Each week we’ve been runnings Q&As with Australian women doing vital humanitarian and aid work. Women you may not have heard of.
This week, the final week of our series, we meet Rhonda Chapman an independent International Aid and Development Advisor with clients including the Australian government and some of our largest NGOs.
1. What do your roles entail on a day-to-day basis?
Working as an independent consultant with a range of clients, my days are anything but routine. While in Australia, the majority of my working days are spent working out of the co-working space I co-founded with my partner in country Victoria, where I am privileged to work with other independent workers from a wide range of businesses and sectors.
My clients include the Australian government and NGOs, and I spend much of my time working in person or remotely with colleagues who are seeking my advice on strategic, program or partnership challenges. I also spend a fair bit of time conducting reviews of Australian NGOs seeking government funding from DFAT or applying for tax-deductibility.
I’m regularly at meetings and in contact by phone or email with staff at WaterAid Australia as part of my role as a Board Member and Chair of the Programs and Advocacy Committee discussing policy and strategy issues. I spend many hours at the computer drafting, reviewing or completing reports, or sorting and analysing data in the preparation for a report. There are sometimes night-shift teleconferences with fellow panel members of the International Accountability Charter. Rarely are two weeks the same.
It is a different story when I am on an overseas field trip and again, it depends on the type of work I am doing. If I am undertaking a review of field programs, it can include hours of formal meetings with government officials; long and rough car journeys to remote communities, and humbling experiences learning from community members about their lives, resilience, the clever things they are doing to improve life for them and their families and the challenges they face. I also spend time meeting with and facilitating groups of people from local and international NGOs, government, business and communities to assist them with their partnerships and ensure the collaborations are working well and achieving positive change. These days, most of my work is in SE Asia and the Pacific.
Rhonda while visiting a WaterAid Australia project in PNG. Source: Supplied
2. How did you become involved in humanitarian/aid work?
As a biology student in Sydney, I discovered a talent for event organisation. After a few years working as a biologist, I realised it was not the career for me and looked for something more people focused. After completing a Graduate Diploma in Leisure Studies (yes, it is a real course), I won a job at Oxfam (then Community Aid Abroad) in the late 1980s organising the iconic Walk Against Want fundraising event, initially in the NSW office and moving to the National office in Melbourne after a year.
I was hooked, and then spent some time volunteering for some of our projects in Asia. Following that I volunteered or worked in NGOs and community organisations both in Australia (WWF and Australian Volunteers) and overseas, including Central America and Azerbaijan. After coming home in 2000, I worked at the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) for four years before starting a PhD in Cambodia for 2 years.