Across Victoria: a conservation worker’s day

The alarm goes off. A night’s sleep is instantly ruined and its dream fades rapidly.

The time reads 4:45 am. With the majority of Australia still well and vastly resting peacefully, Tyler Wilkie begins his day for work.

With his Naturelinks work shirt, high vis and steel cap boots on, he starts his car in the cold, chilly morning that is still almost pitch black in darkness. First-aid kit, clothes, box filled with his food, fishing rod, tent, sleeping bag, pillow. Checking to make sure that he hasn’t forgotten anything, he begins his drive and his Monday.

“There would be nothing better than sleeping in honestly, but with something like the Casterton job you need to be up moving fast in order to make time. It can be refreshing, a nice drive,” he says.

Working in conservation, the location changes from job to job and for various different time lengths, leading to frequent travelling across Victoria each and every day. With Casterton, Victoria (a town near the South Australian border) Tyler must plan his week accordingly to be able to reach all destinations for work, as well as having a place to sleep.

“I live in Brunswick East, before leaving for Casterton I need to drop my car off at the depot in North Melbourne, grab the company car and go pick up a worker in Geelong, and then we start heading the five or something hour drive there,” he says.

“The work is challenging and tough as well – having that on top of a long drive at the start of the week isn’t the most ideal but you’re in nature and you’re travelling Australia which I can’t get enough of”.

Melbourne-raised yet a country boy at heart, Tyler is using his profession in conservation to explore interests around areas that he works. Having studied the flora and fauna of Australia he uses his trips to further his skillset, taking in the Latin names of plants and differences between them.

A traveller at heart but one whose travels have been severely damaged by restrictions since COVID-19, Tyler’s use of travelling across Victoria is something akin to a majority of Australians who now travel in their backyard as the alternative is no longer available.

“I spend a few days usually whenever I’m down working in Torquay or Anglesea way – head to the beach, surf, drive around after a day’s work, either stay at a place arranged by the boss or a mate, or I make the further drive down to St Leonards to spend the night,” he says.

“I camp during the week on some jobs, depending on where we’re gonna be and how far the jobsite is, have a good night before having to start work again in the morning.”

Tyler’s routine is one that is tantalising for some in the post-COVID world – getting to travel frequently on a daily basis and explore regions of Victoria unknown in the areas they live.

Adding to that is what Tyler does during his trips up and down Victoria: camping, surfing, chainsawing, tractoring, controlled fire burning, interactions with various animals – the entire  experience has some definite benefits.

“Dealing with animals on the regular during work is really awesome. You’ll be chopping down vines or weed and then a rabbit or fox will run by, cool birds that you don’t see where I live will fly past. I even saw a baby kangaroo that had been abandoned – wrapped it in my jacket and waited for rescue to come,” he says.

“Gotta be careful with animals and plants with this job, help any injured ones or fragile one, make sure you’re cutting the right plan you’re supposed to be cutting out of the ground, don’t want to be cutting an endangered one.”

It’s a career for a certain kind of individual. Long days on the road, hours in the field, cutting, weeding, tracking, yet having access to scenery, animals and travel at the tip of your fingers.

Tyler’s lifestyle is one at the heart of nature and Australia.

Caring, knowing and taking care of animals and plants around Australia is something crucial to Tyler’s job and is for his day to day life as well, always keeping an eye open for anything that needs to be protected and conserved as he goes about his day.

“Not everyone needs to know everything about what is specific to Australia, but knowing what’s in our own backyard is important for anyone, especially in a time like today. We can no longer travel, so why not hit the road and explore the country we’re in?” he says.

“Australia is far bigger than just where you’re from. Seeing the sights and the road, taking notice of what’s Indigenous and what’s been brought over, you can really get fulfilment wherever you travel, especially in this state”.