Development Practice Student and Graduate Profiles

The Development Practice suite of postgraduate Programs is very fortunate to have a rich and vibrant student community with students from many different countries and cultures. Our Alumni share some of their experiences about studying Development Practice at UQ.

If you're wanting to share your experience please get in touch with us at

28. Adam Coles - Australia

What was the best thing about your Development Practice program?

  • Definitely the diversity of backgrounds, ages and views of the other students - this added an extra dimension, and enabled many issues to be explored in ways that I hadn't considered. I also now have friends to visit from El Salvador to Mongolia. Also, the professionalism, combined with approachability, of the lecturers/tutors.

What was the most important thing you learnt/or most defining experience, you had while studying Development Practice at UQ?

  • Up until doing this program I had what I thought was a fairly rational, almost mechanistic, scientific view of how the world works. This program helped me to understand the different ways social and cultural experiences shape our world, and especially to recognise and integrate my own cultural biases, and how they colour the way I analyse my experience.

How did your study help you to get to your current role, and what does your current role involve?

  • My study, particularly the elements relating to participatory development and community engagement, was an advantage in landing a job that involves working closely with Indigenous groups in land management. My current role involves working with Indigenous groups across Queensland that manage their land and sea Country through community-based Indigenous rangers. This entails working with Traditional Owners and other stakeholders to identify priorities for Country, the threats to those, and translating strategic plans to practical measures for ranger work plans, such as cultural heritage protection, weed control, fire management, and other land management work.
  • To do this, I utilise the skills and approaches I studied during the MDP, such as community engagement strategies, cross-cultural communication approaches, as well as the ability to research widely for other approaches to similar issues (e.g. interstate, and internationally).

What did your study lead to?

  • My study led to the ability to think more critically, and strategically, and read much more widely in developing strategies whilst I work. I began to understand the sum of knowledge that exists out there, and how so much can be applied where you might not expect.

What advice would you give to students in the MDP program?

  • Find an area within development practice you are passionate about, and focus your studies on that where you can. It gives a sort of narrative to the whole program, and can keep you on track when things invariably get a bit tough. For me, it was how people and land interact - e.g. how environmental issues can appear through a development lens, and what 'sustainable' development means in practice.

What challenges have you come across in your career, and how did your degree help you overcome them?

  • Quite a few, but one that comes to mind is navigating some of the power dynamics that exist in remote and regional Qld. There are challenges ensuring that voices are heard, especially in discussions about values of Country, and there are many occasions in which the loudest voice dominates. Some of the theory and techniques I learned during the MDP helped me find ways of enabling the views of different people to be aired, such as women, young people, and people that are inherently less likely to speak up, but have important things to say.