A century of achievement 1913 - 2013
Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Faculty of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences

Dani Barrington


Environmental Engineering

It is not about taking a linear career path for things to happen. It is about developing your networks. It was because of the people I have met through my projects that I was given these opportunities.

Towards the end of my PhD I was seconded by Engineers Without Borders to work as a volunteer in Nepal, focussing on WaSH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) in remote communities. WaSH is all about ensuring the human rights to water and sanitation – do people have somewhere safe and appropriate to source drinking water, go to the toilet and manage the menstrual cycle?

When I returned to Australia, I worked with the International Water Centre (IWC) to develop a course on integrated water management for Nepali water managers and engineers, to be delivered in Perth and Brisbane. While I was preparing the course, another IWC colleague was looking for a post-doctoral candidate for a project she was proposing in the South Pacific, centred on WaSH marketing. My name was put forward to assist with writing the grant, which would include a three year Research Fellowship for me if successful – which we were!

Over the last three years I have been the Principal Investigator on this project, working in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and PNG. We collaborate with informal settlements around major cities and with local enabling actors (including NGOs, government departments, water utilities, UN agencies and private actors), investigating the current WaSH situation and fostering actions that have been proposed and prioritised by the communities themselves.

My undergraduate and postgraduate degrees were in Environmental Systems Engineering, and it was not until my current role that I realised just how important it is to take a systems approach to solving problems- it is not just about getting the technical side right, but also considering things such as policies, culture and economics.

I love all of the people I get to work with. On our project we have researchers from Australia and overseas, as well as local staff (from the NGOs and local universities). I also enjoy working directly with the communities themselves and the enabling actors.