Leah's path to climate policy

18 October 2023

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Carolyn Hendriks is an Associate Professor with a background in both political science and environmental engineering. Her work examines democratic aspects of contemporary governance, including participation, deliberation, inclusion and representation.

Leah Rheinberger’s lifelong passion for nature conservation led her on a transformative path to Crawford, where she discovered a profound connection between science, policy, and the urgent call for climate action.

Leah passion for conservation was ignited during her childhood, growing up amidst the stunning landscapes of Western Australia. As she ventured into undergraduate studies in Environmental Science, her journey was one that would take her through various roles in environmental science and management, both in the public and private sectors.

However, as the climate crisis became an increasingly urgent topic of discussion, especially with her two children, Leah’s motivation grew. Headlines across the country of coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef and the devastating Black Summer bushfires were real-world reminders of the planet’s perilous state.

Like many Crawford Students, COVID-19 gave her time to re-evaluate her career. Leah’s search for a deeper understanding of climate science and policy led her to Crawford’s Master of Climate Change (MCC) program. “I felt the MCC offered a multi-disciplinary approach to climate policy, led by international experts in their respective fields. The program also offered a diverse range of units and focused on developing writing and analytical skills”, Leah said. The ability to complete her Master degree online made it a perfect fit for her, as she is based in Perth.

Throughout her academic journey, Leah discovered a keen interest in the scientific aspects of climate change and its environmental impacts. She was equally fascinated by the exploration of climate mitigation and adaptation policy solutions and valued the insights into decarbonisation pathways, adaptation strategies and climate finance provided by Professor Frank Jotzo.

As an online student, Leah says she found herself seamlessly integrated into her classes. Adding that, “However, many of my classes were fully online due to COVID-19, I felt included and a valuable part of the class, as lecturers and tutors were effective in including all students. One of Leah’s most memorable experiences at Crawford was the guidance and insights offered by Professor Carolyn Hendriks. Professor Hendriks illuminated the various ways to influence public policy, develop participatory processes, and explore citizen-led governance structures. This knowledge became invaluable to Leah pivoted her career towards climate policy development and implementation.

Following her recent graduation, Leah sees the need to address global challenges with locally-relevant policy solutions, as her Masters focused on analysis of national climate and environmental policies using local case studies. “I believe alignment between all levels of government, including international agreements, is critical to effective climate policies. Further, I believe good public policy should employ relevant participatory processes to enable inclusion of diverse perspectives and knowledge”, she stresses.

For prospective students considering the Crawford School, Leah has some advice to share, “The Crawford School contains some of the most renowned and cutting-edge policy scholars in Australia and the world with real-world connections aiming to make an impact on public policy. It is a very organised and supportive school, with the Academic Skills Team providing valuable assistance and advice with assignments and research”, she emphasises.

From all of us at Crawford, best wishes for your next steps in public policy, Leah!

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