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Some of the women making a difference at Kaarakin

Learn more about some of the women making a difference for our Kaarakin residents – our Wildlife Warriors!

For International Women’s Day, we have asked some of the women volunteering at Kaarakin to answer a few questions. It’s a fantastic opportunity for everyone to learn more about our volunteers and the amazing work they do for our black cockatoos, dingoes and other animal residents on site.

We hope you enjoy reading this blog article!

Chris Gillam – Dingo Carer

Tell us more about yourself?  A woman in my 70s, I am married to Gordon (who also helps with dingoes), I have two adult children and one grandchild. I retired a few years ago but while still at work, I presented myself to Kaarakin and asked to work with two dingo pups.  It was January 2010 and and I was randomly talking to someone who mentioned people were needed to help care for these pups.  They are of course Max and Mia who are still with us today, and they had been saved from a cull.

The pack now has eight dingoes and I, with a group of dingo lovers arrive in the morning to do our duties.  There are quite a few of us and we work in teams of 3-4 per day. We keep the same days each week and often swap here or there to cover each others’ needs.  The dingoes are kept in pairs and every morning each pair is walked together with two handlers.

I can’t tell you how lovely it is to walk around Kaarakin in the early morning with a dingo companion.  They behave well on their leads and, like dogs, they love to sniff and dig in loose leaves, roll and even paddle or swim in the duck pond.  On return they are fed according to a diet chart and we then clean their enclosure, give fresh water, talk to them, play with them, cuddle them and genuinely enjoy them.  We also see to their veterinary needs as required.

What do I like about them? – everything.  They are intelligent, wonderful companions, affectionate, quiet and with much better manners than the average dog.  I love their greeting rituals and their grace of movement and their constant alertness.

Why Kaarakin? That is where the dingoes are and it is close to where I live, and I like it there.

Candice – Education Officer

Tell us more about yourself? I am the Education Officer at Kaarakin, I got the role soon after completing a Master of Science (Biological Science) in research which involved identifying, describing and characterising Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo nocturnal roosting habitat. Prior to that I had completed a Bachelor of Science (Conservation and Wildlife Biology) and that is where my love for conservation truly began.

I volunteered with Kaarakin for about a year during my undergraduate studies which is when my fascination with black cockatoos was sparked. During my postgraduate studies, I continued volunteering, this time to monitor Carnaby’s nesting activity and revegetation of a patch of bushland.

When did you become involved with Kaarakin?  I first became involved with Kaarakin in 2011 as a volunteer, for at least a year. I got the role as Education Officer in January 2018.

Why did you apply to be the Education Officer? I applied for the Education Officer position because at that point I was already involved with a number of different black cockatoo related projects (Great Cocky Count, master’s research, Carnaby’s nest surveys and monitoring) and was passionate about Environmental/Conservation Education. I also felt a special connection with Kaarakin because of my earlier volunteering experience.

What do you like best about this role? There are so many things I like about this role, it’s hard to choose the best bit. I of course love sharing information about conserving black cockatoos, but I also really enjoy the interactions I have with the wonderful Kaarakin black cockatoos, staff and volunteers, as well as school students and the general public.

What do you like to do in your spare time? In my spare time I like to do bird watching, bird surveys (using the Birdata app), bird banding, volunteering for research projects (black cockatoo nest box monitoring and fauna trapping), Swing Dancing (Lindy Hop), yoga, snorkelling, gardening, and hanging out with friends and family.

Paula Harkins – Fundraising

Tell us more about yourself?  I grew up in Bridgetown and always loved animals and had pets.  These days, my pets include a husband, son, 2 greyhounds, 3 cats, and 2 goldfish.  In the past I have worked in travel and tourism, I worked for Tourism WA in a number of different roles.  I have worked in a variety of other jobs including working at the RSPCA before having a family. I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2010 when my son was three years old, I have had many different treatments over the years and thanks to my fabulous oncologist Professor Arlene Chan I am well and able to continue volunteering at Kaarakin.

