Meet a CAWA: Nell Thompson

It’s always important to celebrate your firsts—and this month, we’re thrilled to introduce you to the first Certified Animal Welfare Administrator from Australia. Meet Nell Thompson, Coordinator at Getting to Zero.

The Association: Please tell us a little about your organization, G2Z, and a victory, large or small, you recently celebrated.  
Nell Thompson:
Getting to Zero (G2Z) is a national program providing free consulting and support services, remote and onsite, for local government, not-for-profit organizations and community groups to improve outcomes for lost/stray and homeless animals in every community in Australia.

Our victories come every day, as we see organizations and individuals changing the way they operate for the benefit of the community and their pets. 

The Association: You are one of the newest CAWAs. What was the exact date? 
Nell Thompson:
 I sat for the exam on February 26, 2022, and was notified by Valerie [Sheppard, The Association’s Senior Director of Professional Development & Credentialing] on March 1. It was a great day.

The Association: When did you first decide to take the exam, and why? 
Nell Thompson:
I started thinking about the exam when it was still only being run onsite in the USA. The complication of needing to do the exam while overseas definitely put me off, so as soon as the remote access became a reality I started to look at it more seriously.

The Association: How did you prepare for the exam? 
Nell Thompson: I did look at trying to join a study group online, but realized the time differences and the rest of my work and study load would make this option too complicated. 

However, I took advantage of the full suite of resources available in the CAWA preparation package, which helped enormously. The work that previous applicants have done has definitely benefited those of us coming after. I listened to audio books while I trained in the gym and studied the rest the old-fashioned way, by making notes, etc.

The Association: What was the most surprising thing you learned as you prepared for the exam? 
Nell Thompson
: One of the things I was worried about was the differences between the relevant Australian and USA legislation and other related practices. As it turns out, best practice is best practice. What things are called might be slightly different, but the similarities are enough to make it doable. I’m also very lucky to have visited the USA many times, and have a bunch of really helpful and knowledgeable friends and colleagues over there, so I am slightly familiar with how things work on the other side of the pond.

The Association: What do you see as the main difference between animal welfare in Australia and the United States? What’s similar?
Nell Thompson: Culturally our two countries are very similar, and we really see that in our companion animal management and sheltering practices. In many ways, the USA is in front of what is happening over here, particularly when it comes to cat management and social change. Our land masses are very similar, but our population is way smaller, which means there are less resources around to put to this sector. When comparing population and animal incoming and outgoing stats, the results are very similar.

The Association: Walk us through exam day. How did you feel before, during and after?
Nell Thompson
: Really nervous in the lead up to the exam. I felt that things “should” be ok, but exams don’t always go that way! It didn’t help that I had technical difficulties and ended up starting my exam period around 30 minutes late. I was concerned it would be rescheduled, and I think I might have given up at that point!

After the exam, it was all a bit surreal. When there is a big lead up to highly anticipated events you often feel a bit discombobulated afterwards. The main feeling was of relief, though, that I could finally remove this weight from my brain and tick it off the list!

The Association: Who is a current CAWA you look up to, and why?
Nell Thompson: Oh, so many! It is impossible to pick just one. The main traits that are present in all of them, though, are the urge to be constantly striving for excellence in their roles, always looking to the future, and a great willingness to share knowledge with those that are interested.

The Association: What’s your one piece of practical advice for those considering the CAWA program?
Nell Thompson: There is no time like the present! If it something you want to do, then dig in and get it done. 

Learn More

Meet a CAWA: Maria Solacito, DVM
Meet a CAWA: Linda Anderson
Quiz: Am I Eligible for the CAWA Exam?




The Association is the only international society of leaders actively leading and managing community animal shelters/animal control agencies.


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