Forging careers with purpose

29 January 2024

We asked three people about crafting a purpose-driven career that is values driven, community focused, and leaves a meaningful mark on the world.

In an era where making a positive impact has become as important as professional success, a career with purpose has become more than an aspiration – it is now a guiding principle for many jobseekers. 

Beyond the paycheck and job title, we increasingly seek purpose-driven roles that resonate with our values, contribute to our community, and leave a meaningful mark on the world. 

We asked three South Australians about the motivations and rewards that come with crafting a career that extends beyond personal success, and how the unique blend of lifestyle, community, and professional opportunities has made South Australia the perfect place for their ambitions to thrive.


Seeing Space: Luke Heffernan’s Odyssey

Growing up in Port Willunga, Luke Heffernan’s passion for science gave him the determination to reach for the stars. 

Today, he is establishing himself as an international space leader and is determined to share his passion for artificial intelligence with other young South Australians. 

As a PhD Researcher at the Australian Institute of Machine Learning (AIML), Luke explores the intersection of artificial intelligence and humans, while linking these topics to space through various side projects – a realm he believes holds the key to addressing global challenges. 

“Space gives us the bird’s eye view to understand our Earth and an ecosystem to explore medicines, manufacturing, and more that we can’t within our atmosphere and gravity. And AI lets us process all the information we could want in ways that the human brain could never concurrently retain. 

“Combined, I believe these will enable us to address problems like global warming, food distribution to address hunger, and financial fraud and economic inefficiencies.”

Luke connects with other young space professionals as the Australian National Point of Contact for the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC), which connects and represents university students and young space professionals ages 18 – 35 to the United Nations, space agencies, industry, and academia.

“Speaking to young people in many other capital cities around the world, I’ve heard that it’s easy to get lost and feel like it’s hard to see the change you’re making, if you even manage to get a foothold. 

“In South Australia, I’ve had the facilities, education, support, and connections needed to achieve just about anything. Especially with the development of Lot Fourteen, access just becomes easier and easier for building and growing a career. I can have a list of meetings organised with the exact relevant people in government, business, and academia within a day for most challenges I tackle.”

“The ability to affordably live 15-20 minutes from my work is key. The infrastructure and human-first planning enable me to spend my time how I need, not on travel and all the empty time in between.”

Luke is passionate about creating more opportunities for young South Australians to follow a similar career trajectory. 

While a student at the University of Adelaide, Luke founded Adept, a company which aims to foster the development of innovative graduates equipped with the skills required by a rapidly transforming digital world through real projects backed by business and local industry. 

“Technology in its infancy tends to require higher level skills to use, but I want to see everyone from kindergarteners to my grandparents use it as easily as they make toast,” Luke said.

“While the inclusive future I dream of is yet to become reality, I see the need to train others to help us reach it. 

“Through the provision of practical skills at Adept and the integration with relevant supply chains through various space organisations, we are creating talent and structures to help others better the world around them.”


Creating Support for Mothers and Families: Stephanie Malan’s Compassion Drive

Stephanie Malan learnt very quickly after becoming a mum that it truly does take a village to raise a child. 

She was also painfully aware that many women do not have this kind of support network to support them in the early days of motherhood.

As a midwife, she regularly cared for women arriving at the hospital to give birth with little-to-no support, let alone the abundance of essential supplies required to care for a newborn.

“It was heart-wrenching to see these mothers struggling with feelings of isolation and limited access to essential support. Their stories touched my soul, and I felt an overwhelming desire to do more for them,” Stephanie said.

Driven by compassion and a sense of responsibility, she embarked on a mission to make a lasting impact on the lives of struggling new mums.

And so, the idea for The Village Co, was born. The charity works to ensure every new mother has access to quality healthcare, emotional support, and practical assistance during the critical postpartum period.

“I wanted to create an organisation that not only provided immediate assistance but also focused on long-term empowerment and sustainable change.”

“We believe that when we support new mothers, we are not only positively impacting their lives but also creating a ripple effect that contributes to the overall well-being and development of children, fostering healthier family dynamics, and building stronger communities.

Stephanie attributes a large part of her charity’s success to the strong support system in South Australia for entrepreneurs and social innovators. 

“South Australia has a vibrant entrepreneurial community and forward-thinking mindset and has fostered an environment that encourages and supports innovators. 

“The presence of startup incubators, co-working spaces, and mentorship programs has been invaluable in helping me develop my ideas, refine my vision, and gain access to the resources and expertise needed to create a charity focused on supporting struggling new mothers.

“ There are so many individuals and organisations who are looking to collaborate, share knowledge, and support each other. I have been fortunate to find like-minded individuals who share my passion, leading to partnerships, shared learning, and collective efforts to create positive change.”


Future focused: Parika’s Strategic Vision for South Australia

Returning to Adelaide from interstate in 2020, Parika found her dream role developing policies and tools to shape the future of SA within the South Australian Government.

From ensuring policies are inclusive for all South Australians to predicting the future needs of the state, Parika’s role as Senior Strategy Designer at the Department of the Premier and Cabinet allows her to help shape policy and strategy development in the state. 

“With the rapidly changing and complex nature of the world today, it is essential for governments to be proactive in anticipating and preparing for future events.

“As a state, we need practices and tools to tackle them systematically if we want to create an equitable and prosperous future for all South Australians,” Parika said. 

“My role within the foresight unit seeks to build the foresight skills and capability across the South Australian public sector, so that our strategies, programs and policies are fit for the future. 

Parika believes South Australia is a place that truly values and supports those who’d like to make a positive change. 

“As a young person, I have found various avenues for mentorship and support from professional and social networks, and this has been the key in creating a purposeful career for me.

“Having the mindset of “strong ideas, lightly held”, goes a long way moving to South Australia – a clear intention that is open to iteration is key to building a resilient career.

“At all my key transition points, I have been able to tap into new and existing networks for advice, which has honed my understanding of the key elements of a purposeful career for me.


“South Australia provides fertile ground for purposeful ideas to flourish.”