When did you start volunteering?  I started my volunteer career at Kaarakin at the May 2016 tour weekend.  My husband became a Kaarakin Board Member at the beginning of 2017.

What do you help with at Kaarakin?  I work mostly in fundraising and events for Kaarakin.  I also liaise with visitors wishing to do private tours, encounters and bookings for the tour weekend.

Why Kaarakin?  My husband and I used to walk our dogs through Kensington Bushland and fell in love with the Carnabys we would often see there.  We visited Kaarakin on a number of occasions for the tour weekends prior to volunteering. We adore all of the Black Cockatoos and want to try and do everything we can to help them survive.  I love working with the many and varied animal and bird lovers who volunteer at Kaarakin.

Cathy Burns – Donation Coordinator

Tell us more about yourself? I have been a nurse for 37 years. I work at Perth Childrens Hospital teaching nurses to care for critically ill children.

When did you become involved with Kaarakin? I started working caring for the cockatoos on a Wednesday morning after coming to Kaarakin’s first open day in March 2013.

Why Kaarakin? I have always enjoyed seeing the black cockatoos on my property in Martin. We have always had red tails visit in winter and white tails visit in summer to munch on the marri and jarrah trees. Our land is a former orchard that my husband Laurie and I worked for many years, but more recently we have pulled out the fruit trees and are replacing with native trees for a project called Gumnuts for Zanda.

What are your duties at Kaarakin? I am part of the Wednesday morning team, feeding the cockatoos and other animals on site. I enjoy helping out on tour days, meeting the public and sharing my interest in conservation and sustainability with others.

What is your best memory of Kaarakin? I would say the best memories are those of the releases. I feel excited for the future when the pet packs are opened and the cockatoos fly away into the trees where they belong.

What do you like doing in your spare time? I enjoy gardening and regenerating the native bush around my house, meeting up for a cuppa with my friends and travelling within WA and overseas to see and appreciate nature.

Mel – Volunteer at Kaarakin

Jen Carruthers – Dingo Carer

When did you become involved with Kaarakin? In May 2009, my brother Brett and I decided that we needed to do something together on the weekends that was a bit different and didn’t cost anything.  Starting out caring for the cockatoos in their enclosures, we later got involved in helping maintain the natural areas onsite too. But when Brett fell in love with the dingoes, they became his priority.

His commitment to them is second to none and they trust Brett because he has been with them from the start of their lives, ensuring they are well cared for and happy as possible. They and Kaarakin have given him and the other dingo handlers a purpose and a way to contribute to protecting a species. Kaarakin has always been held together by a determined and strong group of people and we are privileged and grateful to be part of the Kaarakin family.

We will continue to show our support for Kaarakin and hope to educate more people on the essential role these Australian species play in healthy natural ecosystems.

Eileen Liu – Volunteer

Tell us more about yourself?  One of my favourite things to do is to explore some good bird watching spots and observe their habits in the wild. Conservation in Australia is essential as so many species have been already lost, and we really need to conserve what we have left. Even as a bird lover, I didn’t know how vital a healthy eco-system was. If you don’t understand the environment and the nature or life habit for a specific species, it’s very challenging to effectively help wildlife.

When did you become involved with Kaarakin? Birds have played a significant role in my life since I was a child; taking care of them as pets, and spending time with them as if they were family members. When I was a student nurse overseas, I had a job on- site in a parrot store. The experience was unforgettable, and I learnt so much about many different bird species. To me, birds are not just friends, but family and I love to be in their company. Since coming to Australia, I have fallen in love with the black cockatoos, and it was both shocking and disheartening to discover that they are endangered.

Having completed my study this year, I decided it was a good time to do something for the wildlife in this beautiful country, and I really appreciate the opportunity to be a volunteer for Kaarakin.

