2 June 2023

Passion for animals - and changing the world - leads Lauren Brown to top job

| Sally Hopman
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Woman with lizard

New centre director at Wildbark, Mulligans Flat, Lauren Brown, with one of her young charges, Poppy the shingleback lizard. Photo: Supplied.

Lauren Brown is in her dream job – for her it’s become a haven, literally.

As the new centre director of Wildbark, at Mulligans Flat Sanctuary, Lauren is working to help build awareness of threatened species in Australia, one animal, bird or reptile at a time.

For this long-time animal lover and environmentalist, it couldn’t be more perfect.

Wildbark is the sanctuary’s new nature-based learning centre, a joint project with the Woodlands and Wetlands Trust and Odonata, along with the ACT Government and Australian National University.

“I started working at Mulligans Flat about four years ago,” Lauren says, “looking after the volunteers. Then I became community engagement manager, so these roles have given me a great insight into how things work.”

She has also spent some time as a wildlife carer, including years ago, when she worked at a major cultural institution in Canberra, bringing baby joeys into work with her and hanging them in their sling beds from the back of her chair because they were on four-hourly feeds.

“I remember one day when the director-general was having a meeting with some international visitors in her office and she ended up bringing them around to my desk to show them the joeys.”

READ ALSO Sydney to base vast new sanctuary on Mulligans Flat model – including bettongs

Working in different capacities at the sanctuary – the only predator-free box gum grassy woodland area of its type – has helped put Lauren in the place she wants to be today.

Although it is one of many sanctuaries across the country, Wildbark is unique, Lauren says, not only because of its success in reintroducing threatened species into the landscape, but also because of geography.

Located on the edge of one of Canberra’s largest and fastest growing residential areas, Gungahlin, the sanctuary, Lauren says, “is an incredible conservation asset for the Canberra community”.

“What I would like to to do in this new role is to build on that success,” she says. “We are unique because of where we are – right at the edge of the nation’s capital. Yes, people can come in just to have a coffee, but where else could they go to learn about the environment at the same time – just by being here and looking out the window.

“Where else could you go to see black-shouldered kites or wedgetail eagles outside your window. We have shinglebacks – the other day we even had an echidna at our back gate.

“I love walking outside in different seasons, checking on water levels in the dam, seeing how they go up and down – and I’ve even become a bit of a bird nut.

Building by night

The stunning new addition to Mulligans Flat sanctuary at Gungahlin, Wildbark. It is now also open for dinner on Friday and Saturdays. Photo: Ari Rex.

“I see it as a huge advantage to be located where we are – and reach people on the doorstep of Gungahlin.”

As volunteers’ coordinator, Lauren built a team of about 150 volunteers, people who gave up their time to greet visitors, show them around and help with whatever projects were on the go – from gardening to counting bettongs.

“We couldn’t do what we do here without our volunteers,” she says. “I loved working with them and have learned a lot from going on night-time walks and tours with them.”

For Lauren, who lives with her family on their property near Yass, protecting endangered species is what it’s all about. But she’s not stopping there.

READ ALSO Mulligans Flat floats dam fine welcome plan for new arrivals

“It’s always going to be about the animals,” she says. “Wildbark is page one. The rest of the story is to create something bigger. We’re working to become a centre for threatened species action management.

“I want us to become a hub for that here – where better than Canberra where the change-makers are?

“I’d like to see Wildbark partner with First Nations people, with researchers, for it to be a place where environmentalists and government can come together and work on solutions for ending extinction in Australia.”

More information about Wildbark, 25 Rosenberg Street, Throsby, is available on its website. The centre is open Tuesday to Thursday, 7:30 am to 2 pm; Friday to Saturday, 7.30 am to 9 pm; and Sunday, 8 am to 4 pm. Mulligans Flat Sanctuary is open 24/7.

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