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Conservation Through Education: Interview with Walkabout Park

In our new series celebrating local businesses, we’ll interview founders and business owners to learn about their business and also what makes them tick. Every business’s story is different – as are their goals and plans for the future. We’ll delve into the story of how the business came about – from it’s humble beginnings to today. Today we’re talking to Tassin Barnard, who started Walkabout Park more than 15 years ago. Walkabout Park is more than just a place where you can visit native animals in the wild, it’s also a place where animals are rehabilitated and re-released into the wild.

Moving to the bush

Tassin Barnard and her husband never intended to open a wildlife park. In fact, they had decided to abandon city life for a property with no neighbours and surrounded by bush. They settled on a 170-hectare property which was also home to ancient aboriginal sites. Along with this, the array of animals which called the property home led Tassin and her husband to believe this place was more than just a rural home. After being in the property for a few months, Walkabout Park was born. With wallabies, kangaroos, emus, wombats, flying foxes and pythons, Walkabout Park is a place where visitors can see the animals in their natural habitat. Over time, this expanded to bush walks, overnight stays and tours of aboriginal sites.

Protecting the natural world

The road to where Walkabout Park is now hasn’t always been easy. For many years, Tassin, her husband and local community groups battled to protect the area. This culminated in the area being heritage listed, allowing the flora and fauna to thrive. This experience, coupled with Walkabout Park’s ethos has cemented it’s core as a community-focused business.

Interview with Tassin Barnard

1. To start, tell us a bit about what your business does

Walkabout Park aims to provide visitors with a fun experience, whilst working to conserve both native animals and indigenous culture. The park offers a wide variety of activities for visitors, including guided tours, camping, and education sessions.

2. How did you start Walkabout Park?

Walkabout Park was a happy accident, but one where we get to do what we love and contribute to conservation efforts in Australia. We started the park after purchasing the land and seeing all the amazing wildlife that surrounded us.

3. What are some of your key milestones and successes?

Our biggest milestone was when we were successful in getting the area heritage listed. Before this, companies had attempted to purchase neighbouring land for sand quarrying. Another achievement we’re really proud of is successfully evacuating 250 animals from the park during the 2019 bushfires. I’m also proud of how the business coped during 2020 – for a while, we couldn’t host any visitors and I’m proud of how we navigated this.

4. Finally, what are your plans for the future?

Although it’s hard for us to plan too far in advance due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have many exciting ideas up our sleeve. One thing we’re about to do is breed endangered animals and release them into the wild. This is part of a broader plan to recover and restore species to areas affected by the catastrophic bushfires throughout 2019-2020. We’ve done this kind of work before through working with animals impacted by foxes and wild rabbits.

What businesses can learn from Walkabout Park

Businesses can do a lot of good whilst retaining profitability. For a business like Walkabout Park, doing what’s good for the community and animals is at the heart of everything they do. It’s a win-win situation all round – the animals are free in their habitat and cared for when they need to be, indigenous land is respected and visitors can see animals in their natural environments.

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