Not unlike his 3-year-old child’s appreciation of the adventures of Peter Rabbit—Matthew Randall spends a considerable amount of his time trying to outwit rabbits keen on tasty seedlings amidst managing 14,000 hectares of timber plantationsaround Albany, Mt Barker and Rocky Gully, Western Australia, in his work with PF Olsen.

Matthew is passionate about forestry in Australia and set out to impart some of his knowledge and skills onto the next generation through school visits as part of the TCA Young Community Ambassador program.

Among his activities in the TCA Initiative was hosting a group of students from the Australian Christian College on an excursion around planting and harvesting sites near Albany.

On entering the forestry industry, Matthew was struck by the number of skilled and highly trained colleagues from overseas and saw the opportunity for locals to enter an exciting industry with many opportunities for career development.

Matthew began with the forestry industry as a truck driver straight out of school—with experience gained from his family’s freight business.

Like many young people fresh out of school, Matthew did not have a clear vision for his future career but knew he wanted to live locally.

Most of his peers headed for the city to attend University or found a trade. The lure of the mining industry was still strong towards the end of the boom in Western Australia and Matthew initially thought that’s where he would head.

Fortuitously, a friend invited Matthew to visit a local forestry site. This experience inspired 18-year-old Matthew when he saw the sophisticated machinery used in forestry, which looked similar to a computer game console.

He was given the opportunity to join Timbercorp as an infield truck driver and had his first experience of driving a harvester during two years with the company. This was complemented by another operational role with Albany Timber Services (Bluewood Industries) for four years. He spent time working with blue gum plantations driving an array of machinery used in harvesting including forwarders, log loaders, skidders, feller bunchers, chippers and flails, building up his skills.

Matthew completed studies in training and assessment and occupational health and safety to develop managerial skills to enhance his opportunities.

He stepped into his current role as a forester with P F Olsen in 2014 and manages part of the West Australian estate that encompasses about 60 plantations in the interesting timber communities around Albany, Mt Barker and Rocky Gully.

The role involves silviculture operations, harvest management and auditing of health and safety programs to ensure that they meet legislative requirements and the company’s best practice guidelines.

With a deep historical family connection to southern Western Australia, Matthew is right at home raising his family there. His interest in and enthusiasm about tree growing and timber production is obvious. He has no doubt that timber is an environmentally friendly and much needed fibre for the world. It bothers him that the Australian forestry industry faces extra challenges through ‘misinformation’ within the broader public about current forestry practices and a lack of local manufacturing facilities to create Australian-made timber products.

‘The biggest battle is changing people’s perception of the industry. We need to make the most of opportunities and lead change for the future.’

Author: Amanda Fisher … Tales to connect communities