Tips from the Kiwis

IN a career that has so far taken her from managing crocodile populations in Queensland to deer research and management in Tasmania to forest management with Sustainable Timber Tasmania, 31-year-old Ellen Freeman, of Cressy, says she has opened even more doors through undertaking a Rotary Tasmania Professional Development Exchange program.

Ellen was chosen for a primary industries and tourism exchange to New Zealand’s South Island in 2019 (the last time it was offered due to Covid) and she said the education she received and the networks that opened up to her are proving invaluable.

Having been involved in several community organisations such as the Longford Show Society and Rural Youth Tasmania, Ellen had worked alongside Longford Rotarians on various projects and knew some of the local members. But it was the suggestion of a former manager in the Department of Natural Resources and Environment who happened to be a member of the Scottsdale Rotary Club, who prompted her to apply for the exchange.

“I was working as senior wildlife management officer for Game Services Tasmania at the time, and I was particularly keen to see how the Department of Conservation, hunters and landowners managed their wildlife and hunting in New Zealand, as well as learn more about their deer farming industry,” Ellen said.

“It was really lovely to be billeted by Rotary families because I became immersed in the lifestyle and culture and formed really good networks and relationships that have proved invaluable.”

Travelling to a different town every few days, Ellen said she was able to learn about handling effluent on dairy farms, shearing regimes on sheep farms, the way landholders engage hunters and hunting outfitters to help manage deer populations and provide hunting opportunities, innovations and technology used on fruit farms and have the fun of undertaking all kinds of tourism activities.

“One rock climbing/cable gliding venture owner talked to us about how to take a business idea and actually create a business that would keep afloat,” she said. “I found it fascinating how New Zealand has embraced the rail trails, something I now think Tassie should embrace, because I talked to the farmers who were against it and they now love it – they’ve been able to develop new business opportunities as they diversified into agriculture tourism, they have a whole new income stream and succession planning has been improved with so many more roles and options available on the farm. “Of course the locals love it because they have new infrastructure and some lovely shops to visit for food and coffee!”

Ellen said she was lucky to go to Stuart Island in the far south where the Department of Conservation (DOC) have a predator-free target for the island, and a program to control stoats, possums, ferrets and other animals that have a negative impact on the native birdlife.

“I was able to have conversations with DOC about better ways to do things and give them some experience and knowledge from what has worked in Tasmania,” Ellen said.

“Meeting with local deer farmers was particularly valuable, to learn about how Kiwis are farming their deer and the markets they have for them, plus how well supported recreational hunting is and how important it is to the local economy.”

Ellen enjoyed giving presentations at Rotary meetings, building her confidence as her and her team painted a picture of Tasmania’s history, government, economy and agriculture.

Ellen grew up in Longford and attended Longford Primary School, Cressy District High School, Newstead College and then moved to Central Queensland University to embark on a Bachelor of Science majoring in ecology and conservation biology.

After a stint working for the Queensland Government as a wildlife officer she moved to Adelaide to complete her honours, studying the diet of wild deer in South Australia, using DNA analysis to identify plants from stomach content samples. A keen deer hunter throughout the Northern Midlands with her dad and pop, Ellen is passionate about protecting the environment and managing wildlife with animal welfare and sustainability at the forefront.

She was one of several local identities featured on a recent episode of ABC’s Backroads (still available on iView, series 8). Rotary Tasmania’s Professional Development Exchange is a unique professional and cultural exchange opportunity for young professionals between the ages of 25 and 40.

The next exchange to New Zealand, focusing on tourism and viticulture, will take place in the first week of June.

Applications are due by February 28 – application forms can be found on Rotary Tasmania’s website.