Congratulations to  UNE alumna Phoebe Wilkinson who earlier this month was named NSW Young Planner of the Year by Planning Institute Australia (PIA).

Phoebe graduated from UNE (with Honours) last year and now works as a town planner with Barnson in Dubbo, where she has teamed up with a number of other UNE graduates.

Her honours thesis, on regional resilience, speaks volumes of Phoebe’s personal approach to planning and commitment to sustainability.

“My thesis was inspired by the years of drought we had endured and I wanted to investigate how council policies and legislation could be amended to help encourage resilience within regional communities,” Phoebe said. “I interviewed planners from all over New South Wales – in metropolitan, regional and semi-urban settings – about how development plans could help build for a more sustainable future.”

Phoebe says she was fortunate to be mentored by Dr Paul McFarland (PIA Fellow) during her time at UNE. “Without his encouragement, I wouldn’t be the planner I am today, and for that I will be forever grateful.” 

As a member of the PIA Young Planner Committee since 2018, Phoebe is already well connected in her industry and says it has been a privilege to represent young planners at symposiums and webinars in recent years. She is thankful that, through PIA, she was able to be mentored by UNE Alumna Sharon Smith (PIA Fellow) at Coffs Harbour City Council, who gave Phoebe her first insights into the industry.  

“I feel honoured to now be in a position to help the community and future generations,” she said. “Planners might not be highly visible, out there building bridges; we are more behind-the-scenes implementing the plans and policies that are needed to build those bridges. It’s a diverse industry and I am particularly keen to help address the inequities that can exist within our communities.

“Even on the local level here in Dubbo, I can have influence. It might just be a family’s awning extension I am working on, but that extension will afford the family shelter during the hot summer days, and that’s nice to be a part of.

“I also worked on a large subdivision in Dubbo and it’s great driving through and seeing families from all over the world now making their home there. I especially love seeing solar panels and rainwater tanks because it means people are thinking sustainably, and it’s important that whatever we build has longevity.”

At Barnson, Phoebe works under UNE alumna town planner and company director Jim Sarantzouklis, and collaborates with two other UNE graduates.

“At UNE, I gained an important regional perspective and it’s great to have that like-mindedness in the business,” she said.  “A well-rounded approach to planning is a feature of the UNE course. Being in and often from the regions, we learn how to understand and empathise with our clients, easily creating relationships of trust.

“I was so lucky to have such a great education and start at UNE. I now hope to inspire the next young planners coming through.”


Article written by Amanda Burdon.