Roland Dowling is Ranger in Charge on Fort Lytton and St Helena Island national parks. He has always been a very keen camper and bush walker and had a heightened interest in the conservation movement during the late 1970s and early 80s. Having also developed a strong interest in land management, becoming a Ranger seemed to be a natural fit.
How long have you worked in national parks?
I first started work as a Ranger in 1984 at Main Range National Park. I was lucky to pick up a job the year after I completed the Gatton Wilderness, Reserves and Wildlife course – which was specifically designed at the time for training people in national park management.
Which parks have you worked in?
Over the forty years or so, I’ve been based at Main Range National Park, the Toowoomba Regional Office, The Hermitage in the Southern Downs Region, Carnarvon National Park, Fort Lytton, St Helena Island and Peel Island national parks. For a short time in the 1980s whilst travelling overseas, I also worked at Royal Chitwan National Park in Nepal.
Where do you work now and what is special about your current park?
Fort Lytton and St Helena Island national parks are very different due to their strong emphasis on cultural site management. They are both unique and special places due to the combination of the remnants of colonial architecture, scenic beauty and important stories that reflect the broader cultural history of Queensland. We also run a great night tour at Fort Lytton. This is a piece of promenade theatre that tells the real story of Ray Stanley, who was an Army engineer at the fort prior to the First World War. Ray enlisted at the outbreak of war and went on to campaigns such as Gallipoli, Fromelles, and Villiers Bretonneux. Daley Donnelly, our interpretive Ranger also delivers exceptional educational and holiday programs, so we are very fortunate to have his unique talents available.
What is your most memorable moment as a ranger?
Always difficult to choose just one, but one very special day back in 2010 was when we hosted the Governor Penelope Wesley along with Mr Joe Eggmolesse to the historic Peel Island Lazaret—which was originally a lock hospital for people with Hansen’s disease (leprosy). Joe had been a child patient on Fantome Island in the 1950s and 60s. Fantome (part of the Palm Island Group) was where they relocated all the Indigenous and South Sea Islander patients from Peel Island in 1940. Joe had direct relatives who were part of that relocation and so the day was full of emotion. What made it particularly special was having the opportunity to treat both the Governor and Mr Eggmolesse as equal VIPs given their starkly different personal background and histories.
Can you describe your favourite national parks experience?
I have always found the Central Highlands to be very special with its diversity of sandstone landscapes and ancient cultural sites. The granite country of Girraween National Park is also a favourite – the broken rocky landscapes, wildflowers in spring and the dark starry skies at night are all wonderful experiences.
What is the best part about working in a National Park?
All jobs have their challenges and advantages. I’ve always been attracted by the concept of stewardship over country and trying to achieve some progressive management to the conservation values of a site, whether they be the natural or cultural elements. I’ve also been very fortunate over the years to have known and worked with colleagues who are highly committed and talented people. It’s not uncommon that they are undertaking difficult roles or tasks, but they persevere in often challenging circumstances, so that always deserves a high level of respect.
What is your top tip for visitors to your park?
We regularly get very positive feedback from people who have attended our Fort Lytton at Night program. If you haven’t seen it, contact our office on (07) 3393 4647 and book in.
There’s no better guide to St Helena Island National Park than one of our Rangers. If you can’t join us in person, this remarkable place rich with history is at your fingertips through our virtual park tour – www.parks.des.qld.gov.au/things-to-do/virtual-tours/virtual-parks.