Daniela Santucci

The Last Word: the best opportunity of the year to network with the industry

This year is the 20th anniversary of the Coffs Harbour Waste Conference. As a longstanding attendee and former presenter, Daniela Santucci shares her experiences and tells first-timers what to expect.

It was shortly after starting in the industry in 1999, as Waste Minimisation Officer for Kogarah Council, that Daniela Santucci attended her first Coffs Harbour Waste Conference – better known as simply “Coffs”.

Now 16 years on, and Manager of Resource Recovery and Sustainability at Bankstown City Council in the south-west suburbs of Sydney, she appreciates what the event offers as a delegate and a speaker.

“When I went to Coffs for the first time, I was attending to learn as much as I could about the industry,” says Daniela.

“Back then, local governments were looking at introducing the three-bin system for the first time, so the talk was all about changing contracts, changing services and educating the community,” she adds.

Daniela’s first impressions were that the industry was more complex than she had anticipated, and the sessions with the supporting conference paper provided her with lots of information to reference later.

“Networking is and has always been a focus of Coffs,” Daniela adds. “The breaks and after-conference social events are such good opportunities to meet people informally, which is where you’re more likely to make connections for the future.”

Daniela further mentions that the conference dinner is always a great place to meet new people. This is traditionally fancy dress, which she says “helps to lighten the mood”.

In 2011, Daniela presented for the first time at the event, accepting the invitation to speak about Bankstown’s “Recycle Right” program.

“My presentation was in the Education stream, so I was speaking to people who had a genuine interest in educating and engaging with the community about waste management issues,” she says.

Boosting the profile

That first presentation led to two exciting outcomes. First, Daniela was asked to provide a follow-up about the program the year after, which she says helped to boost Bankstown City Council’s profile. Then she worked with the organisers, Impact Environmental, to introduce education to the plenary part of the day, instead of solely as a separate topic stream.

“I had found that generally only educators attended the separate Education stream, and I wanted to highlight to the whole industry how important community engagement and education is,” explains Daniela. “I felt it should be upfront for everyone to learn more about developments in this area.”

For those attending Coffs for the first time, Daniela would encourage them to “get involved by meeting new people, expanding your technical knowledge and learning about the key issues for the industry”.

“People from all over Australia come together, and because it’s so diverse, you’re not hearing from the same speakers,” she says. “You learn because the people who are there are passionate, genuine, and believe in what they do.”

Due to the range of speakers, many from outside councils, and the sheer numbers of people attending, Daniela says it offers a unique opportunity to build contacts, expand your technical knowledge and learn about the latest advances in whatever sector you work. She is hoping to attend again this year.

Waste 2016 will take place between Tuesday 3 and Thursday 5 May at Opal Cove Resort, Coffs Harbour, NSW. Program information will be updated on the event website.