Leilani Dawes is a Harvesting Supervisor with ForestrySA in Adelaide—she was drawn to the timber industry through a passion for conservation and would like to espouse modern forestry practices to students and the broader community.

‘I want people to see that the timber industry cares for the environment,’ said Leilani.

‘We need to encourage students to question the industry, allow them to understand the science, learn how things are managed and how the biology and chemistry of the timber industry fits into the larger environmental picture.’

Managing processes around protecting biodiversity and conservation features are an integral part of modern forestry practices according to Leilani.

She was initially attracting to an internship role with ForestrySA managing conservation areas following University study in conservation and biodiversity.

‘The work internship provided a great opportunity to become exposed to broader forestry issues and then I found myself become more engaged in the business, systems and planning side of the business and transitioned across,’ said Leilani.

Her current role is positioned within the sales team, with responsibilities including managing and developing systems for sales administration and reporting, Geographic Information Systems work, reporting and keeping spatial data up to date and generating harvesting plans.

‘In my sales role, the planning component plays a key role in identifying and protecting environmental and biodiversity assets so there is still a really strong link to my conservation studies.’

Leilani has forged a successful career path within the male-dominated timber industry and credits her employer for fostering career development opportunities.

‘I really like how my role has changed and that ForestrySA has allowed me to continue to develop in the direction my strengths lead me,’ she said.

With the encouragement of ForestrySA, Leilani applied for the Timber Communities Australia Young Ambassador Initiative to pursue career progression opportunities and foster her passion for conservation and forestry education.

Attitudes change through personal experience, engagement and education according to Leilani.

Through discussions with the other TCA Young Ambassadors, it was identified that before entering the forestry industry, they held quite different opinions.

‘It wasn’t until we became engaged with the timber industry personally that we understood how environmentally conscious and sustainable the industry is in Australia. Our attitudes had been formed when we were school-aged in the early 1990s. When we joined the forest industry we had the opportunity to re-evaluate our opinions as more critical thinkers. This is where the work can be done.’

Leilani would like to challenge perceptions in the broader community about modern forestry practices.

‘I want to create awareness that the timber industry is environmentally conscious and sustainable in Australia. I want people to have some appreciation of the science of the timber industry and be able to compare it to the science of the alternative options where they exist.

‘I also want people to understand the difference between sustainable and unsustainable timber industry practices and how to make choices to drive demand for sustainability throughout the world.’

This includes raising awareness around the products that people use, the environmental costs associated with their production versus the costs of alternatives and different impacts between sustainable and un-sustainable forestry practices.

Leilani entered the TCA Young Ambassador Project with a plan to work with school students to combine enjoyable forest recreation with education and successfully staged a terrific field trip.

Author: Amanda Fisher… Tales to connect with your community.

Photo courtesy of The Courier, Mt Barker