Cat Shaw is a Ranger in Technical Services in the Visitor Management team for the Coastal and Islands region, based in Manly. With a background in professional writing, in her early 30s, she decided she was tired of reading about other people’s adventures and contributions to society. Cat packed up her life, and moved to Queensland to study conservation, with the intention of becoming a Ranger.
How long have you worked in national parks?
Nine years. I began as a work placement student through TAFE at Burleigh Heads in the Gold Coast Management Unit.
Which parks have you worked in?
I’ve worked in D’Aguilar NP and parks around the Gold Coast. I’ve also been a Community Engagement Ranger in North Cooloola, Great Sandy NP; and I have lived and worked on Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) for 18 months. Involvement in wildfires has also taken me to many other parks in south-east Queensland.
What is special about your current park?
As a Visitor Management Ranger, I look after an entire region. The Coastal and Islands region is just that—magnificent shorelines and iconic islands, like K’gari (Fraser Island)! Most of our areas fall under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006, which means they are partly managed on a user-pays basis.
What is your most memorable moment as a ranger?
I’ve got two that really stand out. The first one, not just a memorable moment as a Ranger but a privileged experience as a human being, was my involvement with the Bummiera (Brown Lake) women’s only cultural burn on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in 2020, led by the female Quandamooka Rangers. Not only was it incredible doing fire management on country with them; it was a great opportunity for building and developing friendships with like-minded women across multi-agencies.
My second ‘moment’ would be 3am, Christmas Day 2019, on the Kipper Creek wildfire, in the south D’Aguilar back country. It was my third ‘graveyard shift’ in a row; my crew member and I were exhausted and pretty deflated about missing Christmas with our families. We happened to look up and saw Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites rotating through the night sky—an amazing moment!
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
Working in high visitation areas is not without its challenges, but it absolutely comes with rewards. I’ve been witness to so many park visitors creating some of their pivotal life memories. On park I’ve located lost bushwalkers in ‘search and rescue’ missions; and seen marriage proposals, family reunions, massive charity events, kids’ first camping trips and solo campers, recently-widowed, seeking solace while they grieve … As Rangers, we have a front row seat to many important and life-changing occasions for people, which is an honour.
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
The Cooloola coloured sands, just near Rainbow Beach, melts my face every time I go there. It’s like a piece of artwork that is constantly being re-sculpted according to coastal influences.
Saint Helena Island NP is also a top spot. It’s an old penal colony on an island in Moreton Bay. Accessible only by boat, Saint Helena is one of our cultural heritage parks and it is an island brim-full of stories.
What is your top tip for visitors to your park?
Pre-plan your journey! When setting off on the longer more remote walks, be prepared and know the difficulty of the walk. Ensure you have adequate water and check Park Alerts on our website regularly. Sand environments are dynamic and it’s vital to be across the most up-to-date information.
What is your top tip for campers?
Get your camping permits in advance, popular spots get booked out. Also, if there are no toilet facilities available, bring your own.