Revealing the Museum: Who Am I?

Article | Updated 9 months ago

The Western Australian Museum employs a wide range of people with diverse skill sets, from historians and archaeologists to administrators and designers. Meet some of our wonderful employees below.

Dr Mikael Siversson 

Curator of Palaeontology, Earth and Planetary Sciences

I grew up in the southern part of Sweden but did not develop an interest in palaeontology until I was about 20 years old. One day I visited the local library and spotted a book on dinosaurs. I looked at the images and realised that there were people actually getting paid to dig up these prehistoric creatures. I decided right then and there that I would become a palaeontologist no matter what.

I subsequently contacted various universities and was advised to enrol for the geology program at the Lund University in southern Sweden, which is the largest university in Scandinavia. Once I moved to Lund in 1985 it did not take me long to realise that there were very few dinosaur bones to be found in this part of the world.

Dinosaur remains from the Mesozoic era almost always occur in non-marine rocks, however, the Mesozoic deposits in southern Sweden are almost exclusively marine.

One of the lecturers mentioned that vertebrate fossils had been found in limestone quarries exposing sediments from the Cretaceous period. This got me very excited and the following weekend I loaded up my car with shovels, sieves and other gear I thought I might need. After spending about eight hours in a large limestone pit (Ignaberga quarry, located about 100km northeast of Lund) I finally found my first fossil shark tooth. I was instantly hooked and spent most weekends over the next few years crawling around on my knees, mostly by myself, in that quarry. From a distance I would have looked much like Gollum looking for his Precious.

I completed my PhD degree in 1993 on Cretaceous and Paleogene sharks and rays from southern Scandinavia. As I was looking for a suitable post-doctoral scholarship, a colleague of mine had just spent a couple of weeks in Perth with John Long, our former Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology. He mentioned the occurrence of Cretaceous shark tooth material from the Molecap Hill quarry in Gingin and advised me to contact John, which I subsequently did. I was successful in securing a scholarship funded by the Swedish Natural Science Research Council and arrived in Perth in May 1994.

Over the next two years I organised about a dozen fieldtrips to sites in the Perth and Carnarvon Basins and increased the WA Museum’s collection of Cretaceous shark teeth from about 100 to 100,000 specimens. The huge increase in material was largely a result of the deployment of modern sediment bulk sampling methods.

When I arrived in Perth, John Long organised an office for me, but in order to make space he had to first ‘relocate’ a student who was working on her honours thesis. Not the best start to a relationship but eventually she forgave me and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary together! I returned to Sweden in July 1996, after getting married in New Hampshire, and spent most of the next seven years doing research at the Lund University.

In January 2004 I returned to Perth with my family and was lucky enough to arrive just in time to help out with the relocation of the Museum Collection from the Perth site to the Welshpool facility. John Long left the Museum that year and three years later the remaining Curator of Palaeontology, Ken McNamara, moved on as well. Meanwhile I was lecturing at the Department of Extractive Metallurgy at Murdoch University and worked as exploration geologist in the Pilbara (iron ore) and Kimberley (bauxite).

In November 2007, after Ken left, I gained employment at the WA Museum as Curator of Palaeontology, initially on a contract basis. My scientific research has mostly been in the area of sharks and rays from the Cretaceous period but I have also published on dinosaurs, mammals and marine reptiles from this period. I have described one new family, three new genera and five new species of sharks from the Cretaceous of Western Australia. Dozens of new species await description so there is no shortage of work to be done!

The highlight of my career thus far is probably the Dinosaur Discovery exhibition which I believe attracted more than 170,000 visitations in Perth. I am looking forward to the opening of the New Museum in 2020 and hope palaeontology can deliver again.

A well-preserved fossil skull of a thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) from a Nullarbor

Mikael holding a well-preserved fossil skull of a thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) from a Nullarbor cave.
Image copyright WA Museum 

Fred Saunders

Legal Policy Officer

I was born in 1979 in Bradford, England, back when the wool mills were still spinning and you had to be ‘born in Yorkshire to play cricket for Yorkshire’. We then moved to Perth and this is where I grew up. My Dad was from Perth and his family had been in WA since his great-grandparents came here in the 1890s to start a timber mill in Subiaco and a menswear shop in booming Kalgoorlie. Apart from an interest in cricket, my time in Yorkshire has also left me with a love of curry, which is now what Bradford is famous for. After finishing a double major in law and philosophy, I moved around quite a lot and lived in Sydney, Canberra and South Korea, before settling back in Perth.

I have been the Museum’s Legal Policy Officer for just over seven years. I think I can say my role here is quite diverse. The legal side of my position often involves negotiating and assisting with agreements; writing up MoUs (thanks James!); advising on laws the Museum administers, such as the Museum Act itself or maritime archaeology legislation; and helping answer questions in areas such as copyright and insurance. 

The fact I have a legal background has also led me into dealing with heritage issues surrounding a laundry made of asbestos, negotiating the relocation of fishers away from a maritime archaeological site and obtaining legal protection for international exhibitions while they are on display at the Museum. As you might know, I project managed the (long running) temporary exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul which I recently saw on display while on holiday in Japan. I am also our ‘Disability and Access Inclusion Plan’ officer and on the same trip to Japan was delighted to be able to visit a 3D printing lab in Kyushu National Museum, which is now producing ‘please touch’ replicas of artefacts for their galleries.

I enjoy travelling and particularly like to visit museums and art galleries when I travel. One of my favourite such visits was to the National Palace Museum in Taipei, which only covers one subject (imperial Chinese artefacts and artworks) but does this comprehensively. As a bonus, the National Palace Museum’s restaurant served some of the best noodles I have ever eaten!

–     Fred Saunders

Fred behind the lens in Tokyo

Fred behind the lens in Tokyo
Image copyright Fred Saunders 

Western Australian Museum - Perth

I’m the grand old age of 125 years and I’ve seen a lot over my time. I started my life as a museum in an old colonial gaol that in 1891 had only been closed for three years. I like to think that it saw a transition from what was a very sad place to a much happier one.

I was built from the materials of Perth’s surrounds; the essence of the land is within me. I rose from the swamplands from which my foundations lie and I have a story to tell.

I did really well in those early days. I was showing off some wonderful West Australian geological collections and started to acquire many other historical artefacts and artworks.

A librarian called James Battye moved in and I started to become a much-loved part of the scientific and cultural fabric of our State.

But then something happened in the mid-1890s that would change the course of history for Western Australia and me. There was a gold rush! People from all around the world started making their way to Perth and settled here to seek their fortune in the Goldfields. The population Perth just about quadrupled and I needed to keep up with the demands of my public. So in 1899 I opened a grand new building named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, the Jubilee Building (admittedly nearer the Diamond Jubilee than the Golden Jubilee, as was originally planned…). There was now more space to display myself as a museum, library and art gallery.

Perth continued to grow so a library building was added – the Victoria Library was constructed in 1903 right next to my Old Perth Gaol building. The art gallery was also very popular with all of my visitors in the Jubilee Building so I also extended into a Beaufort Street building in 1908 to give sculptures and portraits their own spaces.

