Brendan Taylor, Senior Project Officer and Angie Brace, Koala Officer lead the delivery of koala conservation actions across the Northern Rivers region under the NSW Koala Strategy. Based at Friends of the Koala, Angie provides partners, stakeholders and community members with on ground support for koala conservation projects, while Brendan coordinates the implementation of actions under the NSW Koala Strategy from within the Department of Planning and Environment.
We recently sat down with Brendan and Angie to find out more about their background, career and most importantly what drives them to do the work they do.
What is your background?
Brendan: I have spent the last 20+ years in variety of roles within the conservation sector, including Youth Conservation Corps supervisor with Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), Greencorps supervisor with the Australian Trust for Conservation Volunteers, NPWS Discovery Program Ranger & Coordinator, Wildlife Ecology Research Fellow at Southern Cross University, and Senior Ecologist at a small ecology consultancy.
Angie: I was born in Mudgee, but I was raised around the beautiful Northern Rivers of NSW. I lived in the villages of Wardell and Lennox Head before moving to the mountains of Kyogle when I was 9. I went to school at Kyogle, then Lismore before moving to Sydney and then Brisbane. I lived in the lazy metropolis of Brisbane until 2013 when I relocated back to Kyogle with my partner, my son and a very round pregnant belly. I love it here; this landscape will always call me home.
I volunteered at John Wamsley's Warrawong Earth Sanctuary, the first feral free enclosure designed for re-wilding regionally extinct native wildlife, this experience ultimately sent me down the conservation pathway.
What has your career path looked like?
Brendan: I think I’d describe my career path as ‘meandering’. I spent the early part of my post-school life studying and working in the exercise physiology area followed by the youth work field before leaving that to travel around Australia with my wife for a few years, picking fruit and visiting over 200 National Parks. During a break in the travels, we lived in Adelaide and volunteered at John Wamsley’s Warrawong Earth Sanctuary in the Adelaide Hills. It was the early 1990s and Warrawong was Australia’s first feral-free enclosure designed for re-wilding regionally extinct native wildlife such as brush-tailed bettongs and stick-nest rats. The Warrawong experience (and the travel) was transformative and sent me down the conservation pathway.
Angie: I have worked in Natural Resource Management throughout southeast Queensland and northeast NSW for over 20 years. I have worked as a volunteer coordinator at Greening Australia, an Environmental Educator at Boondall Wetlands and a Habitat Brisbane officer working with Bushcare volunteers in the western suburbs of Brisbane. When I moved back to the Northern Rivers I started working part-time at Landcare as a project officer before moving onto Lismore City Council working on Koala Projects. My first foray into “Koala Land”. Earlier this year I took on my current job as the Regional Koala Officer at Friends of the Koala.
What does your job entail? Can you take us through an average day?
Brendan: Lots of meetings! Much of my work is about connecting with regional partners and delivering koala conservation projects. Most of this occurs in the virtual space so there’s lots of office time which can be challenging at times for someone who has spent the last 20 years in field-based roles. Thankfully, I occasionally get out to meet up with the people and land managers doing incredible on-ground koala conservation work. These occasions are true highlights.
Angie: I don’t think I have an average day! I work from 6 different offices at Friends of the Koala and our partner Councils. Our region covers over 1.3 million hectares with landscapes that range from coastal heath and wetlands right up to the escarpment. I could be out on site talking with landholders or Landcare about habitat restoration or out working with Councils helping to manage koala habitat and projects to mitigate threats across the region.
It's funny when you go into the environmental field you think it is to work in the environment but my jobs have always been about people. Our region has so many incredible organisations, volunteers and landholders who work tirelessly to save and celebrate our region's biodiversity.
Why do you do what you do?
Brendan: Because I get the opportunity to work alongside so many koala heroes who are working tirelessly to improve the plight of koalas, forests and our planet. And to have that opportunity is an absolute privilege.
Angie: It is funny when you go into the environmental field you think it is to work in the environment but my jobs have always been about people. Our region has so many incredible organisations, volunteers and landholders who work tirelessly to save and celebrate our region’s biodiversity. I feel so lucky to be a part of it. Also, koalas are really cute.