Interview with Amelia Sellars

Position: Principal Environmental Officer, Energy and Extractive Resources 

Organisation: Department of Environment and Science 

One-liner: Driving industry to operate more sustainably for Queensland’s environment.

Being more sustainable in everything we as individuals and businesses do. If we treat the earth with respect, it will take care of us.

The Interview

What did you study in school and university to get to where you are now?

Grace, Moranbah SHS

I studied STEMM subjects (chemistry, biology and Maths B) in high school. They were actually my worst subjects but I was drawn to them because I am curious and love learning. At university, I did a Bachelor of Environmental Science majoring in natural resources at the University of Queensland. Luckily, I got much better at science as I got older!

Your role covers lots of industries and aspects of pollution – in the air, water and on land. How do you balance the impacts on each to make the best environmental decision?

STEM Girl Power

Understanding how each of the industries works helps me to be able to prioritise the biggest impacts. For example, I know that quarries can release a lot of dust so I focus on air quality management. It is definitely challenging to find the balance. That’s why it’s important to work with industries to understand how they operate and where there are opportunities to work to achieve good environmental outcomes.

For fish kills and oil spills, how do you work backwards to work out what happened?

STEM Girl Power

It’s super interesting! Sometimes you will know what the pollutant is (for example if it’s an oil spill you can see and smell it), but sometimes you have no idea – so you have to investigate. This is where we take evidence such as water or soil samples to send to the lab. We also interview people as we are trying to determine the source of the pollution.

At what age did you decide that what you do as a job now was something you wanted to specialise in? Why did you choose a career in STEMM?

Elsie, Western Cape College and Grace, Kirwan SHS, Townsville

I had no idea I would ever end up in the job I have now, but I’m so glad I did. In high school, I was drawn to STEMM because I saw so many opportunities and pathways to take. I also love the idea that in science you never know all the answers, so you have to keep learning, investigating and asking questions.

In our modern society, what is the key to preserving the earth, its environments, and its inhabitants?

Grace, Kirwan SHS, Townsville

Being more sustainable in everything we as individuals and businesses do. If we treat the earth with respect, it will take care of us. For example, think about how we can consume less, waste less, be more conscious, make efficiency improvements and demand change. We can achieve so much.

Does Queensland have low emission energy sources we can shift to?

STEM Girl Power

We absolutely do – for example, Queensland is the highest generator of solar energy in the whole country! We also have a large sugar mill industry that uses its waste products as a fuel to generate power. It’s very cool when you see waste being turned into power.

Is your role more about regulating businesses or leading them to make changes to be more sustainable?

STEM Girl Power

It’s both. My job involves regulating industry to make sure they are meeting their environmental obligations, but also working with them to achieve better environmental standards for the future. It can be challenging at times and involves a lot of negotiation, but it’s so worth it when you get a win!

How can we get businesses to work together to create a circular economy and reduce waste?

STEM Girl Power

For businesses, I think creating a financial incentive is important. For example, if one business creates waste that another business can use as a product, there is an opportunity for them to save money and it’s a win for the environment.

I also think we as individuals have a lot of power as well – if we consume less (for example, buying quality clothes that last longer or op shopping) we can reduce waste. This also sends a message to businesses about what is important to us and what we are willing to spend money on.


I am an environmental regulator with the Queensland Government – this means I help businesses reduce their pollution to be more sustainable. I work with all sorts of industries like sugar mills, timber mills, quarries, coal seam gas companies and power stations. I look at things like air emissions, water quality, noise, groundwater impacts and how waste is managed. 

I have seen how coal is mined, how electricity feeds your home and schools, how the water your drink is treated, how food gets on your table and how roads are built. I have also responded to environmental emergencies like fish kills and oil spills.  

I am passionate about understanding how businesses operate and driving them to operate more sustainably so that we can ensure the health of the environment for future generations. 

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