Gen's journey takes another turn
The scenery on Gen Whisson’s journey to work each day is a vastly different one to that of two years ago.
The 28-year-old environmental management student grew up on a small property in the Wheatbelt community of Lake Grace.
But when she landed a job with the Rottnest Island Authority, it created a completely different workspace.
Three years were spent travelling back and forth to work each day by ferry, as part of her role with the marine and environment branch.
“It was a very diverse role, encouraging visitors to respect the island environment,” Gen Whisson said.
“My office would sometimes be the ocean, where I’d be snorkeling with school children or tourists, teaching them about the unique environmental and heritage values of the island.”
This role is vastly different to the one she has now, as the youngest person ever appointed to the board of Wheatbelt NRM.
The group is responsible for helping to manage with local communities, the natural and cultural resources of almost 12 million hectares of land in the Wheatbelt.
The appointment came as part of a move back to the region, to be with her husband Ben Whisson, who works as a farm consultant with ConsultAg out of Kulin.
“When you grow up in the Wheatbelt you have a real connection that is difficult to ignore, and it does pull you back here,” she said.
As part of the move, Gen Whisson also took up a role as a project officer with the Kulin Shire Council.
“When I was on Rottnest, the biggest project I worked on was a 50-kilometre coastal walk trail,” she said.
“I helped develop the plan for the trail which would eventually manage ad-hoc access to isolated beaches and other natural areas whilst informing visitors about why the island is so special.
“But travelling to Rottnest, sitting on a ferry, seeing whales and then snorkeling with school kids is a completely different environment to the one I’m in now.
“While it’s the same kind of job, trying to engage and educate visitors and the community about the region, I’m just not in my wetsuit every day and we don’t get the rain they do on Rotto!
Gen Whisson’s current work with the Kulin Shire Council is to promote the Tin Horse Highway.
She describes the project as a quirky, open-air gallery along a 15km stretch of road east of Kulin..
“The Tin Horse Highway started off as a grass roots marketing campaign to promote the Kulin Bush Races,” she said.
“Farmers started to build tin horses in paddocks that lined the road to the race track.
“Over the years it became a friendly rivalry of who could make the best and biggest horse.
“Nearly 20 years on, more than 120 horses have been created and Tourism WA has recognised it as one of the most popular drives in the south west.
“These horses have been inspired by different characters and in a way the Kulin community has used them to share their inspiration, memories and stories.”
These are skills Gen Whisson will now use on the board of Wheatbelt NRM.
“Wheatbelt NRM focuses on using the strength of a community, including its landholders, to conserve and protect its environment.
“That could be from planting trees through to the preservation of remnant bush land and the protection of threatened species.”
Gen Whisson’s earlier work with WWF - Australia also adds to her experience in this area.
One of her first roles after university was working in Narrogin and covering the Wheatbelt as a community engagement project officer on the former ‘Avon Catchment Council’ threatened species project, ‘Back from the Edge’.
In this position she supported land managers and community groups to undertake works specifically targeted at the conservation of threatened species and their habitats across the Avon River Basin.
“One of my favorite projects was aimed at conserving Trapdoor Spiders”
“Together with the community, we ran the Wheatbelts first ‘Spider Blitz’. For two days, community members, farmers, academics and scientists all got down on their hands and knees in the bush to identify and record the locations of different types of threatened trapdoor spiders whilst learning more about there ecology and threats,”
“It was amazing to be involved in something like this and definitely helped me overcome any pre-existing arachnophobias I might have had!”
“ When I worked for WWF, I was really inspired by the work people were doing in the region and I’ve always kept in touch with Wheatbelt NRM ” she said.
“I’m hoping to help build on this and create a strong link between the people doing on-ground work and Wheatbelt NRM.
“I also hope that a younger voice will be good, to maybe help encourage people who haven’t been involved in NRM before.”