Perth was showing off its wealth of newly found resources so in 1913 I opened up a reading room to my Victoria Library naming it Hackett Hall. No one was allowed to sit down to read. It was very proper and reading desks were in place. Sshhh! No talking, I’m a library! But there was something odd with the building of Hackett Hall next to the Jubilee wing. They didn’t align and I later found out that the architects didn’t like each other. I wasn’t very happy with this and would have to think up a way to bring these two buildings of mine together!

Progress seemed to come to a halt during the two world wars but I quickly sprang back into action with another resources boom for Western Australia; this time in oil, coal and gas. What better way to celebrate than to expand again! In 1971 the Francis Street Building was constructed and what more of a grand gesture could I give to my people of WA than to properly display our giant Blue Whale skeleton? It seemed as though every child in Perth visited this building in a state of wonder and amazement. I even added exhibitions inside my Old Perth Gaol building.

As more space was needed, the library and the art gallery moved out into their own spaces next door, and so my museum displays grew.

I felt like nothing could go wrong, I was on top of the world! But alas, my Francis Street Building was deemed unsafe and could no longer stay. That seemed a dark time indeed.

However, I am more excited than ever this year! There are plans to redevelop and build around me. I will finally have the opportunity and space to become the museum I have always dreamed of!

So, on 18 June 2016 I closed my doors to the public for the first time in my 125 years – but I will be back!

I have some exciting things planned for the future which require me to shut down for a short time, but I wasn’t going to go quietly. I put on such a show for my people of WA: The Last Day at the Museum – Family Open Day. Celebrating all that had happened within my walls, acknowledging all of the stories and people that had shaped me. I opened up spaces that had not been seen to the public for years. Tours inside the Old Perth Gaol certainly sparked some memories for visitors and their enthusiasm for my future has given me lots of energy. I love seeing kids smile and this last day certainly was a gift to my visitors, as well as to myself.

I am proud to be part of the Western Australian Museum and I look forward to showing you the ‘new me’ in 2020.

–     WA Museum – Perth

Old Gaol
Old Perth Gaol
Image copyright WA Museum

Panoramic picture of Hackett Hall
Hackett Hall
Image copyright WA Museum 

Dr Glenn Moore

Curator of Fishes, Department of Aquatic Zoology 

I’m obsessed with fishes! It wasn’t always like that. Our family often travelled around Australia, especially WA, and I was the kid who was always catching critters – lizards, frogs, spiders and insects. I grew up fishing with my dad and loved it, but I never really thought about studying them – I always thought I’d study insects. That all changed when I learned to SCUBA dive at 17 and I saw fish in a different way. I bought every fish book I could afford and I spent every weekend snorkelling or diving. When I got out of the water, I immediately went through the books and wrote down everything I saw (I still do). I really was obsessed – most of my spare time was taken up with reading fish books (pre-internet!) and learning how to identify them. It was the same year that I started studying Zoology at UWA and I also started to think more critically about their behaviour, biology and evolution. My friends gave me the nickname ‘fishnut’.

After university and an MSc on reproduction and evolution in seahorses, a few years as an environmental consultant and a stint in community education at AQWA, I landed a job as Technical Officer in Fishes in 2002 (back-filling a secondment). I loved it. I recall a large planning meeting with the Museum’s director around 2004 where she asked us all where we wanted to be ten years hence. I pointed to Barry Hutchins (the then Fish Curator) and said, “I want Barry’s job”. The whole room inhaled in shock, so I clarified quickly, “…when he has finished with it!” Barry just smiled – he knew what I meant. When my contract expired I decided to do a PhD, studying evolutionary history in Australian Salmon at Murdoch University. Barry finally retired while I was studying, and a few years later my ambition of being the Curator of Fishes was fulfilled. I am a minority among Western Australian marine scientists in that I was born, grew up, studied and developed my passion here, so I feel very privileged to be documenting a fauna with which I have such a connection. Western Australia has an incredibly diverse assemblage of fish (some 4,000 species and growing) with exciting endemism, creating a unique WA flavour. I have been especially excited to have been part of WAM’s Kimberley Woodside Collection Project, spending many hours underwater collecting, identifying and counting fish in some of the most remote waters in the world.

I have a life away from fish too. My wife Debra and I are avid 4WD campers and love to get away from the crowds and explore the most remote parts of our country (such as Mitchell Plateau, Canning Stock Route and Cape York). I grew up collecting old bottles and collectables, so I (used to) have a good knowledge of aspects of WA history and my family owned the largest antique shop in Perth in the 1990s. Debra and I are also Art Deco buffs – we are restoring a beautiful 1934 home, have a collection of early 20th Century decorative arts, furniture, clothes, music, household items… We adore most pre-1950s jazz music and we used to own a dance school specialising in Lindy Hop (the original ‘swing’, which started in the Savoy Ballroom, Harlem in 1927) and other American vernacular dances from the 1920s-50s (with cool names like Charleston, Balboa, Shag, and Black Bottom). Go on, you know you’re curious…

–       Glenn Moore

Glenn Moore

Glenn Moore
Image copyright WA Museum 

Dr Jane Fromont

Head of the Department of Aquatic Zoology

I grew up in Whanganui in New Zealand. I am the youngest of six kids, so to feed us all we had a market garden and orchard. We lived adjacent to the Whanganui River with a freezing works nearby. It was wild days when the bulls, with cows in tow, broke out of the holding paddocks and stampeded down our street on their way to the river to escape their impending slaughter. Needless to say I am a vegetarian; I wonder if those wild-eyed crazed animals, fleeing their fate, assisted with that decision.

My first scuba dive was off a stunning beach in far northern NZ. I was hooked. I loved being able to swim over a reef teeming with life completely unworried by my presence. I found everything about being underwater to be wonderful, including breathing from a tank, the different sounds, the changes to light, and variety of animals. I completed a science degree at The University of Auckland that included marine biology.

After graduating I worked long enough to get money to head off on my OE (overseas experience). Coming from such a small place at the end of the world this seemed quite important. After a couple of years of adventure I was close to broke in Asia so caught a flight to Perth, where I worked for environmental consultants, waitressed at the Art Gallery of WA's restaurant, and volunteered at the WA Museum for Marine Invertebrates Curator, Loisette Marsh. During that time I attended a sponge training workshop in Melbourne held by Professor Pat Bergquist (New Zealand), and Dr Felix Wiedenmayer (Switzerland). Pat suggested I undertake a Masters with her, and fearing saying no would put an end to my marine career, I went back to The University of Auckland. I then received a scholarship to do a PhD on sponges of the Great Barrier Reef. I accepted this fabulous opportunity in large part to indulge my love of diving and travel and left for James Cook University in Townsville. During those four years I dived at many places including Papua New Guinea, Torres Straits, New Caledonia and around Australia.

