A Sanctuary For Wildlife And Life Changing Opportunities


Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary places a strong emphasis on the culture of its workplace. Every team member that you encounter, whether staff member or volunteer, not only greets you with a smile but genuinely seems to enjoy what they do and the environment in which they work. It’s a diverse and robust organisation populated by over 600 fulltime, casual and volunteer team members working across many fields of discipline – retail, tourism, food and beverage, education, veterinary science, wildlife, administration and marketing among them. Underpinning these many roles is one common factor – a passion for supporting conservation of our natural heritage.

Within that culture the Sanctuary operates a suite of educational and training opportunities, including an extensive program for school-based traineeships, hosting work placement for VET programs and providing internships for tertiary students.

The school-based traineeship program has developed over the last 7 years and is managed systematically, accommodating around 50 high school trainees per year. In partnership with RTO Prestige Services Training, this program offers a number of Cert 3 qualifications across a range of disciplines which comprise Hospitality, Tourism, Retail, Business Administration and ICT Media studies.

For the VET sector the Sanctuary hosts three programs in partnership with TAFE Qld and TAFE NSW to provide experience within the Wildlife and Vet Hospital departments. These programs offer practical work experience for students to meet the course requirements in two areas: A Cert 3 TAFE program in Captive Animal Management, which is the preferred industry requirement to work within the wildlife sector; while the Wildlife Hospital provides students studying Cert 3 and Cert 4 in Vet Nursing with valuable experience in treating injured wildlife where they are trained by staff nurses who are also qualified teachers.

The Currumbin Sanctuary Wildlife Hospital is the busiest in the Southern Hemisphere, admitting over 10 000 injured animals per year. Last year the hospital provided work experience for 17 Veterinary Science interns from across Australia and all over the world. Around 130 students participated in their vocational and tertiary work training programs in the last 12 months, with student support considered an invaluable service to both the Wildlife Sanctuary and Wildlife Hospital daily operations.

The Sanctuary’s Human Resources Manager Jane Jamieson believes that when it comes to their high school traineeships engaging with the right training partners is crucial:

“We have a partnership with Prestige Service Training. They visit the schools and do the recruitment on our behalf. We have strict parameters and criteria for the types of students we know will succeed in our program and that’s based on past experience. The last thing you want is a student who’s not going to complete their placement - it’s detrimental to their self-esteem, their academic scores and to our business needs. The trainees don’t have to be academically strong, it’s about reliability, effort, interest and attitude – we want those kids who just can’t wait to be here each week.”

With so many students to accommodate, it takes a systematic management program to operate all programs effectively, as Jane explains:

“Our goal is to deliver success for every student across each program. We don’t want to set anyone up to fail, especially the younger school based trainees. When a potential student is interviewed, we run through what our expectations are for that role and what a typical day will look like for them and determine if they are excited by that prospect. It’s a lot of time and effort, but the outcomes are wonderful. We continually see students with no workplace skills or experience develop to become switched on and motivated with a greater sense of confidence stemming from real world experience in the workplace.”

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary also sources interns directly from the Gold Coast’s three universities – Bond, Griffith and Southern Cross, depending on the needs of the Sanctuary’s departments. They’ve also recently begun working with other education and training providers like Envirotech College, who will provide interns with specialist skills in environmental sustainability.

As an NFP Jane says the outcome is not always for their interns to find ongoing employment with the Sanctuary. “In most cases the true benefit employers and interns need to recognise is that by gaining real world experience in a working environment such as this the employer is giving the intern a step up to that important first rung on the career ladder.

“If it’s not a win-win for both parties concerned, a training arrangement is never going to be amazing. We really are looking for joint outcomes between business support and student development – that’s what will determine their success with future employability.”

*Louise, Cert 3 TAFE student In Captive Animal Management and one of her cuddly Currumbin clients.

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