Why Kaarakin? I always look forward to seeing the birds, and I wish I had known about this wonderful bird rehabilitation centre earlier. I love to know I am contributing to the welfare of my favourite birds, learning about the environment and saving our native wildlife. I especially love to see these beautiful creatures rehabilitated to the point where they can be released back into the wild.

Another reward for me is meeting other bird lovers. Their passion, bird knowledge and terrific attitude has influenced me more than I can say. They don’t just love birds but also the environment. And most importantly, they take action instead of just talking about it.

My volunteering journey has been a priceless experience: seeing cockatoos who were brought back to health; assisting injured cockatoos to recover; helping the rescue ambulance with cockatoo transfers; and – through the education program – helping the public to understand our wildlife and how they can help preserve it.

I am still learning myself, and trying my best for our little friends: they deserve to live in a healthy environment that enables them and their future generations to thrive.

Louise- Clinic Manager

Tell us more about yourself?  My name is Louise Hopper, my role at Kaarakin is Clinic and Rescue Coordinator. This is involves working with clinic volunteers, overseeing the rehabilitation of those birds just released from Perth Zoo and liaising with the Perth Zoo Veterinarians on the birds continued care.

When did you first become involved with Kaarakin?  I first started at Kaarakin over 8 years ago when I came up with a friend from Kanyana to look around. I have stayed ever since. I started on the regular feed rounds. At that point the only aviaries we had were around the house, aviaries 9, 10, 11, 12 and the white breeding aviaries. The clinic was the volunteer office and that single aviary was the clinic aviary. I was offered a job thanks to my background in rehabilitation and worked full time for a year before funding became available for the position. That and the travel time taken rescuing earned me the DEC Volunteer of the Year award.

Why Kaarakin?  It has been amazing to be involved in developing the site to what it is today, especially the clinic. We now have 4 aviaries, 2 hospital rooms and breezeway cages, not to mention a team of highly skilled clinic volunteers.

My happiest moments have always been watching what were once injured birds get released. Other highlights have been first releasing birds into aviary 19, opening the interactive aviary and taking out the education birds out and talking to like-minded people.

What is the hardest part of your role?  My saddest moments revolve mostly around rescues. A few moments on site stand out. The first was losing Spider the Carnaby, who used to live in the house aviary with John. We lost her very suddenly, as we have a few other of our friendly birds. Little Sid and Slomo were my first two critical care Redtails. Sid wouldn’t thrive and Slomo couldn’t stand well but together they bonded and got each other through. It was years later that we lost Little Sid but Slomo was never the same after and died not too long after. The saddest and scariest moment was losing Wings the Carnaby suddenly, and her housemates Angel, Big Dufus and Carnie all went to Perth Zoo as very unwell birds. Big Dufus even had to have a blood transfusion that saved his life.  It was a huge relief seeing them getting better to what they were on the first visit.

Kaarakin is a great place to be a part of. I am lucky to be a member of the dedicated Kaarakin team and can’t wait to see where we will be in another 10 years. We do such important work here, we have a species relying on us.

Gail Warton – Admin Volunteer

Tell us more about yourself?  Hi my name is Gail ‘Stormy’ Wharton and I have been volunteering since I was 16 years old – close to 40 years – for all different types of organisations over the years. From the time I could walk, I have always had a huge love of animals and ensuring they were kept safe and well looked after.

I first started volunteer work at Wattle Grove Veterinary Hospital where I worked every Saturday morning as a Kennel Attendant for 2 years. This then lead to applying and being accepted into the Veterinary Nursing Course at Bentley TAFE. I worked as a Veterinary Nurse for 10 years altogether, with a three year gap whilst in the Military.

When did you become involved with Kaarakin?  I started at Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre through a Return to Work Program in August 2017 whilst recovering from chemotherapy. This was the perfect place to help with my recovery and get me started back in the workforce. With my past veterinary nursing experience and love of all creatures great and small, it was definitely meant to be, and I have stayed working as a volunteer ever since, I love it.