I arrived at the WA Museum in May 1996 with a three year Australian Biological Resources Study scholarship from the Department of Environment and funding from the Museum to undertake part time curatorial work, as Loisette had retired. I successfully won the Curator’s position three years later, and I am still here! I have loved putting sponges into the minds and hearts of regulators, politicians, scientists and people generally. Sponges are now included in all environmental assessments in WA where they might be impacted. However, it does mean a lab full of sponges, with 2000 currently awaiting identification from a project we are working on!

I am fortunate to work with a wonderful team of people in Aquatic Zoology, most quite new to their positions and incredibly enthusiastic about WA, our marine environment, the Museum, interacting with the public, and life in general.

I am really privileged to have a job where I can do scientific research in a comparatively unexplored, and huge, marine environment, where communicating science and with the public is part of each day, as is maintaining the State collections, especially the ethanol specimen collection in the fabulous new wet store.

 –  Jane Fromont

Jane holding her favourite sponge spicule from a deep sea glass sponge

Jane holding her favourite sponge spicule from a deep sea glass sponge
Image copyright WA Museum

Dr Peter Downes

Earth and Planetary Sciences Assistant Curator 

I was born and bred in Brisbane and became fascinated with geology while studying at The University of Queensland. After graduation I spent a few years working in gold exploration in central Queensland and at the Wiluna Gold Mine in the Northern Goldfields before commencing work in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in 1995, assisting Alex Bevan in the curation of the Minerals and Meteorites collections.

Since that time I have been involved in a wide range of research areas, from the colourful secondary minerals of the weathering zone in WA mineral deposits, to the diamond-related alkaline volcanism of the Kimberley region (which was the topic of my PhD research at UWA). More recently, my research has branched off into the study of carbonatites (possibly the most mysterious and unusual of the igneous rocks) in the East Kimberley and their rare earth element-bearing minerals. The rare earth elements (REEs), from Lanthanum to Lutetium, inhabit the second bottom row of the periodic table. The rare earth elements are highly sought after for use in manufacturing and some carbonatites in the Kimberley have significant associated deposits of the REEs.

I have also had the opportunity to delve into the history of the WA Museum’s mineral collections and their first curator, the Reverend Charles Nicolay. He was an interesting character who, in amongst working as a chaplain, described diamond deposits in Brazil before coming out to Western Australia. Currently I’m looking forward to the imminent arrival of the Museum’s new scanning electron microscope and using it to reveal the microscopic world of our mineral and meteorite collections for the New Museum.

Look out for a mineral of the week most Mondays on the WA Museum’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts under #MineralMonday.

-       Peter Downes

Peter Downes surrounded by purple lepidolite at the Mt Cattlin lithium mine

Peter Downes surrounded by purple lepidolite at the Mt Cattlin lithium mine near Ravensthorpe

Rebecca Hackett

New Museum Project Collections Registration Officer

I’m Bek, born and bred in Ballarat, Victoria which seems at times the coldest (and occasionally hottest) place on Earth. My parents were teachers (now retired and spending my inheritance), and I went to Ballarat High School. Avid gardeners, sailors and nature lovers, my parents instilled in me a great love of the outdoors. School holidays were spent camping around Australia, from Cameron’s Corner to Normanton, to Mintibie, Broken Hill, Flinders Ranges, you name it, we went there. And I had to bang in the tent pegs, every time.  

Following school, I annoyed my parents for a further five years while I undertook my degree and Honours in Geology at the University of Ballarat (now named Federation University Australia). I grew up watching Harry Butler and David Attenborough, reading Gerald Durrell and James Herriot, and wanting to do what they did. I originally enrolled to study biological resource management but discovered rocks instead. It must be something in the blood, as my great-great grandfather made the find that became the Jubilee Mine in Smythesdale Victoria, and my great-grandfather and grandfather both grew up on the Ballarat Goldfields. Alas, the ancestors left no great (any) fortune, so I had to find a job.

My first job was in St Arnaud with a crazy crew of Russian geologists for 12 months doing (I’m not quite sure exactly what) testing of a revolutionary new soil sampling method. Their English and my Russian was pretty non-existent. I can, however, still make a ripper Borscht and lay out a pretty accurate 500 metre grid with a compass and tape. My contract ended in 1996 so I did what all young geos did at the time, and headed for Kalgoorlie. I worked in geology roles from greenfields exploration (put dirt into bags and un-bog the ute) to mining (tell someone else to put dirt into bags and un-bog the ute).

Somewhere along the way I ended up married, and in late 1999 moved to Perth. This signalled a career change for me and, after a year at Telstra, a baby and another year at the Tax Office, I spent the next six-and-a-half years as a Customs Officer. I eventually moved back to the mining industry as a Database Administrator, but was never really happy. It was fortuitous then that I saw the New Museum Project Database Officer roles advertised some two years ago. I had (and I’m not sure the interviewers know this) a hilarious phone interview while painting a friend’s house in Mt Barker. Sitting in a bare room covered in paint, with only a vague recollection of what I had written in the selection criteria in the first place. It must have been ok as I won the role.

Most recently I have been working with the Earth and Planetary Sciences and Aquatic Zoology teams for the recent decant. I am also working on uploading the photographs taken to Cumulus, as well as being involved in the Origins and Life teams for the New Museum Project. I am having a great time working with so many talented people who are all so passionate about what they do.

-      Bek Hackett

Bek Hackett

Bek Hackett
Image copyright WA Museum 

 Dr Paul Doughty

Curator of Herpetology, Department of Terrestrial Zoology

Paul Doughty with Harry Butler

Paul Doughty with Harry Butler
Image copyright WA Museum 

I am lucky enough to have been WA’s frog and reptile expert for the past 13 or so years while at the WA Museum in the Terrestrial Zoology Department. WA is one of the most diverse places in the world for herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles), with the WA Museum's ‘herp’ collection only second in size to the Australian Museum which has a wider Australasian focus.

I was born in Newfoundland in eastern Canada. This island has no native amphibians or reptiles, but does have things like beavers and minks, and also icebergs in the north and a Viking settlement in the past. I was not to stay long, as my father’s job – spotting icebergs for the Coast Guard – would shift to a base in the U.S.A., with moving towns every two or three years. Typically we’d live in the outer regions of cities – exposing the kids to the bush (i.e. amphibians and reptiles).

Other than Perth and Seattle, I have usually stayed in a place for only a few years, whether growing up or ‘uni-hopping’ as a (kind of) grown-up. I say I’m from Seattle, as this was where I spent most of my formative years (including high school and university). During high school I forgot about reptiles for a while, getting more into skateboarding and music (I retired from skateboarding after a broken leg, but still play the drums). It was only later at the University of Washington in an undergraduate ecology class where the lightbulb switched on that I could pursue ecological and evolutionary research, but using lizards as a model organism. The plan worked, and over 30 years later I am still chasing after lizards while doing science.

My first stay in Perth was in the 1990s, when I moved across from Sydney after my PhD on skinks and geckos to work with Dale Roberts at UWA on frogs and tadpoles. I occasionally worked at the WA Museum in Francis Street with Ric How and Mark Cowan, but spent most of my time working at New Edition Bookshops in Fremantle and Leederville (now Oxford St books where I was the first employee there).

