Planting 15,000 trees in three days is a remarkable achievement but with a troop of enthusiastic volunteers from around Australia keen to get their hands dirty, anything is possible, according to Michael Dent.
Michael began his forestry career in a tree-planting and revegetation role with the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources in South Australia which involved working with school students and the broader community.


Although Michael’s role has since developed to District Forester with HPV Plantations in Gippsland, he is once again working with school students to educate and challenge perceptions about the forestry industry and promote career opportunities, as part of the Timber Communities Australia Young Ambassador Initiative.

Michael recently hosted a group of school students from Mirboo North Secondary College around a HPV forestry plantation in Gippsland.

When Michael Dent grew up in Mt Gambier, South Australia—despite his father being a forester and mother working for the Department of Environment— he didn’t initially consider forestry as a career when he finished school.

Instead, he packed his bags for the city to study his dream of architecture.

As it turned out, architecture wasn’t the right fit for him and city life was even less appealing.

So he headed back home and Michael’s life took a different direction with a role in forestry and enrolled part-time in a forestry degree with Southern Cross University. Michael discovered the appeal of an outdoor lifestyle among the benefits of a forestry career during the next eight years of study.

Michael was offered the position with in Gippsland after completing his degree. The role involves overseeing plantation cable forestry (practices required in steep areas). He describes the role as 20 percent planning in the office and 80 per cent outdoors visiting sites and overseeing work and crews.

This involves planning environmental, health and safety practices for forestry and ‘audits’ to ensure that plans are followed by contractor crews. Usually he overseas three forestry crews and a road crew building roads prior to the beginning of works.

The work is constantly changing with challenges of rain in winter and managing fire risk in summer.

With a vision for the future, Michael is studying an MBA to plan towards a more senior role for when the outdoor lifestyle stops holding the same level of appeal.

As Michael has learned about modern environmental practices through work and study, he realised that public perception was out of step with practice.

This inspired him to join the Timber Communities Australia Young Ambassador program – partnered with the opportunity for professional development.

‘The perceptions and ideas the general public have are not very accurate at all. As a young forester, I see this as part of the role to educate the public and change perceptions of our industry.’

To challenge perceptions, Michael has sought to engage with the media and community through activities such as visiting schools. The TCA Initiative allowed him to gain skills in those areas.

The benefits of Australian forestry according to Michael are planting trees, carbon storage and producing sustainable products. He hopes that positive initiatives such the work done by Planet Ark and the promotion of forest and wood products certification will expand, so there is awareness among the broader community of good environmental practices here in Australia compared to some imported products from overseas from unsustainable sources.

Michael loves living in a regional community with nature at his doorstep. He balances a busy job with his part-time studies but out-of-hours he finds time to keep fit and follows his passion for martial arts in the form of Kyokushin, with training morning and night. He travels nationally and overseas, pursuing his competitive drive to achieve in martial arts.

Author: Amanda Fisher … Tales to connect communities.