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Outstanding Taryn's new career in conservation

An interest in plants and caring for the environment grew and sparked Taryn Kaluza’s exciting new career in fire management. Taryn took a winding path to her current job at the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

After completing an arts degree and then a short course in permaculture, Taryn completed the Diploma of Conservation and Land Management, and it was her commitment to her studies and her passion awarded her the Outstanding Student of the Year for Food, Plant and Animal Industries.

‘I’ve always had an interest in natural environments and conservation, I just took a while to find my way. I’ve already done a bachelor degree but not in the same sort of field, Bachelor of Arts in fine art, print-making,’ she says. ‘Nothing really eventuated from that degree. I was originally from Queensland and moved to Melbourne when I was about 22 and worked odd jobs just to experience something a bit new.

‘I was in an apartment so I didn't have much of a space to go outside, so I started accumulating a lot of house plants. I had a balcony – I grew some herbs and a couple of small vegetables. I found I spent a lot of my time doing that and going to the Botanic Gardens.

‘I thought I like this so much, maybe I should see where it takes me. I was sick of working casually and I wasn't really finding the job that I was doing all that fulfilling. So I decided to do a short course at CERES Community Environment Park, in urban gardening and permaculture.

‘I really enjoyed that and it started getting me wanting to work outdoors or get involved in environmental work, so I decided to go to do the diploma.’

In her two-year course at the Epping campus Taryn studied a wide range of topics such as botany, plant classification, biology, and pest animal and weed management. She particularly enjoyed the project coursework that tasked students with coming up with their own management plans, giving them responsibility for an area.

She was thrilled to hear she had won the Outstanding Student award. ‘I was very appreciative of having people notice that I worked really hard. It was pretty special to get that call. It felt good, it’s really, really nice.’

Taryn also appreciated the good relationship she had with her Melbourne Polytechnic teachers. ‘They are probably the best teachers I've had, ever. They were very good and so passionate about what they were teaching. It made it so much easier to want to do well and to want to learn the content as well. It was a really good experience for me.’

The Diploma of Conservation and Land Management included revegetation and planned burning projects at Melbourne Polytechnic’s Yan Yean Farm. It was the fire management classes that sparked the most interest.

‘It seemed like a really interesting field to go into, because it affects everybody, not just animals and the flora and fauna, it affects the broader community,’ she says.

After completing her course, Taryn took a job at the DELWP as a fire support officer for the Port Phillip region which covers the grasslands in the northwest area of Melbourne, out towards Melton, most of the Dandenong ranges, part of the Yarra Valley, and the Plenty Gorge.

2020 has delayed some of her practical training so Taryn is not yet allowed to join in the actual on-ground firefighting that she’s very keen to do. For now, she’s in an administration and coordinating role in the control centre.

‘It’s very high-paced and lot of pressure but it's really a great place to learn because you just have to. You have to take it all in’.