What are your duties at Kaarakin?  I work mainly in the office entering our volunteer hours onto the Volgistics database, entering black cockatoo data for the clinic staff and general office duties including answering phone inquiries including black cockatoo rescue calls, and operating the two-way radio. I also do other duties when required including general cleaning, watering vegetable gardens and plants, restocking, helping with the bird feeds and cleaning their enclosures.  I have also assisted the Avian Management Officer with worming and placing identification markers on some of the pre-release birds.

What do you like best about this role? I love not only working with the animals, but the importance of volunteering and feeling like I am making a difference for the care, safety and wellbeing of our black cockatoos and all the other animals on-site, makes it totally worthwhile for me. I also love working with the staff and all the volunteers, it is such a joy to drive up the hill and interact with everyone. It’s so good for the soul.

Thank you to all at Kaarakin for helping with my recovery.

Beverley Sinclair – Volunteer

Tell us more about yourself? I have always thought I had a truly privileged life.  I was a foreign currency dealer in the 1970s when it was truly a man’s realm back then, and I learnt a lot about people and their behaviour.  I met my husband around that time on a blind date and have been married for the past 42 years, he is a master jeweller and has been in retail for the past 50 odd years as his father before him.  Needless to say, nowadays I put a request in for every birthday and Christmas, ‘please, no more jewellery!!!’  We have two amazing daughters in their late 30s, and one granddaughter.

We moved up to Roleystone in July 1978 with a mind to ride and train horses for show jumping, and that was after working full time at our respective jobs,  a hobby that would consume the next 25 years.  I moved into dressage and was fortunate enough to train under one of the worlds decorated trainers, Nuno Oliveria from Portugal.  He bought a new concept of training, which in the 1980s was radically different, but now is accepted in the mainstream, and at that time I also trained under an Australian with more radical ideas of working with and complementing the behaviour of the animal.

After many years of success with my Andalusian/Thoroughbred cross horses in dressage, my husband was asked to set up a diamond business in Hong Kong for a Belgian company so I sadly leased my show horses out to wonderful homes and started the next phase of my life.

In Hong Kong I took up new sports as I was not a shopper or an alcoholic socialiser, which seemed to be the practice over there. I was asked to compete in dragon boat racing for my local team, Lantau, and I was soon headhunted by the Hong Kong Outriggers as well as by a Queensland team to compete in the world Masters Dragon Boat racing championships in Canada in 2006.  I also competed in Penang 2008 and Macau 2010, ending up with three world gold medals, one silver, and one bronze.  What a fabulous journey that was – it was an amazing group of ladies and totally underfunded unlike our competitors, so it was a massive achievement.

At the same time, I was also traveling around the world with Hong Kong Outriggers to Guam, Saipan, and Hamilton Island. Also at this time, I was running half marathons in Macau, Hong Kong, and the Great Wall of China half marathon.  Although not a runner, my times were acceptable.

Two and half years later, we moved back to Perth were I continued to do outrigging with Cottesloe Outriggers.  The main event for the season was the Bunbury to Busselton Classic which I competed in 3 times – 65 kilometres, usually in strong winds, and the worlds longest race at that time.  What an adrenalin rush, and I was part of it.

But one day, everything changed forever.   A catastrophic event happened and I ended up diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and spent 6 weeks in Perth Clinic. Dark times ensued for what seemed a lifetime in itself.

After two steps forward and three steps back, I had a chance meeting with a wonderful person named Cathie at an open day at Holcim Quarries. She had a Baudin’s Cockatoo with her called Rex. That chance meeting changed my life forever.

Cathie took my details and contacted me for the next induction of volunteers – I must say waiting for that email seemed like a lifetime in itself, but it eventually came.  That was seven years ago now, during which I have had the pleasure of watching Kaarakin grow and mature into a world class conservation site, involving not only the community but also Murdoch University and many many more individuals that have contributed to the evolution.

