Making a Difference in Animal Welfare: A Day in the Life of Emmerson Oreb (2016)

Emmerson Oreb (2016) has nurtured a profound fondness for animals, a sentiment that blossomed during her biology classes at Santa Maria College. This affection inspired her to embark on the journey of Veterinary Studies at university. However, her career trajectory took an unexpected turn as she became enamoured with agriculture and developed a deep love for animal production. This shift set her on a distinctive path, diverging from the routes chosen by her university peers, ultimately guiding her towards her true passion.

 What are your fondest memories from your time at Santa Maria?

One standout experience for me was the Year 10 Biology camp in the Jarrah Forest. There, we delved into the intricacies of biodiversity and acquired hands-on knowledge of various animal monitoring techniques in a real world setting. Reflecting on Year 12, I cherish the overall experience and the opportunity it provided to create enduring memories. Despite the challenges of exams, the uplifting and supportive atmosphere we cultivated as a cohort remains a lasting and impactful part of my journey.

What did you pursue once you graduated from Santa Maria?

Following my graduation from Santa Maria, I gained acceptance into the Veterinary Medicine program at Murdoch University. Initially drawn to the idea of becoming a small animal veterinarian, my interests took a turn towards agriculture and production animals, with a specific focus on cattle as I delved deeper into my studies. In 2019, an enriching opportunity presented itself in the form of a study tour to Europe. During this tour, we explored agricultural research institutions, food processors, and farms across the Netherlands, France, and Belgium. This experience provided me with a comprehensive understanding of Australia’s agricultural industries and the significance of our products in key international markets.

In my final year at university, I concentrated my studies on production animal medicine, undertaking placements mainly in the South West. Much of my time was spent in the yards, conducting activities such as pregnant testing on cows. Upon completing my veterinary degree, I relocated to Canberra to join the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry through their graduate program. Throughout my graduate year, I rotated through three different areas within the department, offering me a well-rounded introduction to the life of a government vet. I gained exposure to various operational and policy roles, encompassing meat exports, animal welfare, and biosecurity.

Upon concluding the graduate program, I secured a permanent position in the Animal Welfare team. In my current role as a veterinary officer, I continue to contribute to the field I am passionate about.

What do you love most about your job?

I find my work incredibly rewarding, as it allows me to contribute to delivering animal welfare policies and supporting sustainable animal agricultural industries. Working alongside a fantastic group of passionate and genuinely curious individuals adds to the enjoyment. Each day brings new learning opportunities and problem-solving challenges across a spectrum of animal welfare topics for various farm animals.

Moreover, my job fosters a range of development opportunities, encouraging me to explore new experiences and acquire new skills. I’ve had the privilege of working at the Agriculture Minister’s office and participating in international conferences focused on emerging animal diseases. Looking ahead, I am eagerly anticipating an upcoming trip to the island of Belitung in Indonesia. There, I will be undertaking an internship with Australian and Indonesian delegates, an endeavor that fills me with excitement and anticipation.


Could you elaborate on the core duties and responsibilities that come with being a veterinary officer?

In my role as a veterinary officer dedicated to animal welfare policy, I leverage both my technical expertise and policy skills to actively engage in matters related to animal welfare, both within Australia and on the international stage. My responsibilities encompass extensive research, crafting briefs, interpreting animal welfare legislation, and engaging with industry and government stakeholders to advance animal welfare policy.

Within my team, we play a crucial role in shaping the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines, striving for the promotion of consistent and nationally recognised animal welfare standards. Additionally, our involvement extends to the global arena, where we contribute to the development of international animal welfare standards through the World Organisation of Animal Health (WOAH). We actively participate in initiatives aimed at promoting animal welfare and sustainability in the Asia and Pacific region, underscoring our commitment to fostering positive changes on a broader scale.

How did you discover your passion for animal care?

From an early age, I harboured a deep passion and clear aspiration to become a veterinarian. My affection for science and animals was solidified during my time at Santa Maria, where I developed a profound love for biology. While the desire to work with animals always burned within me, it was during my university years that I discovered my specific passion for animal husbandry. This realisation unfolded as I spent time on farms and connected with farmers across Western Australia and abroad.

What obstacles have you faced so far in your career? How did you overcome these?

Upon graduating from university, I found myself grappling with the daunting decision of launching into my professional career. The weight of societal expectations regarding the definition of success for a veterinarian was particularly overwhelming. Choosing to commence my career in government added another layer of uniqueness to my journey, as it diverged from the more common path of starting in clinical practice that most new graduate vets follow. To overcome the external pressures, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, delving into what truly matters to me in terms of my career and lifestyle.

This introspective process involved addressing fundamental questions about the ‘how, where, and what’ behind my work. Through this exploration, I gained a clearer understanding of the values that drive and motivate me, such as the profound satisfaction derived from aiding production animals and contributing to Australia’s agricultural industries. This realisation not only helped me navigate the initial overwhelm but also allowed me to align my professional choices with my core values.

What are your favourite hobbies outside of work?

I derive immense pleasure from activities like hiking, road trips, bouldering, and camping. Canberra, in particular, is fantastic because it offers an abundance of hiking trails and wildlife, all within a convenient 20-minute drive.

Having grown up in Perth, I continue to be amazed that just a three-hour drive can transport me to Sydney. Occasionally, I seize the opportunity for a spontaneous day trip to catch a musical or enjoy some stand-up comedy.

One of my favourite pastimes is driving along the East Coast. I’ve been known to persuade friends to join me on impromptu journeys to places like Wagga Wagga and Bega, all in the pursuit of immersing ourselves in the tranquil presence of cows and the charm of the countryside.

We express our gratitude to Emmerson for generously sharing her distinctive journey with us. She serves as a testament to the idea that one doesn’t always need to follow the conventional route to success. 

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