am gaining great experience with how non-governmental international development agencies actually operate in the field. I live in the community and engage, on a daily basis, with those kids who participate in our programs and those local staff members who run them. One of our main programs, the Waringarri Chilling Space, is a drop-in and activity centre that we operate five nights per week. The aim is to provide a violence and alcohol free space for local youths. We regularly receive approximately 40 to 60 kids per night, aged between 5 and 18 years old, who attend our program instead of roaming the streets by night in an often dangerous environment. Not only am I able to help coordinate this activity behind the scenes, sourcing funding, recruiting staff and the like, but I spend many evenings at the Chilling Space interacting with the youths – to experience more comprehensively what such a program does for those youths involved. I often, also, spend my weekends on day trips and camps with youths to some of the most spectacular – and isolated – locations in Australia. Swimming under beautiful waterfalls and in secluded waterholes, fishing on the mighty Ord River, hiking in majestic canyons – with a group of enthusiastic and appreciative indigenous youths.

My career pathway

… highlights included hiking for six days to reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro; spending Easter and Passover with a local family in Jerusalem; spending three days cruising on a small boat down the Nile River in Egypt to the bases of the Great Pyramids.I graduated from university in May 2006 after which I travelled through North America, Europe and Asia for one year, including undergoing an internship with a small NGO in Bangalore, India. I returned to Adelaide to work as the judicial Associate to two justices of the Supreme Court of South Australia whilst also working as a Boarding House Master at my former high school. After six months, I began as Associate to Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court of Australia, in his final year before retirement. For one year, I lived between Sydney and Canberra and gained tremendous insight into the workings of our nation's highest court and some of the most pressing legal issues facing our country. Following Justice Kirby's retirement, I spent six months in Sydney working for a law firm and tutoring at a university. I also volunteered every Saturday with SAIL, the Sudan-Australia Integrated Learning program, which involved tutoring and mentoring Sudanese children who had recently arrived in Australia. In August 2009, I ventured to Tanzania in East Africa, and undertook a three month internship within the judicial chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. This Tribunal was set up by the United Nations Security Council to prosecute those most responsible for the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994. It was a fascinating experience both professionally and culturally. I followed this with a further nine months of travel through the Balkans, Middle East and Africa – from Sarejevo to Cape Town. Particular highlights included hiking for six days to reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro; spending Easter and Passover with a local family in Jerusalem; spending three days cruising on a small boat down the Nile River in Egypt to the bases of the Great Pyramids. Upon my return to Australia, I moved to Kununurra, 800 kilometres west of Darwin, to begin my new position in the East Kimberleys with Save the Children.

Future career options

I intend to spend my life working to improve the lives of others … My intention, after my time with Save the Children, is to pursue further study in the USA – namely a Masters in International Relations or in Government and Politics. I would like to live and work abroad – either with an international non-government organisation, the United Nations, or an international think tank. I would like to combine my interest areas or international law, conflict resolution and diplomacy. Ever since my first overseas adventure to Canada – thanks to the Geography Olympiad – I have been fascinated with the world, and specifically, with the peoples of the world. So far, I have been to over 60 countries, and I have no intention of slowing down. I intend to spend my life working to improve the lives of others – be that to promote peace in the face of conflict; tolerance and compassion in the face of hatred and misunderstanding; development and prosperity in the face of poverty and oppression.

Studies in Geography

I have always had a fascination with geography and the people and places of our world. I studied geography at high school in Adelaide, and was fortunate to be selected as the captain of the Australian team to the 1999 International Geography Olympiad in Toronto, Canada. This provided me with my first overseas experience, and it was something which affected me for life. During my week in Toronto, I was able to interact with other participants from all over the world – and learn a little bit more about our shared humanity. This certainly, for me, heightened my interest in global affairs. At university, I studied law and international relations at Bond University in Queensland with the intention of pursuing a career in international relations and development. During my studies, I had the opportunity to undertake a university exchange in Starsbourg, France, and, along with my university team, also represented Australia at the international rounds of the 2006 Jessup International Law Mooting Competition in Washington DC.

Advice to people considering this type of career

… engage with the world around you … Geography can take you anywhere. It is more than just names of cities and rivers, methods of town planning, and differences between ecosystems. It is about the world – its many different peoples and cultures and environments, about things which separate and unite us. Whilst I only studied geography, in a formal sense, at high school, it is an interest area that I have maintained and pursued for life and has led me to where I am today. Geography helps us to appreciate the role that we each play as a small, but essential, piece of the large, and colourful, global puzzle. My advice is to engage with the world around you – through discussions with teachers and fellow students at school (especially in geography class!); through watching and reading the world news and following particular interest areas; through talking to, and befriending, people from around the world; and through travelling beyond your comfort zone – in both a metaphorical and physical sense. There is so much out there to see and do, and geography is the ideal way in which to further engage with that wider world.