Elissa waters down stereotypes

Kempsey’s Elissa Burgin is establishing a career for herself in the traditionally male dominated water operations industry and quietly meeting 2016’s International Women’s Day pledge to accelerate gender parity.

Placed with host employer Kempsey Shire Council in 2015 as a water industry trainee, Elissa is now undertaking Certificate III in Water Operations through HVTC and the North Coast Institute of TAFE. Elissa successfully completed Certificate II in Water Operations last year.

“At first I was a little apprehensive about taking on a non-traditional trade and being one of only a few females but I knew I’d been given a great opportunity and it was up to me to put these apprehensions aside and just get on with the job and do it to the best of my ability,” said Elissa.

It’s proved to be the right decision and through her dedication and commitment Elissa is considered a valuable member of the team.

“I’m really enjoying the course, the training is excellent and I work with a great group of people. The opportunity to work in so many different departments within the Council also makes my job very interesting. Working in the Water Process, Sewer Process, Maintenance and Construction departments has given me really good insight and experience in maintaining public and private water utility services across a broad range of situations.”

Elissa has also obtained her Induction Work Health and Safety Card, Confined Space ticket and Blue and Yellow Traffic Control Cards during her training.

“Elissa has a very positive outlook and a ‘can do’ attitude. She has shown herself to be a conscientious and capable trainee across Council’s four water services departments. These departments are quite diverse and require adaptable skills to perform well in each and Elissa has performed solidly in each area,” said Peter Anderson, Technical Support Officer Water Process, Kempsey Shire Council.

“Elissa has also grown in confidence and is exceeding in her studies which will position her well in this ever-changing and challenging field.”

Elissa doesn’t think being female will be an obstacle to developing a rewarding career in water operations.

“I’ve been interested in resource management since taking on earth and environment studies during my HSC in 2014 and my job helps me make a practical contribution to the way in which our local water resources are managed and maintained,” Elissa said.

“I was employed on my ability and I’m proving to myself and others that I can do the job well and that I have what it takes to succeed.”

“I still have a lot to learn but I’m fortunate to have great support from the team at the Council and my HVTC Field Officer, Grant Reeves.”    

Grant said throughout HVTC’s partnership with Kempsey Shire Council, the Council had shown itself to be a great advocate for diversity in the workplace.

“Appointing young women like Elissa in traditionally male roles reflects their commitment to providing equal employment opportunities across the organisation,” said Grant.   

“I’m very proud of Elissa’s achievements and the way in which she’s developing her skills. She’s earned the respect of her co-workers and peers and is leading the way for other women interested in pursuing a career in water operations.”

When Elissa isn’t studying and working at the Council, she’s an enthusiastic member of a local soccer team and actively engaged in fundraising activities to improve amenities at the club’s home ground. She has also recently finished designing and applying a new design to her motorbike. 


Elissa Burgin photo

Elissa regularly collects water samples for testing as part of her job.