In another first for the Australian Rangeland Society, a small group of ARS members shared their insights into what it takes to be successful in a rangeland-related profession.  The session was designed for students and young professionals, and was loosely based on the Professional Interaction session that the US-based Society for Range Management has held with great success during its annual meetings.

The session began with all present introducing themselves – name, location and current occupation.  This revealed that some 25 students and/or young professionals attended, along with around 15 experienced rangelanders from across the major rangeland occupations.

Five attendees at the conference, representing key occupations/roles in the rangelands were then invited to speak for 4-5 minutes on:

  • What aroused their interest in the rangelands
  • Key steps in their career and key skills in these roles.
  • Recommendations for pursuing a successful career in the rangelands.
  • What they’ve gained from being a member of the Australian Rangeland Society.

The speakers were:

  • Robyn Cowley (NT), representing the ‘agency researcher’ role
  • Dean Revell (WA), consultant
  • Dana Kelly (Q), university lecturer/researcher
  • Ray Thompson (NSW), advisor/extension officer, and
  • Angus Whyte (NSW), pastoralist.

The speakers then moved to different areas of the room, and, along with the extras in the crowd representing the five occupations, engaged in informal discussions with interested students and young professionals.  These continued for much longer than was planned, and led to many follow-up interactions during the following day.  Clearly, many of the young professionals were inspired.

Ray Thompson and young professional Cameron Downing, both from Central West Local Land Services Nyngan, chat about rangeland matters.


A summary of the key messages follows.  This doesn’t do the verbal presentations justice, especially regarding the speakers’ passion for the rangelands and the richness of their personal insights. For this, you needed to be there!  However, each of the speakers has kindly agreed to share their notes if ARS Members wish to contact them direct.

What aroused their interest in the rangelands?

Interest was generally aroused in one of two ways: i) by being raised in the rangelands, or ii) by an early career and formative experience/passionate individual in the rangelands. These have underpinned the speakers’ passion for the landscapes, respect for the people and fascination with managing complex landscapes for multiple outcomes.

Key steps in their career and key skills in these roles

Gaining a qualification is important in that it builds technical skills and opens doors, but we were reminded that you can learn a lot from others – be they a mentor, a team member or a collaborator.

Most of the speakers have moved around (i.e. intrastate, interstate and/or overseas) for new experiences, but some have found these without moving by accepting new roles and challenges. All have maintained a connection with the land.

Social skills are critical to effectiveness, and participation in multi-disciplinary teams has strengthened both hard and soft skills and broadened perspectives on key issues.

Recommendations for pursuing a successful career in the rangelands

Passion and drive are key, but so too is work-life balance.  Be open to challenges, opportunities and new roles.  They can be positive and/or negative experiences, but either way you will learn from it.  Understand what motivates you, and what your values are, as these give you a sense of direction and help make choices during your career.

Do your homework – there is a rich literature on the ARS and associated websites, and there is much to learn from those who have years of experience of working and living in the rangelands.  Engage in your local community in a volunteer or some other active role.

What they’ve gained from being a member of the Australian Rangeland Society 

All of the speakers highlighted the breadth of topics and the value of the ARS network.  The conferences have expanded insights into current issues, linked them with new and interesting people across Australia, and inspired and motivated them.  ARS publications are an important source of existing knowledge and raise awareness of our innovations nationally and internationally, which further expands the network(s).

In conclusion, and from the feedback from the students, young professionals and the speakers, this session was effective in engaging and enthusing younger members about careers in the rangelands.  Accordingly, it is strongly recommended that a Student and Young Professionals session be included in the program for the 2019 Conference.

Acknowledgements:  Thanks to Barron Rector (Texas A & M University) for sharing his experience of coordinating the Society for Range Management Professional Interaction sessions.  Thanks to our speakers for their inspiring insights into what makes a successful career in the rangelands, to the ‘extras’ who joined the speakers in one-on-one informal discussions with the students and professionals, and to the bar staff who let this session run for much longer than was planned!