Chris Mitchell is Ranger-in-Charge at Diamantina National Park. After completing a Rural Science degree, he worked as a cotton consultant in Emerald, then did a stint of contract mustering around Longreach. A meeting with QPWS ranger, Tim Pulsford, who at the time was establishing an office in Longreach, Chris decided to try a different life path. He successfully applied for a position as a Wildlife Ranger in the Central West… and the rest is history.
How long have you worked in national parks?
I began working for QPWS at the start of 1989 as a Wildlife Ranger.
Which parks have you worked in?
Images: Chris MItchell & Qld Government
The main park I’ve worked in is Diamantina. I‘ve worked several roles since 1989—Wildlife Ranger, Park Ranger at Diamantina, District Manager, and Botanist with the Queensland Herbarium, all based in Longreach. I then moved to the Gold Coast as Operations Manager—that was a change in scenery! I was looking after the World Heritage parks of Lamington and Springbrook as well as Mount Tamborine, Nerang, and South Stradbroke Island (with the Gold City Council). Then I moved into the (more sedate) role of running the monitoring and evaluation program for parks in the Southern Region, encompassing an area from Fraser Island in the east to Currawinya in the west (yeah! back to the dry country).
During the early part of my career, part of this job involved the on-ground field work to identify potential new national parks with a team established by Paul Sattler. While working in the Southern Region, we trialed programs to report on management and conservation outcomes. This resulted in my move to central office for 5 years to work in the Pest and Fire programs, while working on programs to link park planning and management evaluation.
When the Ranger-In-Charge positon at Diamantina became available, after a few (short) discussions with my wife, we took up the opportunity and moved back here in June 2013.
What is your most memorable moment?
I think my most memorable period was when I was involved in the identification and establishment of a substantial area of new national parks in the early 1990s. These were exciting times. It was great to work with a visionary team and I learned a great deal about conservation prioritisation in a very short time. There were many challenges—setting aside new conservation areas in a landscape previously used for broadscale grazing was a very new concept for whole communities.
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
Waking up in a swag in the middle of a remote park. The feel of the early morning and sense of isolation is fantastic. Mind you, you soon get reminded by the flies that things are going to heat up fairly quickly.
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
While much of the work in more remote parks is undertaken by only one or two people, you are part of a larger team of dedicated people, with a shared ethos of conservation. I enjoy the challenge of working in remote and isolated areas where you have to be self-reliant.
What is your top tip for visitors to parks for bushwalking?
Most of the western parks aren’t great places to bushwalk—they are more about four-wheel-drive experiences. However, visitors should get out and take short walks away from their vehicles. Just make sure you always have water with you. This way you will get the ‘feel’ of the country—you can’t do that from inside an air-conditioned cab.
What is your top tip for campers?
Experience camping away from water and waterholes. While a number of animals congregate around the water, there is a whole ecosystem that survives on little or no water. The only way to learn about these special ecosystems is to immerse yourself in them—even if only for a night. Remember to bring water and a fly veil.