Anabelle Chen found her calling in a new country.
When she arrived as a backpacker to experience life in Australia, Anabelle Chen had no idea she’d be one day giving a presentation at a major international conference.
A Senior Analyst at the Program Evaluation Unit in Corporate Services at the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Ms Chen was a speaker at AES23, an international event held in Brisbane by the Australian Evaluation Society.
Yet her life in Australia began on a farm picking mushrooms.
“I met my very first Australian friend in London when I was an exchange student on a scholarship at the University of London,” said Ms Chen, who is originally from Taiwan. “That friend was on a working holiday in the UK. The encounter planted the seed in me to do a working holiday in another country.
“I started as a mushroom picker and packer in an old train tunnel between Mittagong and Bowral. I was looking for jobs in Brisbane and promised the farm owner to go there in the evening, as I thought Bowral was somewhere near Brisbane, only to find out after hanging up the phone that the destination was 1000km away.”
Travelling the distance was worth it, though. It was at that farm that she met someone who motivated her to succeed at whatever career she chose.
“The farmer there taught me three life mottoes: ‘Forgive but don’t forget’; ‘You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’; and ‘Work to live not live to work’. My gratitude for him is far beyond words. His generosity taught me to be a better person and motivated me to inspire others as he did.”
As a working holidaymaker, Ms Chen held down a variety of casual jobs, deciding “the hospitality and friendliness of Australian people” were reasons for her to stay here permanently.
Today, in her role with the NSW Government, she oversees strategic program evaluation, develops project planning, coordinates resources, and delivers reports meeting stakeholder and investor requirements for the Department of Planning and Environment.
“The Register captures various approaches to evaluating government programs through ‘knowing’, ‘being’, and ‘doing’ evaluation across different departmental clusters, offering a unique lens,” she said. “It acknowledges the diverse experiences and perspectives of evaluators, leading to a better understanding of the programs managed.”
Ms Chen said she enjoys her role.
“I am an educator and data analyst by nature,” she said. “Evaluation resonates with me well when it comes to monitoring, evaluation, and reporting.
“We can visualise the progress of continuous improvement and outcome alignment. It gives me a great sense of achievement when I can help people see their advancement in what they do. Especially, working in the government, I truly believe the work that I do helps many people at a large scale.
“Just thinking about it makes me thrilled to wake up to work every day.”
In addition to taking pride in her work, Ms Chen is also a proud union member.
“I unfortunately experienced bullying in my previous department,” she said. “It means a lot to me when the union has the legal support and can lend an ear to me when I need it.”