After more postdoctoral fellowships in Canberra and Los Angeles, I finally left the University of Queensland where I was doing evolutionary experiments on fruit flies (the zenith of my investigations into esoteric evolutionary theories), to take up the position of curator of herpetology at the WA Museum  Perth. I had finally settled down! I spent my first year at Francis Street, after which Ron Johnstone and I were the first people to move out to the new Welshpool site. So in my experience, the WA Museum has continually been a museum in transition, having moved the collections twice, worked in three different laboratories and have had four different offices. I am hoping that the year 2021 begins a relative period of stability for the second half of my career here, but lots of work to be done before then!

Working as a taxonomist here in WA has been wonderful. I never imagined as a university researcher the kinds of adventures I would have working in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions as a WAM curator. I especially value the surveys spent with my Parks & Wildlife colleagues, as well as many keen university researchers from the eastern states who can’t seem to get enough of WA frogs and reptiles (much appreciated – we need the help!). The Aboriginal people and pastoralists I’ve met during my travels have opened my eyes to the ‘real Australia’, and I feel privileged to have been given these opportunities that working at WAM provides. The public talks I’ve given have also certainly been fun to deliver, but I always feel as though I’m holding a hand of aces as people are naturally curious about our frogs and reptiles.

In the past 10 years, my colleagues and I have described over 50 species of ‘herps’ (and redescribed another 30), but in my role here I am just trying to stabilize the taxonomy as best I can, especially the Pilbara and Kimberley regions. However, I (or my successors) will never run out of new species to discover and describe as Western Australia is such a large, wild place. I truly have one of the best jobs in the world for a herpetologist, with a mega-diverse herpetofauna and now a state-of-the-art collections building and laboratories. I still love Newfoundland, but happy to be on the other side of the world, home in Western Australia studying our amazing frogs and reptiles.

–          Paul Doughty

Stephen Anstey

Curator of History

Growing up in the historic Cornish sea port of Falmouth, I developed a love of history and archaeology. My family’s migration to Australia as Ten Pound Poms in 1968 seemed to end my childhood quest to be an archaeologist. To me at the time, Western Australia seemed to not only have no history, but no interest in history. However, my parents discovered that the WA Museum had just appointed a new Curator of Archaeology, Charlie Dortch. So over the next school holidays my work with the WA Museum began. I was a 14-year-old volunteer sifting ‘gravel’ from Devil’s Lair spit levels. Happy volunteering for more school holidays followed, but this wasn’t Viking or Ancient Roman stuff and after all Moya (Smith), you can only sort a certain amount of ‘gravel’! So my archaeological interests waned.

Later in high school, keen to study history at university, I was persuaded by the wonderful Professor Geoffrey Bolton to study under him at the then new Murdoch University. Under a WA Education Department Scholarship, I studied history, communication studies and a Graduate Diploma in Education. This was a very wise choice. There I learnt and researched the rich wonders of Australian, British and importantly Western Australian history. I discovered that Western Australia not only had a history, but a truly fascinating and important one! Under Geoff’s mentorship and supervision I completed History Honours, and was introduced to WAM History Curator David Hutchison. Moments into my tour of the History Department, I excitedly knew that this is what I wanted to do.

A happy two-year period teaching history / social studies at a secondary high school (part of the obligations of the WA Education Department Scholarship) followed, during which time I volunteered in the History Department during school holidays.

 I was then fortunate enough to win a Rotary Foundation Graduate Fellowship to study the first year of a Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Colorado. There I learnt valuable lessons in (and a gained a love of) all aspects of collections management in the wonderful environment of the University’s Anthropology-Archaeology Museum. I subsequently finished this Masters part time at James Cook University in Queensland.

Upon returning in 1984, I gained my first paid museum employment as the inaugural Museums Australia ‘Travelling Curator’. Based at WAM, for the next two years I travelled between Western Australian metropolitan and regional museums, often staying for several weeks, providing advice and training on collections management to volunteer staff. I met many wonderful people, experienced the conditions and challenges faced by community museums and importantly developed professionally.

Brief employment followed as Curator of the WA Medical Museum before taking up the appointment under Dr Brian Shepherd as Curator of the WACAE (later ECU) Museum of Childhood. This housed the nation’s largest and most significant collection of childhood heritage and was to be my home for 16 years. Here I gained valuable and enjoyable experience in museum education, teaching daily in the Museum’s Education programs and the University’s tertiary courses. We also curated many exhibitions. I was fortunate to tour Australia with three of them. We also founded the ECU Certificate in Museum Studies, teaching preventative conservation and collections management for 20 years, alongside future colleagues from WAM.

In 2003 I was very fortunate to gain employment at WAM as a Curator of History. This was a dream come true. I arrived just in time for the move from Francis Street to Welshpool. This was a really hard and stressful time but was also the opportunity, with colleagues, to re-vamp storage and collections management systems at Welshpool. Developing, documenting, and conserving the Collection is a large part of our work. The History Collection is large (both numerically and often physically) and diverse, with items that go to the very heart of the State’s rich history. It includes items ranging from domestic equipment to military history, infant items through to mining headframes. The Collection has several large and important sub-collections, including the items from ‘my’ old Museum, The ECU Museum of Childhood, and the recently acquired Sports Museum Collection. We house items of state and national significance such as the Frederick Bell, Boer War Victoria Cross and one of only two complete convict chain gang uniforms in the country.

For me, researching the history of collection items and stories, whether it be for the documentation process or for exhibition purposes, it is the best part of what I do. To actually be engaged in primary historic research and literally being the ‘history detective’ doing real history is rewarding and often thrilling. I feel privileged to be able to do this as well as to work with great colleagues in History and other departments.

We are proud to manage the History Collection and use it and our research in exhibitions and public programs to tell Western Australian stories. Exhibition work has featured prominently in our work. This has included curating, often with colleagues, several important WAM exhibitions including Howzat!: Western Australians and Cricket (2006), the history elements at the WA Museum’s Albany (2009) and Kalgoorlie-Boulder (2011) sites, Debt of Honour (2012), and the National Anzac Centre (2014). We are currently working on the New Museum Project and look forward to presenting wonderful history collections and stories to the public.

-       Stephen Anstey

Stephen Anstey with objects

Stephen Anstey
Image copyright WA Museum 

Deanne Fitzgerald

Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisor

Deanne Fitzgerald on the phone to Simmo (West Coast Eagles coach)!

Deanne Fitzgerald on the phone to Simmo (West Coast Eagles coach Adam Simpson)...apparently!
Image copyright WA Museum 

I’m Yamatji / Nyoongar woman, I’m number five out of six kids, I have one older sister, and four brothers. Having four brothers, surprisingly, I grew up a tomboy! I know how to do a mean drop-punt, I know how to play chess, change spark plugs, replace brake-pads, plug up a leaking radiator and, of course, change a tyre, and I can only drive a manual car – I need to be able to do the racing gear changes when the lights turn green!

My first five years of my life we lived in my father’s country of York, before moving to Koolyanobbing where I attended all of my primary school. “Kooly” was a mining town, my Dad was the track master for the railways and I had a stay-at-home Mum.

