Words of wisdom from women in conservation

Kate Thorburn
Published 07 Mar 2019 
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Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager Western Rangelands Lis McLellan. Photo by Vanessa Westcott<br/> Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager Western Rangelands Lis McLellan. Photo by Vanessa Westcott
Bush Heritage Tasmanian Reserves Manager Annette Dean. Photo by Annette Ruzicka<br/> Bush Heritage Tasmanian Reserves Manager Annette Dean. Photo by Annette Ruzicka
Cravens Peak Reserve Manager Jane Blackwood. Photo by Lachie Millard/The Courier Mail<br/> Cravens Peak Reserve Manager Jane Blackwood. Photo by Lachie Millard/The Courier Mail
Bush Heritage Project Officer Kate Taylor at Bon Bon. Photo by Carly Earl/The Guardian<br/> Bush Heritage Project Officer Kate Taylor at Bon Bon. Photo by Carly Earl/The Guardian

We hear from four fabulous Bush Heritage female staff members ahead of International Women's Day 2019.

Elisabeth McLellan - Healthy Landscapes Manager Western Rangelands

On being a woman in a male-dominated field…

I’ve never experienced it as a disadvantage personally, I’ve gone where my passion and opportunity leads me and been both a member and a leader of local and global teams. I consider myself fortunate to have worked alongside outstanding women and men in conservation.

On people who inspire you…

So many incredible people to choose from! Here are a few: David Attenborough, Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg. Closer to home, my husband Richard. All are unstoppable, ethical, generous and passionate.

On what attracted you to work in the field you’re working in today...

I was lucky to grow up in a small town in Zimbabwe, where we lived on a large bush block and had a National Park around the corner. My parents were very environmentally conscious, and I grew up birdwatching, trail-making, bushwalking and game-spotting. I can’t remember a day when I didn’t want to do something with wildlife and nature. I have been fortunate enough to build a career in something that I believe in and care deeply about, and it never feels like work.

On the best piece of advice you’ve ever received...

My father said that a good education is the foundation for everything else – and I would totally agree with that. I also love this quote ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has’ - Margaret Mead. Working for Bush Heritage allows me to be a part of a group of thoughtful, committed citizens making our best contribution for now and the future.

Annette Dean - Tasmanian Reserves Manager

On being a woman in a male-dominated field…

When I got my first permanent gig as a Ranger for Parks & Wildlife in Tassie there was only one other permanent female ranger – yes, one! There was a female ranger who had been temporary for five years and tended to wear her heart on her sleeve, and as a result was discriminated against for being too ‘emotional’. I often went to meetings where my suggestions were ignored, and then a male would suggest the same thing and be praised for the idea. It was a man’s world and you had to do things the male way.

On people who inspire you…

People who stay true to themselves against the odds, and stand up for what they believe in.

On what attracted you to work in the field you’re working in today...

Growing up in the bush at a rather special little place now called Oura Oura, which I just happen to now manage for Bush Heritage. I had freedom to roam the bush from dawn to dusk. I had no idea then what a privileged upbringing I had. When I was young and living at Oura Oura I walked into Lake Pedder just before it was flooded. I cried at how sad it was that the lake would be flooded, and couldn’t understand the senselessness of it all. As a student I joined the protests to protect the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (now in the Tasmanian World Heritage Area) and I’ve always been passionate about protecting our special natural places, and giving kids the opportunity to enjoy the natural world.

On the best piece of advice you’ve ever received...

I had a high school teacher who told me one day that women could do any job that men could do. Sadly, I didn’t believe her at the time, because this was totally contrary to all the messages I had received in my upbringing until then. But I remember the conversation vividly, so it must have helped me change my thinking. My first manager when I worked for Parks told me he didn’t want problems, he wanted solutions – I’ve never forgotten that advice either.

Jane Blackwood - Cravens Peak Reserve Manager

On being a woman in a male-dominated field…

Initially land management was a male dominated field. Most of the senior field positions were “manned” and there was definitely a boys' club but things have come a long way since those days and I think there is a great balance across the sector. In the early days I just claimed my space and developed my own style, generally I was allowed to run with it.

On people who inspire you…

I don’t have to look far to be inspired, I am inspired by friends and close colleagues who think about things differently and challenge my views and stretch my thinking.

On what attracted you to work in the field you’re working in today...

Always the country; its nature, the way it works and responds to management and environmental factors, its history… all fascinates me.

On the best piece of advice you’ve ever received

Best way out is through.

Kate Taylor - Project Officer, Bon Bon Station Reserve

On being a woman in a male-dominated field…

I don’t really know how to answer this question as I have never really thought about this. I think anyone is capable of great things if they put their mind to it. A male colleague recently said to me while undertaking a very smelly and unglamorous task: “I don’t know many girls who would do that,” which actually took me by surprise as it had never crossed my mind that I may not be ‘the norm’.

On people who inspire you…

There are so many people who inspire me, both male and female. However, the woman who is an absolute stand out is Jane Goodall. In a different time, she showed that a young woman could follow her passion and achieve wonderful things for science and species conservation by connecting people with nature. She has so many quotes that speak to me as a conservationist and it’s hard to pick a favourite but one I like to live by is: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make”.

On what attracted you to work in the field you’re working in today...

Hearing that the last Tasmanian Tiger had died in captivity, and realising that a species was gone, forever, and it could have been prevented, made me want to work with threatened species to assist in the prevention of that happening again. I believe in this day and age we should not be adding any species to an extinction list. It’s up to us to prevent it.

On the best piece of advice you’ve ever received...

My mum told me once to “Follow my dreams”. I think it’s a great thing to live by and I have done exactly that!

Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager Western Rangelands Lis McLellan. Photo by Vanessa Westcott<br/> Bush Heritage Healthy Landscapes Manager Western Rangelands Lis McLellan. Photo by Vanessa Westcott
Bush Heritage Tasmanian Reserves Manager Annette Dean. Photo by Annette Ruzicka<br/> Bush Heritage Tasmanian Reserves Manager Annette Dean. Photo by Annette Ruzicka
Cravens Peak Reserve Manager Jane Blackwood. Photo by Lachie Millard/The Courier Mail<br/> Cravens Peak Reserve Manager Jane Blackwood. Photo by Lachie Millard/The Courier Mail
Bush Heritage Project Officer Kate Taylor at Bon Bon. Photo by Carly Earl/The Guardian<br/> Bush Heritage Project Officer Kate Taylor at Bon Bon. Photo by Carly Earl/The Guardian