Meet a Geographer — Helping people

Christopher Varney

Child and Youth Participation Advisor, World Vision Australia

Christopher Varney

My job is to look at how children and young people participate in development solutions. I feel very lucky to have my job. In my Geography course I constantly wrote about the importance of community participation in sustainable development, cities, environmental protection, etc. My job is to look at how children and young people participate in development solutions.

Under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and World Programme of Action on Youth, children, adolescents and young people have participation rights in all matters which affect them. World Vision takes this seriously and prioritises a focus on children in all its development, humanitarian relief and advocacy. As an organisation we are concerned by the consequences that dangerous climate change will have on children and young people. Consequences which these generations did not cause. 

From a geographer's perspective, young people are central to the achievement of sustainable development, because we will inherit the modern world and its deep geographical uncertainties. Our conviction and passion for our environment are our greatest forces in forging integrated solutions to climate change and extreme poverty.

The best aspects of my job

Working with kids and passionate children's advocates. I think we can all learn a lot from a child's view of their surrounding environment. My research, consultations and public engagement all focus on the role that children and young people can play in development responses.

Prior studies 

Geography was part of my Double Major in my Monash Arts Degree. I was fortunate to receive the Third Year Runner-up Prize for Geography in 2011. I did not study Geography in Year 12 (wish I had!)

My career pathway

I was fortunate to serve as Australia's Youth Representative to the UN… I am at a very early stage in my career. Up until this point, I have volunteered with a range of organisations including World Vision Australia, UN Youth and Youth Affairs Council of Victoria. In 2009 I was fortunate to serve as Australia's Youth Representative to the UN (with support from UN Youth) where I was able to collect young people's views on climate change nation-wide and share them at the UN General Assembly and Copenhagen Climate Conference.

Future career options

I gain energy from the policy side of human geography. People in my field are concerned with creating enabling societal conditions for environmental protection, urban sustainability, poverty alleviation and water quality. I don't like to think far ahead, but as long as those themes are in my career, I think I will be happy. 

Studies in Geography

My studies in Geography have been at the secondary level and then later as a mature age student at university. My university studies included environmental management topics such as: sustainable urban development, ecosystems, geographical information systems, environmental impact assessment, ecotourism, and research development. I supplemented these studies with some science subjects including freshwater ecology and biology.

Advice to people considering this type of career

Say yes to opportunities … I think it's so important to complement your studies with practical experience. Volunteering with an organisation concerned with human geography issues can be a great way to start. Say yes to opportunities as they come and persevere until you find a practical opportunity that inspires you.