My netball career started in Kooly, well Southern Cross, that’s where we played. I started playing when I was six and they put me in as the goal shooter. Turns out I was good at the position because I continued playing for over 30 years as a GS / GA (that’s goal shooter or goal attack and yes, I’m that old). Sharna Craig in the media team has a photo of me with her mum representing the Midwest Netball Association at a netball carnival in Perth. Eventually a bad injury forced me into early retirement but yes, I watch the game and I’m a couch coach.

While in Kooly I also did jazz ballet! I wanted to be a Hot Gossip Dancer from the Kenny Everett Video Show. Google it if you want to know who I’m talking about.

From here we moved to Dongara, Mum’s country, this is where we call home.

In Dongara, I remember going out and helping Dad pull craypots before school. We had so much crayfish we were giving it to the cat, so crayfish for me isn’t that special.

I went to school at Dongara District High School where I was the second girl, and first and I think only Aboriginal student to win the Dongara District High School Sports Award. I still have the trophy, even though it’s tucked away in a box in the store room along with all the other ones I have won since I was six years old.

Sports is a big thing for me, I’ve been running and jumping since I could walk, so it’s no surprise that I love my footy, and my Eagles. When people, old aunties in particular, ask me if I have a boyfriend, I tell them I have 22 of them! They have since stopped asking.

So from high school I stayed in Dongara and worked at the local bakery, where they sold the best award-winning pies in WA. The baker had won many awards at the Perth Royal Show (I saw the ribbons, so it must be true) and the pies were yummy. 

In my 20s I decided to give uni a try. I did an Aboriginal bridging course for a year, to help get into uni. I passed because I then went on to do my BA and then Honours.

From there I got my first real adult job working for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I worked in the heritage section and got involved in a number of projects while there.

From there I went to the Department of Family and Children’s Services. I worked in the Family Information Records Bureau, the place where they held the Aboriginal native welfare records. These records were given to family members looking for information about their family members or their own records. I can tell you, some of the stories that I had to read were heartbreaking.

I had to get out of there so I got a job back home in Geraldton at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (back again). I was so excited when I got the job I called my Mum with the good news. She told me to call back as she was watching Home and Away. Mothers!

I was the regional heritage officer in Geraldton and travelled to quite a few wonderful places in the Mid West. But some of my travel got restricted after I came back from a trip and punctured all four tyres on the 4WD after driving in the scrub. I also bent the side running bar driving through the sand dunes in Exmouth. Cost a few bucks to fix it all…

Then I went to the mining industry, nothing much to tell here.

Now I’m at the Museum as the Senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisor.

So what do I do? Good question?

I manage the Reconciliation Action Plan, I organise events for NAIDOC Week – watch this space for this year’s great event! I help the New Museum Project team to work and engage with Aboriginal community. I liaise with the Museum’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee and I basically answer all of your questions regarding Aboriginal matters. I hope I get them right?

This week is National Sorry Day and National Reconciliation Week. So what do these two days on the Aboriginal calendar mean to me? Heartache!

Some of you will remember last year during National Reconciliation Week that I talked about my Mum being part of the Stolen Generation. She was my biggest influence, and my best friend, so when I talk about her I start crying, as I am now.

We talked about the Sorry Day and what it meant to her, she said she didn’t need to hear the apology; it should be said to her parents who had the kids taken. She forgave what happened and made sure us kids were never taken. She died a year before Kevin Rudd made the apology in 2008, she never got to hear it – she died on the 27th of May. So these two days are always a difficult time for me.

So please remember everyone who has been affected by the Stolen Generation, the mums and dads, brothers and sisters, the families and those who were taken.

This year’s reconciliation theme is about Our History, Our Story, Our Future. We all need to reconcile to acknowledge our history, and share our stories to help heal the past, so we can all build a better future.

-       Deanne Fitzgerald

Arlene Moncrieff

Learning and Creativity Education Manager Arlene Moncrieff

My formative years were spent having the freedom to explore the British countryside around our village, often by myself. Some today might call this benign neglect on the part of my parents however it provided me with the space to observe the natural world and develop a deep sense of respect for the species with which we share the planet – sadly, not always graciously. Etched in memory are regular forays to the local stream to ‘tiddle’ for sticklebacks and minnows; feeling my heart skip a beat at the rare sighting of water voles going about their daily business; or awaiting the first call of the cuckoo on its return from warmer climes. Is there any wonder that Kenneth Graeme’s The Wind in the Willows is a favourite of mine – “toot toot”!

In 1973 my parents and I migrated to Australia making Adelaide our new home. The natural world took a back seat for a while as more pressing things took hold –completing high school and matriculating, learning to drive, ritualistic observance of weekly episodes of Countdown and Molly Meldrum coupled with the need for any self-respecting teenager in the 70s to indulge in the most hideous fashion statements for some time! All of that aside, I went on to successfully complete a Bachelor of Education before plying my trade in a number of disadvantaged high schools. If you can swim in them you can swim anywhere!

After a number of years the call of the wild returned, this time in the form of studying for a Certificate in Horticulture piquing my interest in plants, in particular native plants. After leaving classroom teaching behind and inspired by the work of David Attenborough, I went on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Environmental Studies at Adelaide University where my world opened up philosophically, ethically and politically – the desire to educate about and for the environment now top priority. Little did I know that reaching this goal would be realised on the other side of the country with a move to Perth for two years in 1998 – as you can see, I’m still here!

Since arriving I’ve been fortunate to work with many remarkable people across a number of organisations including Greening Australia WA, Perth Zoo, the Department of Environment and Conservation (now the Department of Parks and Wildlife), Montessori Education and the Canning River Eco Education Centre. My time at Greening Australia was particularly instrumental in me developing an appreciation of the uniqueness and importance of WA’s biodiversity – both nationally and internationally. Now, I’m delighted to say that “I’m here” having joined WAM in late November 2014 as Learning and Creativity’s Education Manager, at what can only be described as a once in a lifetime experience: the development of a new museum for WA.

As an educator I’m passionate about finding different ways to excite people’s learning – not only about the world around them but also about themselves. Observing serendipitous and ‘light globe’ moments (or should that be LED moments?) is truly inspiring and rewarding with both children and adults alike. With the knowledge that we all learn in different ways and at different times I’m interested in how we can apply different lenses through which to observe issues – be it through the context of war and our response to this threat, to shared values and way of life and juxtaposing this with our current response to what some might say is an equally heinous threat to our way of life and shared values – that of climate change; or using a series of hula hoops to demonstrate ecological principles such as habitat fragmentation, threatening processes and their effect on wildlife.

Other areas of personal interest outside of work include bird watching (a seed which germinated in those formative years), gardening, the odd bit of doodling and photography, daydreaming (which I’d like a bit more time for at work as it helps the creative process), watching repeat episodes of Black Adder Goes Forth and reading anything by Michael Leunig and Shaun Tan – both indeed national treasures. Some things yet to be realised: learning to play the drums, seeing the Northern Lights and if afforded the opportunity in the future, a stint at being a grandma.