What is your best memory of Kaarakin?  I have many amazing memories from my time at Kaarakin, including my first release of Red Tails and my wonderful encounters with Bill, the caretaker.

One day, I witnessed an altercation between Cathie and another person who was being rude and disrespectful,  but the way Cathie handled the situation with facts and dignity in a calm and measured manner, won, once again, my respect and admiration of her ability to handle many tricky situations.  She is an incredible role model for any young person.

Needless to say I now have a shift in conscientiousness, and I am no longer that high functioning overachiever that perhaps I once was.  I do enjoy and marvel at the smaller things in life and the amazing people around me that I would not have met if I had not had that chance encounter with a truly wonderful young lady and Rex.

Trish Brennan – Board Member

Tell us more about yourself? I am 52 years old and happily married.  In my professional life, I am an Internal Audit Manager and Risk Manager, which also includes compliance and critical incident management.  At the moment, I am enjoying a gap year away from my professional life.

How are you involved at Kaarakin? At present I am involved primarily as a board member.  I also make the jewellery merchandise.  In the past, I have been actively involved in outreach events, and I am hoping to become more involved in this in the future.  I believe that we are privileged to be able to help and work with the cockatoos, and that we have a responsibility to share that privilege with others in the community.

How long have you been involved with Kaarakin? It would be close to eight years now, although I did take a break for about eighteen months.  That said, my hubby brought me to Kaarakin on the weekends so I could say hi to the humans and birds alike.  I just could not stay away.

How long have you been a board member and why did you apply to become a member? I have been on the board for about 6 years. Initially I was invited to the board to undertake some special projects, and then I was voted in as a permanent member.

What is your best memory of Kaarakin?  When I  started, Fluffbum was only about 18 months old, and he and a few other non-releasable young birds of about the same age were sharing an aviary.  After finishing my duties in feeding and cleaning aviaries in the morning, I would take a small bucket of gumnuts into the aviary, sit on the floor, and play with them all.  They climbed all over me and tumbled over themselves whilst playing.  It always made me happy, and always made me smile.

Jane Thundercliffe – Dingo Handler

Tell us more about yourself?  Hello!  My name is Jane. I am a dingo handler, I am just one person within the besotted team who walk and help to care for the Kaarakin dingoes.

I arrived at Kaarakin 8 1/2 years ago, just for a ‘quick look’, as I felt slightly curious as to why my husband Jim kept returning home wearing the expression of an excited schoolboy.  At that time, he was dingo walking and collecting vegetables for the park twice a week.  I thought I could not possibly fit anything else into my busy working week, but ‘energy flows where interest lies’. I fell in love with the dingoes Max and Mia, I liked the environment and the people. I now had a love interest.

Tell us about your role at Kaarakin? There are eight dingoes currently at Kaarakin, five Pilbara and three Alpine/Bogong dingoes. Max and Mia were rescue pups from the Kimberleys. Their parents had been shot. Three of their pups remain on site, Woosha, Bonza, and Sophie. The Alpine dingoes are more domesticated and originated in the Eastern States, each dingo has its own personality but I can only generalise it in this short article. They demand respect. Acceptance is not automatic and I think it probably takes several months to develop a deeper trusting relationship. Dingoes are less people friendly than dogs but they are more intelligent.

Every walk in the park is slightly different, and never boring. It depends on the time of day, the changing seasons, the behaviour of the dingoes, and the other animals.  At first light, you might see peacocks or guinea fowl sitting on a high tree branch, or hear noisy wild cockatoos circling overhead communicating with the Kaarakin birds.

