April 23rd 2021

Our people, Our Pacific Environment Q & A with Amanda Wheatley

Shining our spotlight on our Pacific People that work for our Pacific environment is this Q and A series from your Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

This week we introduce you to Ms Amanda Wheatley, the Biodiversity Adviser of SPREP, based within the Island and Ocean Ecosystems. Amanda is no stranger to our Pacific islands, she was the former Biodiversity Officer at SPREP, yet many years before that she was also a Volunteer based in Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment as part of the Australian Volunteers Program.

She reached some amazing milestones in 2020 leading a great team to bring us the largest Nature Conservation Conference in the Pacific islands on a virtual platform. It led to the launch of the State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report, the Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Islands Region 2021-2025 as well as the Vemööre Declaration: Commitments to nature conservation action in the Pacific Islands region, 2021-2021.

On a personal note, Amanda is not just a Champion on our Pacific biodiversity front, she is also a Champion Women’s Paddler, having won the World Va’a Marathon Titles in 2019.

Keep on, Amanda!

Q. Please tell us about one of your greatest achievements as the Biodiversity Adviser with SPREP.

Organising the recent 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas held late in 2020 is one of my proudest moments. This work has been a main focus for me over the past two years. Due to COVID-19 we essentially had to organise two conferences, first, we focussed on a face-to-face event to be held in New Caledonia, which was heartbreakingly cancelled just four weeks before starting due to the global pandemic.

I don’t give up easily, so we then rescheduled the conference and turned it into a full virtual event. This event marked the first and largest virtual environment event in the region, and it had twice as many participants as any previous Nature Conference! It was therefore a great learning experience for all of us in the region and illustrated that virtual approaches can be successful. It also demonstrated that with strong partnerships across the region and teamwork any challenge can be overcome.

This work definitely reflected a couple of sayings – “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” and “the greater the challenge, the greater the sense of achievement or reward!”

Q. What would you say is one of the most impactful or exciting activities you have done with our Pacific island Members?

I still remember the first time I attended a United Nations Biodiversity Conference of Parties seven years ago as part of SPREPs team to support our Pacific island delegates. It was very overwhelming but exciting to walk into the massive conference room with thousands of representatives and to take a seat at the table with its own name tag ‘SPREP’, or to sit with our Pacific delegates, with the microphones and translation earpieces to wear and supporting them to make an intervention or statement.

I have since attended three of these global meetings, and always love my role in supporting Pacific Island delegates to come together as a team, to have an amplified, strong voice amongst often larger delegations from countries around the world.

Ms Amanda Wheatley on the left with Mr Stuart Chape at the UNCBD Conference of the Parties
Ms Amanda Wheatley on the left with Mr Stuart Chape at the UNCBD Conference of the Parties

Q. What is one of the best things you like about your job?

Having the opportunity to live in Samoa with my family, and the diverse range of interesting and inspiring people I get to meet and work alongside. This includes my work colleagues at SPREP who come from across the region and the world, the pacific island country delegates, and the NGO and regional partners.

Q. If you could share one piece of advice that you have learnt from your work, what would it be?

Listen, be humble, enjoy what you do, and laugh often!

Should you wish to contact Amanda Wheatley, please contact amandaw@sprep.org