Meet a keen member of the next generation of the Australian timber industry – Roy Head. Roy lives in inner city Sydney with his partner Ari. She’s ‘a keen Greens supporter’ and his passion and profession is native timber manufacturing.

Talking with Roy offers an interesting insight into the diverse and contemporary personal stories of people within our timber communities.

Despite the family running a timber business, Roy did not originally intend to join the industry. He gained a media and communications degree from Macquarie University before working in the Information Technology sector.

He’s understandably proud of his family’s ties to the timber industry with a history that spans back to the First World War

The company began in 1919 following a promise that had been made between two friends on the battlefields of Gallipoli, that if they survived the war, they would start a sawmilling business together. And they did just that.

At 29 and based in Sydney, Roy manages the sales team of his family’s hardwood flooring business, Australian Solar Timbers, with offices and production facilities at Kempsey in northern NSW. Roy is the fourth generation to follow into the family business.

He leads a diverse professional and personal life that stretches from the family’s manufacturing site on the tranquil NSW north coast region, to fast paced Sydney and international travel associated with an offshore element of the business.

Whilst lack of certainty around Australia’s native hardwood supply continues to severely pressure some sections of our timber fibre industry, Roy is a passionate advocate for this industry. He sees it as being amid transformation and having a wonderful environmental story that must be promoted so it is understood in the community.

As the industry changes, Roy and his family continue to adapt with a commitment to environmentally conscious technology. Australian Solar Timbers pioneered the use of solar kilns in Australia. More recently, Roy has been working to develop engineered timber flooring products to adapt to changes in the building industry with increased demand for apartment living.

Outside of work commitments, Roy finds time to volunteer with the ‘Big Brother Big Sister’ program as a Youth Mentor.

Roy enjoyed building his networks and knowledge through the Timber Community Australia Young Community Ambassadors’ Initiative. As part of this he spoke to Sydney primary school students about modern forestry, the diverse skills applicable and the emerging career opportunities.

‘I wanted to engage with young people and talk about the fantastic opportunities available throughout our industry. For me it is a satisfying career, in both creating products that last a lifetime, and also being a part of an industry that actually reduces our global carbon footprint.’

Roy is enthusiastic about the family company’s involvement in a collaborative project with the CSIRO and other industry and construction leaders including internationally acclaimed Hassell Architects and engineering consultancy firm, ARUP. The group are investigating new technologies that will increase the strength, durability and weather resistance of timber products to replace non-renewable building materials such as steel.

He describes the industry as overflowing with ‘great stories’ about the social, economic and environmental benefits of sustainable native forest management and the use of timber products.

‘Where we fall short is our disconnection with the city. Traditionally we have not communicated these great stories effectively to the broader public. It is something that the industry is aware of, and is beginning to change.’

‘There are a lot of misconceptions about the industry with emotive responses to forestry and managed harvesting.’ It is worthwhile to consider that the timber industry offers a renewable building material when compared to steel, concrete or bricks. Forest management, when managed sustainably, is a carbon neutral industry.

Roy says that he and Ari, the Greens supporter, “represent that environmental values and sustainable forestry go hand in hand and are not at odds with each other when discussed openly.”

An important aspect of sustainability, according to Roy, is the recognition and promotion of product certification. Consumers should have confidence that the products they choose come from sustainably managed forests

Author: Amanda Fisher …Tales to connect communities