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Regsitered Landscape Architect



Tracy Churchill is the coordinator of the Recreation and Landscape Planning and Design Section of the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). “On behalf of the community, DEC manages more than 20 million hectares of national parks, nature reserves, marine reserves, State forests and timber reserves.

My section is responsible for planning for recreation, managing impacts on our visual landscape and designing visitor experiences and facilities. We prepare master plans for large areas that deal with access and recreational activity, placing the facilities in areas suitable for redevelopment, site development plans for sites that may include drawing up detailed designs. We also design small structures for DEC managed lands and are in effect the design service to the Department."

As well as the usual English and maths, Tracy took geography and textile design at school in Goulburn, NSW. She and a teacher studied a careers advice pamphlet put out by the Department of Education and they felt she fitted into the requirements for landscape architecture. “It sounded good, although I really had no idea what it was.”

Tracy is working in a reasonably specialised area. “We bring people into the landscape and respond to how they move in the conservation reserves. We analyse where people can go and how they get there without damaging the environment. We build facilities to enable people to have a great visitor experience in the natural landscapes of Western Australia.”

Tracy is now the leader of the section, which currently has nine people. This means she has moved into more of a management role, giving leadership to the team and mentoring her staff. “I am able to do some designing, however.”

The work of the section ranges from broad scale planning right down to detailed site plans of picnic areas, campgrounds, car parks, walktracks and other facilities in natural resource areas. They undertake many site visits and discuss issues with regional and local people. “We visit the sites, talk to our colleagues, consult with community groups and their representatives. We formulate ideas that might offer solutions, take these back and discuss them, and come out with final solutions.”

Tracy was part of the design team for the Valley of the Giants and this was the most memorable project she has worked on. “This project was very prominent for the Department and for me.”

(Check the website to see the boardwalk and canopy walk high up in the trees.)

"The site is located in a tingle forest on the south west coast of the State. The trees are very large - you could once drive a car through the large buttress roots of one tree - and the site was called the Valley of the Giants for a long time, but they grow in a very restricted area. The site was degrading and the trees were being impacted due to the large number of visitors.

The project involved choosing a site for the tree top walk and working up the concept in terms of business and master planning. Two main visitor experiences were designed, the Ancient Empire (designed in-house) and the Tree Top Walk and Tingle Shelter. Tracy explained her role as a landscape architect: “I was in the department’s design team and was the main contact with the TTW designers from the outset. Through a design competition, an architect, engineer and artist were selected to design the walk and visitor buildings. This is now one of the premier tourist resorts in Western Australia.”

This project won numerous awards including the Design category of the AILA National Awards and the Premier’s Award in the Western Australian Civic Design Awards in 1996.

Tracy graduated in 1985 from the (now) University of Canberra. She mostly enjoyed the course, which was practical and oriented towards getting new graduates jobs. She found it was responsive to natural landscapes, which has been very valuable to her in her current position.

Tracy has completed many other smaller projects that have been just as environmentally important. The majority of the Section’s work involves responding to visitor impacts in conservation areas. Roads, tracks, parking, toilets, lookouts and walktracks are the basis of most site designs. Whether the site is in the Kimberley or Kalgoorlie, protecting nature conservation values is the primary goal whilst providing visitors with the experience of natural landscape.

Tracy has developed a wide range of skills during her employment with the WA Government including designing in natural areas, working with other professionals, responding to briefs, managing projects, and being the leader in a process. Her job in a state conservation agency provides a perfect arena to protect the environment and ensure that balanced management strategies allow visitors to enjoy the landforms and ecosystems of the State without placing undue pressure on them.



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