"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Insights into Forestry: A Partner's Perspective, 2001

Tammie Reid 1 and Judy McKinty 2

A special workshop was held during the 2001 joint Commonwealth and IFA Forestry Conference in Fremantle, WA. An initiative of Chris Haynes, the workshop was developed as part of the IFA Conference Partners Program, to explore the role of partners in the forestry profession.

With the aid of slides, an international group of forestry partners (all women this time - we hope some male partners will join us for future sessions) talked about our association with Forestry through the years and found that we shared many common experiences. There were also some unusual and unique situations described, with much laughter.

We then went on to identify the forces related to Forestry that impact on our lives now - the highs and the lows. From this exercise emerged the following main points relating to the role of partners in the forestry profession.

Forestry Partners are Great at:
1. Dealing with Change

As partners of foresters, we have been dealing with uncertainty for a long time! The changes identified by our group have impacted both on our family lives and within the profession.

Changes affecting our families: moving around from place to place, going to a new home sightunseen, leaving friends behind (one of our group remarked that she seemed to be always saying goodbye), having to fit in to a new community and start at a new school halfway through the term, etc., etc. One partner had moved to various parts of the world 17 times, approximatelyevery two years.

Unlike the seedlings that they plant and the resulting giant trees, foresters and their families don’t have much of a chance to put down strong roots in any place.

Changes within the profession which have impacted on us as partners:

  • changes in technology – The McKinty family can be used to illustrate this, as we have been associated with Forestry for three generations. In that time there have been tremendous changes in the way mapping is done. My father-in-law Jim McKinty started out as a forester in the 1930s by riding on horseback through the Victorian bush, drawing maps of the land on pieces of cloth. Now his grandson Darren also draws maps, but he uses a computer and GIS. Changes in administration also mean that nowadays a forester’s evenings are likely to be spent answering all the email that has come in during the day – a further impact on the family.
  • changes in the public perception of Forestry and foresters. Over the years, Forestry has become a very controversial profession. In the past, we used to share our foresters with bushfires every summer. Now the fires are political, and are always around. Forestry partners have to help fight these political fires, too.
2. Establishing Working and Nurturing Relationships

Our group was concerned about how the profession is portrayed in the media, and its impact on our families. We see a need to build real connections with communities, to promote the positives about Forestry. Partners play an important role here by association – we help to build positive relationships in the communities in which we live. We might be a local teacher or nurse, or we might be involved with our children’s school or some other part of the community. These relationships are an extension of our forester’s working relationships, and keep the channels of communication open.

3. Looking for Positives in the Challenges

All the moving around has made us more flexible in our lives. Having to relocate our families and our careers has presented us with challenges, but also with new opportunities and new experiences to add to our store of life. It has made us resourceful and adaptable, and given us some great stories to tell around the dinner table. We have also got used to spending family holidays detouring around to look at plots of thinnings!

4. Growing with the Experience

We all feel that we are better off for having been associated with our own particular foresters, and for all the knowledge and experience of people and places we have gained along the way. We feel privileged that our lives have been enriched by living so close to the natural environment, and that our children have had the chance to grow up in some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places inthe world.

5. Supporting their Partners

- by believing in them, listening to them and learningfrom them, and by sharing them with their work. Forestry is not just a job, an add-on in our lives -it’s a vocation. It gets into the blood, and families absorb it by a kind of osmosis. We see this as avery important role for forestry partners.

6. This is a General Point for Organisers of Future Conferences.

We, as partners of foresters, have welcomed the opportunity to be involved in this international conference. One of our group commented that in 20 years of going to these conferences, this is the first time there has been a workshop to look at Forestry from the partner’s perspective. We wish to see it continue, and to be included in future conferences. We have a right to be proud and confident about our lives, our partners, our work and our communities.

1 Tammie Reid is a forester based in the south-west of Western Australia. She is married to a forester and has three teenage children. Her work is based in community education. Tammie developed and facilitated the workshop, and prepared the summary of main points.

2 Judy McKinty has been a Forestry partner for over 30 years. She is married to Malcolm McKinty, a forester and environmental planner who has worked in Victoria and Papua New Guinea. They are now based in Melbourne, and have three adult children. Judy presented the summary of the workshop to delegates during the last day of the conference.

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