From station kid to mining environmentalist

Written by “Enviro Em”, Environmental Officer & proud former station kid.


A lot of the time I am asked “How can you be an enviro if you grew up on a farm?”

This used to annoy me so much! But, now I see it as an opportunity to brag – farmers, pastoralists, and landholders in general are some of the most knowledgeable enviros I have met. Nobody else is more aware of the natural environment than someone who is dependent on it. There are some who have been there for generations, observing things every day, and can identify every plant and animal they see. It just may not be in Latin!

Water monitoring at my first FIFO job in 2011.

My favourite misconception is that to be an enviro you have to be a greenie, which subsequently means you’re morally opposed to the ‘rape and pillage’ mining industry. Well, I’m an enviro and to me everyone is utilising our air, soil and water for a gain of some kind. The bit that I am interested in is the responsible utilisation of those resources, which is without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This is a rip off of the standard definition of sustainable development – my focus at university, and my passion.

Do you drive a car? Do you use a phone? Do you live in a house? I could go on all day, but you get the idea – we need mining. I grew up on Mia Mia Station in the Gascoyne, WA, until my first year of primary school. I briefly went to Carnarvon School of the Air (which will stay – hooray!). After that I was on a cattle farm near Dandaragan and went Moora Primary School – I had a great upbringing and with mum and dad being from the north our station roots never left.

Fast forward to my graduation from Murdoch University with a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable Development. All I wanted to do was get back to the red dirt. People say it gets into your blood and it’s true. That’s why it’s red, obviously…

Sturt’s Desert Pea, Swainsona formosa, near Nullagine.

Without sharing my resume, I’ve worked in several different locations across the Pilbara and now Goldfields, I’m into my fifth year of fly-in fly-out and on the fifth pastoral station. That interaction is so important to me, we’re sharing the land and most people working in mining probably aren’t that aware of their surroundings. I get why – their job could be to fix machinery, or design the pit, or ensure everything is running safely. Very rarely would most miners get to see the environment outside the operating area, and they’re missing out. That is why I’m an enviro!

So what does an enviro actually do? To make it sound really boring, it’s legal compliance. Mining companies have a lot of legislative commitments to be able to mine in the first place, so we make sure these are followed. Enviros are involved before mining starts, during operations and after everything finishes.

During operations, we help things get done with minimal damage to the environment. The biggest part of my job is field work, mainly water monitoring – I’m out every swing in my work Landcruiser dipping bores and sampling the groundwater. As close as I could get to station job whilst working in mining really – I just don’t have to climb windmills!

A Barking Gecko on a recent fauna survey.

Really I’m getting paid to do what I do naturally – I genuinely care about responsible natural resource use, I hate waste, love recycling, study plants for fun, and think that Western Australia houses some of the most incredible country in the world, and I want it being used properly so that the next generation can do the same. So hopefully I’m able to change your perception of ‘enviros’ a little bit. And no I’m not vegetarian!

I never know what I might see on my bore runs!