An excited dingo will let you know that a fox or wild cat has been visiting. A protective dingo will guard their handler from any perceived threat.  One particular incident springs to my mind.  It was the geese breeding season, Max and myself were on the concrete path when a goose decided to attack us. Max clamped his jaws round the gooses neck. It is a goner I thought. I sat down next to Max, stroked his chest, calmed him down and told him that the goose was just protecting his/her nest. The goose stopped wriggling. I asked Max to let the goose go so he did. A subdued goose shook his neck then waddled away with no obvious injuries, much to the delight of the onlookers who had gathered.

Like a dog in many ways, but more complex in others, the Dingoes have unique personality and individual traits. They like to climb to the top of high mounds, possibly to see further. Kayla, now deceased, loved to climb trees or sit on top of a shed. Mia frequently piddles with her rear legs high off the ground. I am constantly amazed the she does not wet her head after doing something close to a handstand. Woosha easily slides horizontal gate bolts using his tongue and teeth. Bonza manages vertical bolts which reach in to the ground. Always jaunty, Sophie will sometimes grab her harness and try to flick it over her own head. Gentleman Max courteously allows his companion to be harnessed before him.

Our Alpine dingoes Alex and Amy are our ambassadors to the public, but little Amy is scared of her own shadow. All the dingoes are dainty eaters, they will only eat when hungry. There are many things that they will not eat.

Since I started volunteering at Kaarakin, major life-changing events have occurred to me. I have lost both my darling husband and my father, I have retired, and I have gained two beautiful grandchildren.  Kaarakin has helped to stabilise me. Mentally, I get lots of highs, socially, I have met a few interesting characters, and physically, there are the walks.  What a bonus.

I feel that my small contribution to Kaarakin and the animals has reaped rewards well beyond my expectation.

Celine Dubois – Digital Marketing & Creative Services

Tell us more about yourself? I am originally from France. I came back to live permanently in Australia four years ago and I have been volunteering at Kaarakin for nearly three years. I work full time during the week and volunteer in my spare time.

What are your duties? I mainly take care of the social media and content creation. It is truly a creative dream! I get to spend time filming or taking photos of the black cockatoos and dingoes and over the years, I have had many little assistants willing to help and fight to sit on my shoulders!

Why Kaarakin? I found the website while looking for an internship that I had to complete for university. Although I decided to do my internship in Canada, I was still following Kaarakin on Facebook. I asked if I could help with marketing during one of their tour days and that’s how I became a volunteer. I starting volunteering at the same time as Paula and since then we have worked on many great projects.

What do you like doing during your spare time? I ride my mountain bike, go for walks, take photos or make videos. Anything I can do outside! Thanks to Kaarakin, I have had the opportunity to learn how to make videos and I am now hooked! Some of my videos of wild black cockatoos were featured in Better Homes and Garden when Dr Harry Cooper visited Kaarakin.

www.therainbirdphotography.com

Lisa – Fundraising

Tell us more about yourself?  I am a busy mother of 2 beautiful boys (4 years & 10 months) which I adore. In my spare time I do fundraising for Kaarakin & sell Park Lane Jewellery.

When did you become involved with Kaarakin? Why Kaarakin? I started at Kaarakin in 2009 after my brother Ben who was volunteering brought me up one Saturday morning. I was hooked as soon as I met the cockatoos. Kaarakin is my happy place where I can go, be passionate about helping species & make a difference. The volunteers are like family and everyone is welcomed who wants to help.

What are your duties at Kaarakin? I started out being a Saturday morning feeder volunteer which involved cleaning all aviaries, organising animals food food day, feeding them & providing enrichment. About 5 years ago we needed a fundraising team to raise much needed money to continue running centre so I helped develop & run our fundraising team. I also had 2 boys since starting at Kaarakin so I often do my fundraising from home.

What is your best memory of Kaarakin? My best memories are of the cockatoo releases. These are always so special for the volunteers seeing all the work we put in & seeing the cockatoos get a second chance in the wild. It’s so magical when you see the released cockatoos call out to the wild flock & it’s as if the wild flock pick up the rescued cockatoos & take them away.

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