EMPLOYEE STORIES – Bree Counsell and Darcie Newman
In an industry traditionally worked by men, Bree Counsell and Darcie Newman are the fresh faces of a changing tide, embracing their roles as EWP operators on the Active Trees Service’s AusNet contract in country Victoria.
It’s a job both note satisfies their passion for the great outdoors and takes them from Heyfield to Mallacoota as part of a cutting contract that encompasses a good portion of Victoria.
“Basically, eastern Victoria is our office,” Bree explains.
“It allows you to see so many places and you’re always experiencing something new.
“It’s a job that takes you from the snow of the high country to the beaches of Lakes Entrance. You see it all and it’s such a good variety.”
Bree and Darcie joined Active in May this year as part of a major intake of staff required to service the AusNet contract, but each has previous experience in the tree industry having worked in vegetation management before.
For Darcie, that experience includes 2½ years as an EWP operator, and a host of other outdoor roles prior to that, ranging from roadside vegetation management to farm work, summer crew fire-fighting and a job as a bobcat operator.
Meanwhile, Bree moved into the position of EWP operator when she joined Active, after a previous role as a herbicide applicator.
Both in their 20s and hailing from Bairnsdale, the pair knew of each other at school but became friends on the job.
Now they work on separate crews cutting trees near the electricity infrastructure in advance of the fire season and as part of a general maintenance program.
This year, the dry conditions of regional Victoria have seen the pre-season fire cut moved forward in areas like Bendoc, and Darcie notes it’s different to previous years on the job.
“We used to get bogged every other year, but this year things are really dry,” she reflects.
Meanwhile, Active’s purpose-built mobile software adds an extra level of convenience and efficiency to their work.
“The mobile GPS shows you where you need to be and it’s much easier than counting poles or looking for numbers,” Darcie says.
“You know you’re in the right spot, and once you get used to it, it’s really simple to use.
The pair also note they’ve been warmly welcomed to the Active fold.
“Obviously we work with a lot of blokes, and we all get along really well. They’ve made us feel comfortable and looked after us,”
“If you’ve got a question, you’re welcome to ask anyone, and everyone’s willing to help each other out.”
As a result, it’s an industry they say more women should consider.
“I’d definitely urge them to give it a crack if they enjoy the great outdoors,” Darcie says.
“It’s full-on work wielding a hydraulic saw, but you soon build up the strength and are more than capable of doing all the jobs you need to do.”
“Every day is different and there’s so much to see and learn,” Bree adds.
“It’s a great industry to be in, you get to see the countryside and travel around, and the biggest highlight is you’re nowhere near the city.”