There are many epithets and clichés to help guide us in how we wish to live our lives. One that I seek to encourage and support, especially in children, comes from the pen of one Ralph Waldo Emerson. In these days of transition for WAM perhaps not too bad for us adults too!

“Be silly

Be honest

Be kind”

–     Arlene Moncrieff

Arlene Moncrieff

Arlene Moncrieff

Ron Johnstone 

Curator of Ornithology

Ron Johnstone

Ron Johnstone
Image copyright WA Museum 

I grew up in Armadale, south of Perth, in an area that still contains some beautiful bushland. I now live in the hills at Bedfordale less than two kilometres from the old family home. I cannot remember a time when I was not interested in wildlife, especially birds, and our bushland setting afforded constant opportunities for observations of nature. When I was nine I found half of a famous book, A. J. Campbell’s Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds at the Armadale rubbish tip. Unfortunately it had been torn in half and I returned every day for over a month in search of the other half, but without luck. For me it was like discovering the Holy Grail as it contained amazing details on the breeding biology of Australian birds. I had no idea that such a book existed and that battered old half-copy still sits as a prized possession on my study shelf.

I joined the WA Museum in February 1970 as a Technical Assistant in the department of Ornithology and Herpetology, was promoted to Technical Officer in 1973 and Curator in 1996. These early years saw a spectacular expansion of the Museum with new buildings, and a surge in collecting, in publications and in the exploration of the State for both birds and reptiles. It was a period of discovery and, for example, on one expedition to Mitchell Plateau in 1973, we discovered 23 new species of vertebrate including the Magnificent Tree Frog, the large Rough-scaled Python and what I believe to be the world’s most beautiful skink Carlia johnstonei. Fieldwork in those early years was not without adventure and my boyhood bushcraft skills were often put to good use, including during a long walk in the Great Sandy Desert when I had to abandon a vehicle, and being marooned on an island in the Recherche Archipelago for nine days with three museum anthropologists that all quickly learnt to become hunter gatherers.

Currently my main duty is to curate the bird collection (about 45,000 specimens), carry out research both in the field and on the collection, answer enquiries dealing with ornithology and provide expert advice and information to other WA Museum departments, the general public, government departments and other organisations – especially museums interstate and overseas.

Over the past two weeks for example I have carried out field work including banding a black cockatoo chick from an artificial nest hollow at Mundaring; checked details of pigeon specimens in the research collection for a review of a new book, Pigeons and Doves of Australia; identified a series of photographs of a number of new species recorded in WA and on Cocos-Keeling Islands; provided information on black cockatoo movements on the southern Swan Coastal Plain for conservation initiatives by the Department of Parks and Wildlife; extracted data on the distribution of Malleefowl in the Great Victoria Desert; arranged for some DNA tissue to be sent from the American Museum of Natural History to help identify what appears to be a new species of owl from eastern Indonesia and identified egg shell remains from a hollow tree pushed over during highway extensions.

The traditional function of collections, to be storehouses of reference material, is no less important today than it was a hundred years ago. The tremendous growth in field and laboratory approaches to ornithological research has led to a wide range of new concepts and questions. So much so that taxonomy, systematics, biogeography and evolution are vigorous fields armed with remarkable new techniques. In many cases, however, we are still lacking basic natural history data for many of our birds and examples of the need to expand our collections of study skins, spirit specimens, skeletons, nests, eggs, frozen tissue, photographs and recordings are endless.

The growth of the world-wide tourist markets and the proliferation of good bird field guides have elevated bird watching into a major international pursuit and this is evident in the huge number of enquiries that I receive from both bird watchers and researchers. Thousands of visitors come to WA to observe or study our birds, and our national parks have become our showroom; museums have a major role to play here in providing information for these visitors. Indeed one of my most important objectives since the early 1970s has been that of education especially through publications, scientific papers, field guides, handbooks, posters, information sheets, lectures and newspaper articles. Our first field guide to the birds of WA was published in 1979, with a second edition in 1985 followed by seven re-printings. A new WA bird field guide is now well under way and judging from visitors to the WA Museum who have looked at the artwork, it should be a ‘must have’ for bird watchers and researchers.

My work has also been my hobby and between 1990 and 2004 most of my spare time at home was taken up working on the two-volumed Handbook of Western Australian Birds. They provide a detailed summary of all species occurring in WA and also on Christmas and Cocos-Keeling Islands. The task here was to distil over two million records on hand written sheets, containing information on distribution, status, relative abundance, habitat preferences, breeding, migration and movements and food etc., into a reference text for naturalists and conservation workers. WA is the only State with its own field guide and handbook and much of the information in these books is derived from museum specimens.

My other main interests include Wallacean birds (eastern Indonesia); mangroves and mangrove birds; seabirds of the Indian Ocean and endangered cockatoos in the south-west. The Cockatoo Care program (originally a joint initiative of the Museum and the Water Corporation) has been especially rewarding and has encompassed a range of both traditional museum research and field work. It has led to the identification of critical habitat that has helped on-ground conservation initiatives, the identification of threats to the species, a vast improvement in our understanding of their breeding biology, and essential data for the development of recovery plans and solving the mystery of the lost Baudin’s Cockatoo type specimen (the world’s scientific reference specimen) and conserving that scientific name. Perhaps most of all, I have been amazed by the high levels of public engagement that this project has generated.

My favourite moments include new discoveries in the field; the publication of our books; and at home with my wife watching our grandkids discover the natural world in the same bush that I did many years ago.

–     Ron Johnstone

Dr Mark Harvey

Head of Terrestrial Zoology Department

Dr Mark Harvey

Dr Mark Harvey
Image copyright WA Museum 

I grew up in suburban Melbourne where I enjoyed wandering to the local creek (which is now a carpark) searching for tadpoles and insects. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, but knew that I loved animals. My favourite television programs were based on animals, and I remember writing to the Serengeti National Park in the mid 1960s asking for a job. I was a tad young (under 10 years old), and some might say inexperienced, for the job but I checked the mailbox for a month waiting for a reply. In hindsight, I may not have put a stamp on the envelope or included a return address, and many would argue that my organisational skills have only improved slightly since then.

I entered Monash University a few years after the Whitlam government abolished university fees. I saw this as a stroke of good luck, otherwise I would have become a carpenter. My carpentry skills were only slightly better than my job seeking skills (see above), so Gough was always in my good books. Oh, and he scrapped conscription, which I was also grateful for. I graduated with a degree in zoology and genetics, and stumbled into a PhD to study the taxonomy and evolution of arachnids. Proving to be more adept at this than job applications or carpentry, I’ve managed to carve out a career in this field. Stints working at CSIRO in Canberra and the Museum of Victoria were really enjoyable. I was very fortunate to join the Western Australian Museum in the first week of March 1989, after driving from Melbourne in my little tan-coloured Ford Laser which was laden with my worldly goods.

My role as Curator of Arachnids has been highly rewarding and I’ve managed to travel far and wide across Western Australia as well as elsewhere in Australia and other parts of the world. I’ve conducted field work in South Africa, USA, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, helping to build our Terrestrial Zoology collection.

