Griffith comms student’s success after graduating
From interning at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, to standing on the world’s most active volcano and interviewing the first female Secretary General of Vanuatu, Erin Semmler has an extraordinary university experience to tell.
Erin Semmler graduated from Griffith University on the Gold Coast with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2018, and is now the feature reporter at the ABC Capricornia in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Growing up in Yeppoon, Erin always envisioned becoming a news reporter, engaging with the news from a young age and capturing her own videos and recordings of herself presenting bulletins.
“It was around Year 10 when I decided I wanted to be a reporter so I told the family that I was going to study communications,” Erin said.
“But one of my extended family members told me it wouldn’t be a good idea because journalists are paid poorly and there are no jobs,” she said.
“I believed this extended family member and decided to throw away my idea of being a journalist – it was a phase apparently.”
Dreams dashed, Erin completed Year 11 and 12 and while she still enjoyed writing and English extension, she also did well in a business class and decided to enrol in a business degree at uni.
“At first business wasn’t so bad, I liked accounting and I really enjoyed marketing but in my second semester I enrolled in economics – I hated economics and failed,” Erin said.
“I almost left uni to study childcare, but my mum wouldn’t let me, so I decided to return to my original plan of a journalism degree – and I haven’t looked back since,” she said.
Erin’s Griffith University degree prepared her to enter a highly competitive workforce and to become a fully-qualified journalist.
“The practical skills, contacts and portfolio I gained from my degree prepared me well for my first full-time job as a journalist,” Erin said.
“I worked in the Village Source Newsroom for the duration of the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and contributed stories to six out of the eight editions. I also completed internships as a journalist and social media manager,” she said.
“My experience at Griffith was fantastic.”
In September and October last year, Erin was one of 15 Griffith Uni communications students who went to Vanuatu for two weeks for a New Colombo Plan-funded climate change communication study tour through Griffith University.
Accompanied by three academics, Dr Kerrie Foxwell-Norton, Dr Samid Suliman and Dr Kasun Ubayasiri, as well as SBS Pacific correspondent Stefan Armbruster, the study tour included one week in Port Vila and another week on Tanna.
“My study tour to Vanuatu was easily one of the highlights of my university life,” Erin said.
“As an aspiring journalist, this trip presented an invaluable opportunity to learn about our Pacific neighbours and how to better communicate climate change,” she said.
“Having the opportunity to make connections with ni-Vanuatu is a privilege I will never take for granted.”
Erin and her fellow students had the opportunity to meet former Secretary General Ketty Napwatt, who Erin describes as a passionate woman all about empowerment. The study tour also spent a night on an active volcano.
“If you want to feel insignificant in the face of mother nature, Mount Yasur is where you want to go,” Erin said.
After graduating at the end of last year, Erin had her eye on the ABC and was determined to get a job as a reporter.
“While I was interning at the Clarion Awards, Faith (Valencia-Forrester from Griffith) introduced me to the ABC’s Queensland regional editor at the time Cathie Schnitzerling,” Erin said.
“I had a coffee with Cathie and after mentioning I wouldn’t mind giving a regional newsroom a try, I ended up at the ABC in Rockhampton,” she said.
“It started as a four-week casual contract where I helped produce radio news and content for programs.”
Erin says her final week of her contract was a ‘literal baptism of fire’ with unprecedented brushfires affecting much of central Queensland. Erin says she had to step up to help the team with emergency broadcasting. And when the four weeks were over, the Chief of Staff asked Erin to stay on as a casual.
“A six-month position opened up to backfill in news and features reporting and a few months later a 12-month stint in features was advertised,” Erin said.
“I applied, went through the normal selection process and landed my first full-time job as a journalist,” she said.
Erin’s employment at ABC has been an incredible experience, especially in Rockhampton where she grew up.
“I’ve been flown to Brisbane twice for training, I can arrange and read news bulletins on my own, my broadcast voice has improved in leaps and bounds, I shoot and edit my own videos for the ABC, I’ve travelled to remote communities across the region and much more,” Erin said.
“The best part is I’m loving every second of it,” she said.
“And it’s all thanks to Griffith giving me experience, skills, contacts and ultimately Faith, for opening that door for me.”
Towards the end of Erin’s first year of journalism, she realised if she wanted a job, she had to take every opportunity that was presented to her. An initiative she believes all communication students should take on board.
“When the uni is looking for interns for events or volunteers to help in anything communication or journalism related, put your hand up,” Erin said.
“Take every opportunity, put your all into it, work hard and show that you’re there and you’ll give anything a go,” she said.
“You’ve got this.”
By Ben Harden