Pushing the boundaries in a field of her own

Meet Lauren Gardiner, a Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service field officer who is embracing diversity and challenging stereotypes in a typically male-dominated field. Diversity refers to all the ways in which we differ. 

NRE Tas is committed to building an inclusive culture of equity and belonging where full participation and the unique qualities of each individual are respected and valued. Lauren works out of the PWS Stanley Field Office, where she is responsible for maintaining infrastructure and assets across 84 reserves and managing a team of two staff members.

“In addition to this we do compliance work to make sure all our visitors are doing the right thing in the reserves," she said. “I'm also a firefighter and I help respond to any bushfires in our reserves as well as taking part in planned burns."

Lauren is married to her husband Rhys, and they have one young 'ankle biter' called Rune and another child on the way. They all enjoy getting into the outdoors in their spare time, particularly hiking, camping and kayaking. Lauren says being a woman in her position does come with its own set of challenges.

"A big challenge is that, especially as a young woman, the public assumes you are the apprentice and want to talk to the boss. It used to really bother me, but these days I just laugh and give them my business card," she said. Lauren balances her work and home commitments by working part-time to facilitate caring for her toddler.  

Lauren expressed her gratitude for the support she received when she returned to work after she had her daughter. This included the provision of pumping breaks to support breastfeeding Rune. Not wanting to be confined to an office, Lauren brainstormed a solution that allowed her to pump while out in the field.

“I bought a battery-operated breast pump, with hands-free flanges, a drybag to store spare parts in, some freezer blocks and another dry bag to keep the milk cold and invested in some pumping-friendly singlets to wear under my uniform," she explained. Reflecting on her own experiences, Lauren's advice for other women considering field-based or operational roles is to have a can-do attitude.

“You want to become a Field Officer? Start building your skills at home to suit the tasks you'll be expected to do. This can include servicing your own car, using and maintaining outdoor power tools and attempting to fix things yourself – YouTube can be a big help these days!" she said.

"Back yourself - most things can be learned on the job. It's the attitude, work ethic, and enthusiasm that will get you over the line."​