Its the little things that make a person big on the inside.

Today’s guest blog post comes from Young Eco Champion Erin Lake. This is her story….

G’day- my name is Erin and I lead a pretty lucky life.

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I have had a lot of great opportunities so far- some being not so obvious as others, but I reckon it’s the little things that make a person big on the inside.

My attitude to life is always do things with a smile- it makes you enjoy every moment and helps people around you enjoy those moments too. Plus, its amazing what kinds of opportunities having an open mind can bring!

So my story begins out in Western NSW- where I was born. In a little town called Jerilderie, famous for Ned Kelly’s ‘Jerilderie Letter’.

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Jerilderie is full of wonderful people with a great ‘country spirit’. It’s a town, like many others in Australia, where people who go up the street to buy the paper, end up spending hours there in front of the newsagency talking to people about things going on around them.

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I didn’t spend much time living in Jerilderie, but my Nan has lived there since 1974, so we would always be back there in the holidays, and Nan would take us up the street to talk to Bruce the butcher, and the newsagent, and the chemist… So I guess this cemented my philosophy of being happy to chat to anyone from any walk of life- everyone has a story to tell.

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My Nan has been a pivotal part in my appreciation of nature and the bush. She would always stop and pick up any litter she came across, and held quite romanticised views of the bush and how important it is to protect our native plants and animals.

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Each member of the family has a tree planted at Nan’s house, and mine is a Gum tree- planted on the day I was born. It’s now taller than the house and Nan says g’day to it whenever she feels like sending her love to me.

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We moved around a bit when we were young, to Merimbula and then Cooma in the Snowy Mountains where I grew an appreciation of the beautiful snow country.

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We finally ended up in Gerringong, on the sunny South Coast of NSW. Here my brother and I spent a lot of time at the beach surfing and bodyboarding, we went fishing, snorkelling and were pretty much always outdoors.

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My brother and I standing in a field of canola on our way to visit Nan

My family were so proud when I became the first person in my family to get a degree. And when I got two degrees with an honours in environmental science they thought I was just showing off…

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But really I just love learning, and I particularly love learning about the natural world. There are so many amazing things out there in nature, and you don’t have to look very far from your backyard to find tiny little miracles.

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And this is Mick- he has been my partner and best mate for 10 years now, he has been the rock behind my journey. He loves nature just as much as me and so we do lots of things like bushwalking and canoeing together and really love it.

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Uni was a great time for me, but during my course I felt that I wanted to get more practical ‘hands on’ experience, so had a look through the TAFE NSW website and saw the Conservation and Land Management course, and I thought I’d give it a go. It was here I found my passion for bush regeneration and learnt about managing the land sustainably.

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It had a lot to do with the amazing teachers of the course – Gerard and Kelly, who I ended up working for professionally for a few years while I finished Uni. Working in the bush is some of the best work you can do in my opinion- you are always learning, outside all day in some of the most amazing places that no one ever goes, and you usually work with some pretty awesome people along the way… people who share your passion and can chat all day about the world while you give it a helping hand J

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In the last year of Uni I did an honours thesis which looked at the way landholders in my region were managing the rainforest on their properties and what it meant to them to live in these areas of high conservation value.

One of the landholders was a dairy farmer, and following my thesis she invited me to come back and do some work for her on the farm. This work lead to a great working relationship with the community, and for the next few years we undertook a lot of natural resource management projects including restoration work, community engagement and working with young people- introducing them to the NRM industry.

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I also worked for a while in Local Government as a Bush Regeneration team leader managing some of our areas reserves and natural areas.

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I learnt a lot during these years on ground, but I soon felt like I wanted to know more about how environmental issues are managed higher up the chain. I wanted to know how decisions are made that effects change on the ground. so I applied for the graduate program in the federal department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (SEWPaC), and once i got the job we moved to Canberra to see what the public service is all about.

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My graduate year was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot- i spent some time working in water policy when the Murray Darling Basin Plan was being developed, and then I worked in the Biodiversity Fund team managing NRM grants. A definite highlight for me was travelling out to Broken Hill on a field trip, where we visited Lake Mungo National Park and got to hear stories from the traditional owners out there.

In my final work placement i was lucky enough to work in the Australian National Botanic Gardens as a member of the Bush Blitz team- you can read about that here.

I am now a part of the team that is managing the National Wildlife Corridors Plan, a national strategy to support the development of continent scale wildlife corridors across Australia. It’s really exciting work and I am doing what I came here to do- learn about the processes that shape biodiversity management in Australia.

My work has taken me to lots of amazing places and I have met so many interesting people- I love working in the natural resource management industry and am excited to see where it might take me next!

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See more of Erin’s story by watching her Young Eco Champion’s video here

You can see some of the wonderful work she is doing in the community here

The Fountaindale Dam Project
Dune Day