The pathway from volunteer to Park Ranger

Friday 17 November, 2023

Embarking on a journey as a volunteer with Parks Victoria can set people on the path towards an exciting career which caters to the diverse skills and interests of environmental enthusiasts.

Many Parks Victoria rangers have begun their careers as volunteers, where they put their time and effort into looking after Victoria's beautiful natural assets before being employed as a ranger.

East Port Phillip Ranger Amanda Daw is one of those, saying it was the experience she gained while volunteering with the Parks Victoria Waterways team that helped her land her dream job. 

“It’s not very often people get to work right on the bay and see dolphins and seals as part of their job, but it is for me,” Amanda said. 

“I wouldn’t have gotten this role if it wasn’t for my previous volunteer experience with the Waterways team.” 

Parks Victoria ranger Amanda Daw.

Photo: East Port Phillip Ranger Amanda Daw helps keep our waterways healthy and safe.

Amanda is a seasoned ranger, with over 20 years’ experience in Australia and abroad, however she still believes it’s vital to volunteer in order to give back to community groups and gain different experiences to what people may be used to. 

In 2018 Amanda jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the Parks Victoria Waterways team, helping to look after the health of our bays and rivers. The volunteer position included many hours aboard different boats, enabling Amanda to complete her Coxwain Certificate. This valuable accreditation was instrumental in helping her land her current job as an East Port Phillip Ranger where she looks after marine assets from Mordialloc to Portsea. 

“Volunteering means that I can connect with the rangers to get some insights into the opportunities that might interest me, as well as the interview process to help me prepare. As a volunteer trying to get in, I want to get my face known, so that I can have someone who can referee for me when different jobs come out,” Amanda said. 

Volunteering with Parks Victoria opens opportunities for all types of environmentalists at heart, from finance officers, historians and cultural heritage experts to educators and scientists. Starting out in a voluntary capacity provides insights into the processes and systems that are used across Parks Victoria, while increasing a person’s network and visibility in the fields they seek employment.  

“If you’re in the system, you learn how it works so you can put your best foot forward,” Amanda said. 

“If you can demonstrate that you are familiar with the finance software, the volunteer portal Park Connect, or Parks Victoria’s values, that all helps.”

For those seeking to gain practical experience while studying, tertiary placements with Parks Victoria bring theory to life and can lead to increased readiness and sense of direction by the end of studies. 

For Greater Gariwerd - Grampians Community Engagement Ranger Hannah Auld, it was her voluntary university student placement with Parks Victoria in 2016 that led her to fall in love with the area.

Greater Gariwerd - Grampians Ranger Hannah Auld.

Photo: Greater Gariwerd - Grampians Ranger Hannah Auld started with Parks Victoria as a student.

Hannah started her placement while completing her Environmental Science degree. Her work involved monitoring cameras for foxes and feral cats. Working closely with Parks Victoria staff meant Hannah was hearing real life scenarios from rangers of issues they've faced and how they approached it – valuable insight for any want-to-be ranger. 

Hannah loved her placement so much that she applied to be a seasonal ranger the following year, and is now employed by Parks Victoria to help foster community engagement in the Grampians.

“Since being a uni student and having that opportunity to develop through a placement, I'm also now focused on enabling placement opportunities for others,” Hannah said, who has since helped four additional students undertake placements in the area.

“Something else I’m particularly proud of is delivering the first Greater Gariwerd Bird Survey, which has increased data on regional biodiversity, as well as increasing the number of skilled local surveyors and community awareness,” Hannah said.

The Great Gariwerd Bird Survey has 70 volunteers, 60 of which have received special training in bird surveying and monitoring. This upskilling of volunteers has resulted in the program being hailed as a great success, with positive outcomes for Parks Victoria, the volunteers, and the environment itself.

And while volunteering with Parks Victoria can open doors within the organisation, volunteers are also likely to pick up important transferrable skills which are just as valued by other employers.

Nicole Stocks, a recruitment officer with the Department of Energy, Environment, and Climate Action (DEECA), said volunteering with Parks Victoria was highly valued by many organisations.

“Volunteering can lead to acquiring experiences and skills that are beneficial when applying for a range of jobs opportunities outside of Parks Victoria, with Project Firefighting with DEECA being a popular entry-point position,” Nicole said. 

“Having bush crew experience helps, as well as people who have volunteered in parks, waterways, firefighting, SES or even the Army, as they have learnt skills that are relevant to the position.”

Tertiary placements with Parks Victoria volunteer groups can provide hands-on experiences.

Photo: Volunteering with Parks Victoria can lead to a wide variety of opportunites.

So what advice would Amanda and Hannah give those who are seeking employment pathways through volunteering? 

“For anyone coming out of tertiary education or looking for a new step in their career, look for a volunteer group in your local area. Parks Connect is a great starting point,” they said.

“Don’t be afraid to apply for a job that might just be a foot in the door, because once you start, there are so many opportunities that can open to you as you discover your own interests and passions.” 

Parks Victoria is currently looking to gauge the level of interest amongst Volunteer Groups who are interested in hosting Tertiary Placements. Please express your volunteer group’s interest by emailing the Volunteer Team at

Click here to explore and join one of the hundreds of volunteer opportunities on ParkConnect.

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