SARA Member Profile: Michael Freak
Updated: Jul 21
1. What is your current Role and Location?
Senior Ranger, Eyre District, Eyre and Far West Region, based in Port Lincoln.
2. How did you first become involved with DEW/National Parks and what attracted you to this career?
I started in a precursor role of the seasonal fire crew. While studying at Salisbury campus of Uni SA, Geoff Chapman who was the state fire management officer, asked for expressions of interest in being trained in Level 1 fire training, and to be called on as needed for fire response. I was attached to the Cobbler Creek site, but other students were at Cleland and Belair. My study was in Conservation and Park Management, but prior to that I was studying Electronic Engineering, but wasn’t enjoying that study, and thought would job would I prefer to be doing? I thought being a park ranger would be a good gig, so changed, and the rest is history!
3. Most rewarding aspect of your job?
Seeing some of the amazing locations in parks around the state. Seeing areas improving over time due to works undertaken. In a previous role on EP, I was dealing with mining companies undertaking exploration works within reserves. Getting these companies to understand and implement site disturbance minimisation techniques, and passing on effectively to their contractors was rewarding.
4. What advice would you give to someone aspiring to work in the environmental field?
While I was completing my studies, I did numerous volunteering stints in the environmental field which gave me good insights and experience, as well as valuable contacts, which assisted me getting my ‘foot in the door’.
5. Funny things seen at work?
Hmmm, I don’t seem to have a good mind for recalling them all, but a few stories from my time in the Gawler Ranges. Most of these are funny to me in hindsight, but could have been serious at the time. A lady had walked about 12km back to our house on park, saying they were bogged in the park. When I drove back to the vehicle location, her husband had been bucketing water from the puddle they were stuck in to a nearby old dam! The unfortunate part was the manual hubs on their 4WD weren’t locked in! Another time we got a report from police about missing people in the vicinity of the park. A bit of a needle in a haystack! I did get some vague information they were supposably travelling from Pt Augusta to Ceduna and had not rendezvoused on time with mates in Ceduna. I happened to be in Wudinna that day, so went to the Visitor Centre to see which general maps were in the current tourist guide, and noted there was a track showing going through Pinkawillinie CP, which has some huge sandhill crossings. I suspected this was a possible location! To cut a long story short, I did find the missing 4WD bogged on a dune. As I approached, and near-naked German male came excitedly running out of the bush saying ‘I thought I was going to die here’ while trying to give me a hug!
6. Tell us about a place in SA that’s special or underrated or not well known or all of the above?
Some of the Heysen trail from Burra to Hallett in the state’s Mid North. Most people rush past to get to the Flinders.
7. Please nominate a fellow SARA member to complete the profile for our next newsletter.
Time to throw it back to the girls, Bec Pudney, Lameroo.