My main passion is to document the fauna of Western Australia and to describe new species. We’re fortunate to have a diverse and fascinating arachnid fauna, including hundreds of new species of spiders, scorpions, pseudoscorpions, mites, etc. Scientific names for organisms are only valid once they’re published in scientific journals, and so far I’ve been involved in the naming of 574 new species, 74 new genera and four new families. While most of the names that we use are rather dull, I’m rather proud to have named the short-tailed whip-scorpion genus Draculoides, because it lives in a cave and has extra little processes on its 'teeth', and the species Draculoides bramstokeri from Barrow Island. There’s also the pseudoscorpion Tyrannochthonius rex from Royal Arch Cave in Queensland. Ah, the fun one can have.

–                Mark Harvey

Nicolas Bigourdan

WA Museum Maritime Archaeology Assistant Curator

Nicolas Bigourdan

Nicolas Bigourdan
Image copyright WA Museum 

Nicolas Bigourdan

Nicolas Bigourdan
Image copyright WA Museum 

I was born near in Annecy, France, very near to Switzerland, in 1979, with family roots based in the Basque Country and Brittany. My family and I moved to Paris when I was five-years-old and that is where I stayed until I reached my 25th birthday.

I am a maritime archaeologist by training. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree (2002) in History and an Honours degree (2003) in Nautical Archaeology – both from l’Université de la Sorbonne (Paris), as well as a Masters degree (2005) in Maritime Archaeology from James Cook University (Townsville, Australia).

After some terrestrial archaeological excavations practice in the South of France (Roman Villa) and French Guyana (18th century storage house), I have had the chance to work on many underwater and maritime archaeological projects, focused mainly on research and excavation of shipwrecks in various countries including Australia, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), France, Mauritius, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom. During my studies and early career I have developed a wide range of research interest including Aboriginal maritime rock art depictions, French slave trading in the Indian Ocean, early Middle-Eastern watercraft depictions, 3D visualisation of underwater cultural heritage, 18th and 19th century French exploration expedition around Australia, and ethno-archaeological study of canoes traditions from Irian Jaya (Indonesia).

After my academic period I successively worked for short periods of time with Cosmos Archaeology (NSW), Earthwatch (FSM), and the Mauritius Museum Council. Before joining the WA Museum, I worked for four years as a project supervisor within the Coastal and Marine section of Wessex Archaeology (a consulting company based in the UK) where I was trained to raise my commercial diving capabilities to become a surface supply diver. There, I was also largely involved with underwater and maritime archaeological site inspections, as well as archaeological assessments for commercial marine development projects both located in Wales, South England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Belgium.

I started working within the WA Museum’s Maritime Archaeology Department in February 2012. Since then, I have had the chance to be involved with so many great projects. I have participated in multiple fieldwork trips in the Abrolhos Islands, Ningaloo, Recherche Archipelago, Barrow Island, and Dampier Archipelago, just to mention the better known locally iconic locations. Last year I was involved with the finding of four new skeletons associated with the shipwreck of the Batavia (1629) on Beacon Island, and also the expedition for the 3D recording of the HMAS Sydney and HSK Kormoran (1941).

Around the Perth Metropolitan area, I am active with the Maritime Archaeology Association of Western Australia (MAAWA) as an outreach venture through which I co-develop the 3D Maritime Archaeology Project – Perth Region (3DMAPPR) initiative. In the Shipwreck Galleries of Fremantle where I am based, besides general business duties and assisting all my colleagues in their projects and initiatives, I have been co-responsible for redesigning the SS Xantho (1872) gallery. I am now also the coordinator of the French Connection Program (which was initiated in the 1990s by Michael McCarthy and Myra Stanbury) of which the main goal consists of developing research occasions and collaboration opportunities around the topic of the French presence along the coast of WA. This later responsibility is currently mainly centred around the organisation of two exhibitions for 2018. The first one is travelling from France to present the works of the artists on board the Nicolas Baudin expedition (1801-1803), and the second on the French explorer Louis de Freycinet to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his arrival on the coast of WA (1818). Finally, in addition, I am part of the organising committees for two conferences (ICMH7 and IKUWA6) which will be held here in WA later this year, focusing on maritime history and underwater archaeology. They will provide an excellent occasion to promote these topics locally, the WA Museum, as well as my research interests within these circles.

So if you are interested in any of this and would like to know more, please come down to Freo to discuss it with me or my Maritime Archaeology colleagues as we are always happy to chat about our great passion.

-                                Nicolas Bigourdan

Rachael Wilsher-Saa

Regional Manager WA Museum – Albany

Rachael Wilsher-Saa

Rachael Wilsher-Saa
Image copyright WA Museum 

I was born in England but grew up in Fremantle and the Pilbara Region in the early days of the iron ore industry. Moving between these two places for many years I believe started my love affair with the diversity in Western Australia and a love of its landscape.

Fremantle, prior to the America’s Cup win, was an ethnically diverse working class area and I was lucky enough to grow up there where I was exposed to many different cultures. The early Pilbara was also full of people from many different ethnic backgrounds who were all trying to get ahead. Yes “Red Dog” really did exist and it really was like the Wild West. They were interesting times, which forged character in anyone that lived there.

I entered university to study Agricultural Science and Business. As for many lucky Australians at the time, this was only possible because of free university education. I then worked for the Department of Agriculture at the Kununurra Research Station on the Ord River researching entomological pests in sub-tropical crops. I then went on to work in Townsville, Queensland for CSIRO on a tropical legumes research project. Many, many, many hours spent in a lab made me realise this was not really what I wanted to do so I returned to Western Australia and started my Education degree.

I completed a Master of Education whilst working for Melbourne University’s Asia Education Foundation as a regional co-ordinator for the Access Asia Program which further developed my love of languages. I also continued to teach firstly at primary and then at secondary level.

It was my enrolment in a Master of International and Community Development at Deakin that really set me up for a role within a museum, although I landed in the Museum by mistake really. I promised to help the previous Regional Manager Val Milne (sneaky lady) develop some school holiday programs, which led to developing some education programs, and then I found myself covering her leave. I have been here since. I still can’t quite work out how that happened, but I love it.

My job as Regional Manager is varied, fast-paced, challenging, rewarding, fun and very much connected to the community in which I live, as well as to all that is the Museum. Although I oversee the Albany site I do see my role as servicing the whole Great Southern.

I fell in love with the Museum when I realised its incredible untapped potential for communities. Whether through exhibitions, life-long learning programs, early childhood opportunities, co-creating and cultural heritage ownership partnerships, I have seen the positive impact that the Museum has had throughout this region and further. My real passion is igniting or feeding other people’s passions, especially their curiosity about their world, their environment and themselves as part of that.

On the business end of my role I take care of finances, set the direction for programming, take care of strategic and community partnerships, manage exhibitions on site and outreach, and translate the Museum Strategic Plan into actions on the ground in the Great Southern. I have a fantastic team here and we really try to place the Museum at the centre of its community.

