The Observatory

Nileshni Devi’s Vision 2020 Australia internship experience

In Suva, Fiji, I am currently working for the Joint Secretariat at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. The Joint Secretariat supports the work of the two governing bodies that work in the area of Public Health in the region – the Pacific Response Fund Committee (PRFC) which is in charge of the Pacific Islands HIV and STI Response Fund 2009-2013; and the Pacific Islands Regional Country Coordinating Mechanism (PIRMCCM) which is in charge of the Global Fund grants in the Pacific.

Joint Secretariat staff were able to undertake professional development, so I got to thinking and I began talking to people and exploring my options. I brought up my thoughts with my supervisor who fortunately gave me the go ahead to begin organising an internship. Through the Chair of the PRFC, Genevieve Howse, I was pointed in the direction of Vision 2020 Australia as a host organisation. The Chair of the PRFC was aware that a number of Vision 2020 Australia’s committees undertake work similar to that of the PRFC and the Joint Secretariat, and would complement my current employment well.

The Chair of the PRFC put me in touch with Vision 2020 Australia and we worked to make all of the necessary arrangements for my internship. I gave myself a brief introduction to Vision 2020 Australia through their website, but I was still nervous before arriving. So many questions were running through my head: how do people dress for work in Australia? What’s the office environment like? Will it be freezing cold? 

The dates for my internship were confirmed as 13 – 17 May. Very late in the evening on Saturday 11 May, I arrived in Melbourne. My prediction was correct: it was so cold!! Most of the following Sunday I spent site seeing around Melbourne – what a beautiful city!

My introduction to the organisation was perfect – I met Genevieve in the city on Monday morning and we walked to the Vision 2020 Australia office. There I was introduced to the CEO of Vision 2020 Australia and met with my supervisor, Courtney Saville, who introduced me to all of the staff and provided an overview of Vision 2020 Australia and the work it does. That morning the office had organised a welcome morning tea for me which was very friendly and a great way to speak to everyone as a group!

Nileshni with Courtney Saville and Komal Ram 
Image: With my internship supervisor Courtney Saville (Global Advocacy Assistant) and Komal Ram Western Pacific Regional Project Manager – IAPB)

On the second day of my internship, I worked with Courtney to prepare a submission for the 2013 Pacific Plan Review. This was another great learning experience as I was able to read up on the various Pacific Public Health declarations and commitments as part of my preparatory work.

Nileshni working at Vision 2020 Australia
Image: Day two with Vision 2020 Australia

Later in the week, I attended a number of working group meetings with the Vision Initiative Manager and Health Promotion Officer, including the Vision Initiative Operational Working Group meeting at Optometrists Association Australia – Victoria and the Vision Initiative Communications Working Group meeting at Guide Dogs Victoria.

Nileshni with Sarah Zerbib and Dee Tumino (Vision Initative).
Image: With Sarah Zerbib (Vision Initiative – Health Promotion Officer) and Dee Tumino (Vision Initiative Manager)

I also attended the Consortium Program Committee meeting with the Director of Global Policy and Programs and there I was given the opportunity to draw comparisons between the work of Vision 2020 Australia and the Joint Secretariat.

Nileshni with Sophie Plumridge, Director of Global Policy and Programs
Image: With Sophie Plumridge, Director – Global Policy and Programs

During my time in Melbourne I also visited the office of the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB). The main purpose of this visit was to do some work on the IAPB website, but I also had the opportunity to meet, talk and share information with the project team there. I met with Komal Ram who gave me some great insights into the international development sector and her work at IAPB. During my internship I met a whole range of stakeholders; my confidence in talking and sharing knowledge and information with the different people grew and I had the opportunity to build on some of my program and project management skills relevant to my work at the Joint Secretariat.

On my way home to Fiji, I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the things I had learnt and the many exciting experiences I had had in that one short week at Vision 2020 Australia. This internship was a great success for me. I would like to thank Courtney Saville and Sophie Plumridge for their tremendous support! A big thank you to Jennifer Gersbeck, Dee Tumino, Sarah Zerbib and Komal Ram, and all the staff at the Vision 2020 Australia, IAPB and other stakeholders I was lucky enough to meet during my time in Melbourne. Last but not least, a big thank you to Genevieve Howse for all her support before, during and after my internship.