Feature

Meet the people of AWC: Regional Operations Manager Josef Schofield

22 May. 2024
Wayne Lawler/AWC

Welcome to ‘Meet the People of AWC’, a captivating series dedicated to unveiling the heart and soul of our organisation through the stories of the incredible individuals who make it all possible. In this series, we’ll take you on a journey to uncover the unique stories, passions, and expertise of the incredible individuals that make Australian Wildlife Conservancy who we are.

Based in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Josef Schofield’s role as the Regional Operations Manager for Central and South Australia oversees the operational elements of AWC’s conservation program across this region. This involves supporting sanctuary operations managers and their teams in the delivery of strategic fire, feral animal, and invasive weed and erosion management programs, and ensuring that there is good integration between science and operations in the planning of our conservation program.

The range of AWC programs in Central and South Australia spans large desert landscapes, First Nations partnerships, and an extensive network of feral animal-free safe-havens.

“Team management is a critical part of my role. With over thirty people across the region, careful recruitment and positive team support and development, are so important to the success of our conservation teams success.”

Regional Operations Manager Josef Schofield (then Sanctuary Manager), with Traditional Custodians and AWC staff, discuss tactics at Newhaven as part of ‘Cat Camp’ – a large-scale initiative to remove cats from the fenced area. Wayne Lawler/AWC
Regional Operations Manager Josef Schofield (then Sanctuary Manager), with Traditional Custodians and AWC staff, discuss tactics at Newhaven as part of ‘Cat Camp’ – a large-scale initiative to remove cats from the fenced area.

“After working in remote health and desert expedition leadership in central Australia for 15 years, my partner (who is an arid zone ecologist) and I decided to work together on a desert conservation project.”

“Taking Newhaven from a recently destocked cattle station to a leading example of desert conservation—with landscape-scale fire management, regional feral animal control, positive First Nations engagement, and one of the world’s largest safe havens with threatened species reintroductions—became that program.”

Josef with his family and friend and colleague Duncan Jungala on the first day of clearing for the construction of the Newhaven Conservation Fence. AWC
Josef with his family and friend and colleague Duncan Jungala on the first day of clearing for the construction of the Newhaven Conservation Fence.

“We lived for 15 years in Warlpiri/Luritja country at Newhaven in the Northern Territory, growing up with our little family in and around the programs and people there. With school becoming a more serious need for our children we moved into Mparntwe (Alice Springs).”

“At this time, I took on the Central and South Australia Regional Operations Manager role. This role has allowed me to work at Scotia, Yookamurra, Buckaringa, Dakalanta and Kalamurina. I have also had to opportunity to establish projects on Kangaroo Island and on the Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust adjacent to Newhaven – which still holds such a special place in our lives.”

Terrence Abbott, senior Custodian, and his daughter May, with Josef at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust. Brad Leue/AWC
Terrence Abbott, senior Custodian, and his daughter May, with Josef at Ngalurrtju Aboriginal Land Trust.

“When it comes to the most challenging part of my role, I’ll borrow an analogy here from Danae Moore: Q. How heavy does a glass of water feel when held at arm’s length? A. It depends on how long you hold it there.”

“When you care for a piece of country for a long time, the weight of this responsibility grows. This weight mirrors your increasing care for the place. Finding balance in this circumstance can be very difficult, particularly in remote areas where community support is sparse.”

Josef observes aquatic life (clam shrimps) after summer rain at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, 2016. Amos Aikman/The Australian
Josef observes aquatic life (clam shrimps) after summer rain at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, 2016.

“The sounds and smells of Newhaven are so familiar and personal that the separation between person and place is blurry … getting to really know this piece of our world deeply; coming to know and understand its depth and seeing it change through time, has been an opportunity that I will forever treasure.”

Josef releases a Woylie (Brush-tailed Bettong) into the predator-free safe haven at Newhaven. Brad Leue/AWC
Josef releases a Woylie (Brush-tailed Bettong) into the predator-free safe haven at Newhaven.

Our “Meet the people of AWC” series will continue to introduce you to the dedicated individuals who contribute to the conservation and protection of Australia’s wildlife. Stay tuned for upcoming spotlights, where we’ll uncover the passions and expertise of our diverse team.

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