Dr Jody Gunn in London
Dr Jody Gunn is a frequent traveller between London and Australia. We recently caught up at the wonderful E5 Bakehouse in Hackney and talked about London, careers, travel and coffee.
Bush Heritage and Chris Darwin
Dr Jody Gunn is an Executive Manager of Bush Heritage Australia and she and her team have recently travelled to London to give a talk at the Royal Geographical Society along with the great-great-grandchild of Charles Darwin, Chris Darwin. Jody and Chris spoke to the Society about Bush Heritage and its network of Australian conservation reserves and partnerships, which protect an area the size of Southern England! The event was hugely successful and more visits to London are planned for next year.
I asked Dr Gunn about her career and background.
Growing up and travel
Jody spent her formative years in Beaufort in country Victoria, and Melbourne, but countries like Africa and the work of Jane Goodall also shaped her world. "I was interested in wildlife right from a very young age and always reading about Jane Goodall and East Africa. Coming to the UK from Australia was a way to get to East Africa, but also I was doing what many Australians do after they finish university. And that is 'Go to Britain'," she laughs.
After completing studies at Melbourne University, Jody moved to the UK where she settled in Cambridge and studied at Anglia Ruskin University. Here she levered all the opportunities that international travel can offer women. Jody explained, "I worked in hospitality for a year but I continued to explore all the possibilities. I eventually signed up to a 10-week volunteer program which took to me to Tanzania."
She continued to volunteer and work in Africa for over a year until she took a role as Research Assistant for the Animal Behaviour Research Unit connected with Anglia Ruskin University. Over time, Jody found her sweet spot: living in East Africa and further postgraduate study at a University in the UK. She was thus able to fulfil many of her childhood dreams.
"It took a while but I did it. For eight years I was travelling between Tanzania and the UK. There are so many international conservation organisations here and of course, this meant international connections.”
Return to Australia
Jody moved back to Australia in 2007 where she finished her PhD and then worked different jobs across the Northern Territory and Queensland before she spotted her dream job at Bush Heritage Australia. "I had had my eye on Bush Heritage for quite a long time and watched it from a distance. It's a conservation organisation that acquires land of outstanding conservation value and manages its biodiversity, or it partners with other people to help them to manage their land to achieve conservation outcomes. Ultimately its purpose is to return the Australian bush to good health."
Partnerships and Bush Heritage
Building and sustaining partnerships are key to the work of Bush Heritage. Jody told me that "We can have a really big impact on our declining plants and animals by partnering with Aboriginal people and agricultural and farming communities. The opportunities for shared learning and understanding and the ability to help people achieve their aspirations are hugely rewarding. One of the things that I love about Bush Heritage is its approach to building a conservation community through shared values."
Her passion for partnerships has a global dimension. "Biodiversity in Australia is internationally significant. We manage ecosystems that are globally threatened. There are species found in Australia not found anywhere else. The Australian landscape is globally important and interesting." Raising awareness about the work of Bush Heritage in the UK helps Bush Heritage grow and better engage with its supporter-base, many of whom are expats or British people who are familiar with Australia. Thankfully, Chris Darwin is one of their key supporters.
Talking to people who have never visited Australia can sometimes be challenging. Helping people work out the scale of Australia, for example, can lead to amusing conversations. "I tell people that I oversee south east Australia" laughs Jody, "and then go on to explain this includes New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. It really only makes sense if people know Australia and can appreciate its vastness."
Jody has visited the UK enough to see it change over time. "When I first came to the UK there was no coffee and we had to trek down to Soho in London but now there are coffee shops everywhere!" she says. But opportunities in London and the UK have always been abundant. "You can go out every night and find something new. We loved seeing what other people and organisations are doing."
I am sure that for whatever London and the UK offers Jody, she gives back much in return, like other Australian women travellers.