Don Rowlands, a Ranger In Charge and descendent of the Watti Watti family and the Wangkangurru Yarluyandi elder in Central West Queensland Region, is based in Munga-Thirri National Park, also known as the Simpson Desert. After some time working in the cattle industry, it was time for a change. Don has a passion for looking after country, natural environments and everything that depends on it, and it was this passion in late 1994 that set him on his path to becoming a Park Ranger. Don successfully secured a position with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services (QPWS) in 1994… and the rest is history.
How long have you worked in national parks?
Since the early 1990s.
What is your most memorable moment?
My most memorable moment is when I received the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for my services to my community and the environment. I must give a huge amount of credit to the Department of Environment and Science for their wonderful support over the last 26 years and to the many wonderful mentors who helped me achieve my goals. It was a special part of my working life that I look back on very fondly.
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
Traveling across Munga-Thirri National Park with an archaeologist, linguist, and anthropologist to record and share my people’s traditional stories, stretching back more than 60,000 years.
An expedition that started from Witjira (Dalhousie Springs) on the desert’s western side to Wirrari (Birdsville). This journey followed the trails of my ancestors which is now captured in the Dreamtime story, Thurtirla Pula – The Two Boys. A story map of waterholes and fishing holes by which First Nations people have lived sustainably in the desert for tens of thousands of years. Not everyone is aware that First Nations people once successfully lived here long before cars and air-conditioning, but that is my job to tell everyone and share the history, I love that!
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
Working on country as a descendent from the Watti Watti family and a Wangkangurru Yarluyandi elder in Munga-Thirri National Park is quite special. Truly the best part of working in a national park is the opportunity to record sites and places retracing my song lines to reconnect to the memory of my ancestors and ensure these stories are available for generations to come now and into the future.
I also love talking to people from all walks of life out here in the wide-open spaces, they can relax and get in touch with the environment and the world around them. As Rangers we look after some of the most spectacular countries on earth, we help when needed, share information and skills and this is for me is an amazing privilege and I would not change a thing, I would do it all over again!
What is your top tip for visitors to parks for bushwalking?
I love sharing my backyard and all its hidden treasure – for those who spend big dollars buying 4WDs, Munga-Thirri National Park is one of the last great 4WD experiences. My tip would be, be well prepared! Do a little reading up about where you’re going. Carry a small backpack with water, snacks and a basic first aid kit. When driving stay on marked trails and most of all take time to stop, breathe and ‘feel’ the environment around you, these spaces are here for everyone to enjoy and experience its wonder.
What is your top tip for campers?
Ensure you have a camping permit and be well-equipped to cope with your environment. Always check park alerts when planning and before leaving for your trip www.des.qld.gov.au. Leave your camp site better than you found it, take all your rubbish with you. Respect other campers!