Building relationships, articulating benefits and ensuring communities are front of mind.

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Martine Holberton, Community Engagement Advisor

“I want to achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes that will support communities to live better locally, be self-sufficient, and create positive results for the environment.”

When it comes to large-scale infrastructure projects, it’s a wonderful, ambitious aim. And on a good day at work for Martine Holberton, it’s often within reach.


Martine is a Community Engagement Advisor for Tilt Renewables, a company with wind and solar electricity generation assets across the country.


Her role is a critical one; ensuring the needs of local communities are considered as early as possible in clean economy projects. Much of Martine’s focus is on fostering relationships and becoming an advocate back into the business to help ensure good outcomes for those communities, particularly during construction of a big project.


What this means in practice is that when plans are made to build renewable energy infrastructure, it’s her job to meet locals and landowners to discuss those plans, seek feedback and input, and listen to concerns.


“It’s about spending time in communities to build acceptance and trust, and have challenging conversations,” Martine smiles.


While her employer helps drive Australia’s energy transition, Martine is driven by a more personal goal: not only to enhance, protect and conserve the environments in which she works, but to ensure First Nations groups and their communities are involved in the process.


“I’ve met with First Nations people all over the country, on country, where I’ve been lucky to hear their Dreamtime stories, the significance of places and totems. You instantly feel a responsibility that we can do better – to work on something positive and have meaningful relationships,” she says.


“Getting to know communities can be challenging, in terms of learning nuances around the specific issues in each region,” Martine continues. “I try to build rapport where we find common ground, and I get to know so many interesting people along the way.” She smiles again. “That’s a somewhat abnormal thing, to have a job that’s essentially about creating and nurturing relationships across the entire country. However, I see the clean energy transition as an opportunity to build a better future for all. I’ve learnt a lot on my journey so far and experienced so much generosity.”


For those curious about the work, what makes for a successful Community Engagement Advisor?


“You have to be genuine, and you really have to know the technology,” Martine says. “You have to understand how it works, and its impacts. If you’re a student who’s a good communicator, and you’re personable, or you really enjoy building relationships but you’re a civil engineer, you might be suited to the stakeholder engagement space.”


While an engineering background would have obvious benefits, Martine took a slightly different path, via one of Australia’s most sought-after fashion design degrees.


“I’ve always been very environmentally minded. I did fashion because it was so tough to get accepted,” she laughs. “I could have done arts or political studies. My designs were all rooted in sustainability and statement fashion – so my passion was always there.”


As was, clearly, her communication skill. Martine spent time on the London editorial desk at Vogue and in the public relations industry, before landing a communications role with another renewable energy generator, Pacific Blue (then Pacific Hydro).


“My time in PR gave me a strong grounding in the communications, marketing and engagement space,” Martine says. “It was the best footing to start from in terms of instilling the kind of work ethic that’s needed to persist and build networks and relationships. Studying design expanded my curiosity to explore creative solutions to complex circumstances. Funnily enough, I see many other fashion folk now pivoting to sustainability.”


Of course, being a good communicator with a strong work ethic is only part of the story, and Martine has sought out specific skills and training along the journey, with a Diploma of Sustainable Living from the University of Tasmania, and human-centred design and collaboration courses through the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) and Portable.


“You can be a good communicator, but holding the right space with people, working with a multitude of people, is a different skill,” Martine says.


Needless to say, holding the concerns of so many different people in mind can be a weight to bear.


“I do sometimes feel like my head is exploding,” Martine acknowledges. “I’m learning so much, getting exposed to different ways of life while travelling to places across Australia that most people who live in cities will never see. It’s enriching and definitely makes me a better person, but also fries my brain, as I think I care too much.”


“When it comes down to it, it’s a really interesting job and we need more people doing this work – human work – that brings people together.”


Martine Holberton is a Senior Stakeholder Engagement Advisor at Tilt Renewables. She holds a Bachelor of Design, a Diploma of Sustainable Living and a Socially Responsible Renewable Energy Development credential from Griffith University.