-     Rachael Wilsher-Saa

Mark Allen

WA Museum Aquatic Zoology Technical Officer 

My name is Mark Allen and I am a Technical Officer in the fish section of the Aquatic Zoology Department at the Western Australian Museum. I am fairly new to the position, having joined in August 2015, but my history with WAM extends back to my childhood years when my father, Dr Gerry Allen, was WAM’s fish curator.

I spent many a school holiday assisting my father and his staff as a volunteer doing the sort of collection management tasks that I am now responsible for. I have very fond memories of browsing the fish collection at the Perth site encountering all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, of roaming the display galleries during breaks, as well as doing the old educational ‘walkabouts’. Anyone remember those?

A career in marine science was almost inevitable, particularly after I had my first proper taste of fieldwork helping my father and visiting scientist Dr Tim Berra with their research on the Salamanderfish in the South West of WA. Later, I was incredibly fortunate to join my father on marine field trips to the Coral Sea and Papua New Guinea between the ages of 12 and 19, where I was introduced to the amazing world of coral reefs and had my first taste of scuba diving.

I studied a Bachelor of Science at The University of Western Australia majoring in Marine Biology where, funnily enough, I became obsessed with Western Australian flora (the start of my rebellious years!). My first job out of university was as a botanist working with the WA Herbarium as a plant collector. Unfortunately funding for my position at the Herbarium soon ran out and I found myself drifting back to the fish world, co-authoring and assisting in the production of two fish field guides including the revised edition of the Freshwater Fishes of Australia (one of my proudest achievements), and this led me to enrol in an Honours program at Murdoch University studying the biology of the Murchison River Hardyhead.

In the years since receiving my Honours degree, I worked freelance on a number of other book publishing projects and as a field biologist surveying fishes in the Kimberley, PNG, Thailand and remote West Papua. In 2008, I commenced a PhD at Murdoch University, initially focussing on the impacts of artisanal fishing on reef fish stocks in a network of marine parks in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Archipelago, but the strain of being away from my young family saw me change tack, rather dramatically, to focus on conservation of rare and endangered freshwater fishes in south-western Australia. Prior to joining the Museum, I worked as a Research Assistant with the Freshwater Fish Group and Fish Health Unit at Murdoch University for four years while completing my thesis, and in January this year, I finally submitted. I can tell you it didn’t make for a very fun Christmas / New Year period. Currently I’m awaiting the outcome of the thesis examination process.

I am thrilled to have joined WAM at this exciting time in the Museum’s history while the New Museum is being developed and look forward to contributing to the research being undertaken by the Aquatic Zoology Department and, hopefully, further exploring my research interests on the rare and threatened fishes of this wonderful State of ours.

–        Mark Allen

Mark Allen

Mark Allen
Image copyright WA Museum 

Karina Day

WA Museum – Geraldton Operations Manager

I am a local Geraldton girl, born here and then moved up north before returning to Geraldton when I was 13. I love Geraldton. I have also lived in Perth, Japan and Switzerland, travelled in Europe, America, and Africa – but Geraldton is home and it offers a fantastic lifestyle.

My background and qualifications are in Community Development, Recreation and Events Management, and Health Promotion – but I have always wanted to work in heritage and museums. Opportunities in these fields are rare in Geraldton so I jumped at the chance when the Operations Manager position arose at the end of 2012.

My primary objective at the Museum is to oversee the operation of the building and needs of staff. My job includes: arranging repairs to the building, scheduling contractors, OHS, event coordination, exhibition bump in and out logistics, managing staff, audience research, forward planning, site bookings (including tours for our busy cruise ship calendar), and more. The position requires you to be flexible and able to cover aspects of every role, especially as most of our staff are part time. The Geraldton team is so passionate about the Museum and what they can do to enhance the visitor’s experience. This passion is well received with many people commenting on our staff through forums such as Trip Advisor:

You may recall my recent ‘five minutes of fame’ when my husband and I were chosen as the WA team for the reality TV show My House Rules, Season 3. This required us to be away for four months, renovating five other contestants’ homes, and in turn our house was renovated. It was an amazing and positive experience which gave us exposure to reality TV and media; we travelled around Australia; and has put us ahead 20 years financially in regards to what it would have cost us to renovate our house. The hardest part was to be separated from my daughter who was five at the time, but she was in the loving hands of my parents and thoroughly spoilt.

-        Karina Day

Karina with her husband, Brian
Karina with her husband, Brian
Image copyright WA Museum

Kylie Weston

Donor Relations Manager, WA Museum Foundation 

I would say I am half Australian and half Welsh. Having lived in both Wales and Australia as a child and as an adult, my heart will always be torn between both countries. I travelled the world using London as my base for three years (and visited many a museum!) but I always knew that Perth would be the place I called home. As a child I also lived in a small mining town in the Pilbara and went on many family bush adventures where I have memories of dusty red dirt, amazing coloured gorges and ancient Aboriginal rock art.

After working for a major university in London, family pulled me back to Perth where I was lucky enough to continue my love of travel while working for Curtin University. My job took me to exotic places such as Botswana, Kenya and Mauritius. My entree into fundraising was during my role at UWA, managing events for UWA Business School's fundraising team. Our team was tasked with raising $25 million for the Futures Fund endowment and a new state-of-the-art building. This then led to my position at the WA Museum Foundation.

The Foundation is the WA Museum's fundraising partner; we are self-funded, have our own Board and are independent from the Museum. We play a critical role in encouraging the community to support the Museum through donations, corporate sponsorship and bequests. Through generosity and collaboration these funds allow the WA Museum to provide experiences beyond the scope of government funding. The team’s major focus is to raise funds for the Discovery Endowment Fund, to generate $1 million a year, in perpetuity. This requires a hefty goal of eventually raising $30 million.

People often ask me the question, so what does a Donor Relations Manager actually do? To be honest, it is difficult to provide a concise answer as no two days are the same and I have such a varied role. I have been with the Foundation team for just over two and half years and it has sure been a roller coaster ride!

In a nutshell, my areas of responsibility within the Foundation team include marketing and communications, database management, individual giving campaigns, events management, event sponsorship management, exhibitions support, Executive Officer for the Board of Governors and multiple additional projects that the Foundation supports the Museum with. I am currently focussed on a number of events that the Foundation team is managing between now and June including: the Famelab semi and national finals, an interactive documentary launch, and a major fundraising event in line with the Perth site closing.

It is going to be a busy year, both professionally and personally. There are planned changes within the Foundation team and a big goal ahead of us. My fiancée and I are in the process of building a house and look forward to moving in towards the end of the year, with four fur-children in tow.

I feel it is a privilege to work with the WA Museum, there is so much to learn, so many interesting people to meet, amazing research to discover, interesting collections to view and wonderful exhibitions to explore. As an avid collector myself, of figurines, books and cats(!), I see the CRC as a treasure trove just waiting to be uncovered in 2020 with the opening of the new Perth site. The WA Museum is the perfect place to learn about WA and the world  I feel fortunate to be part of its exciting plans.

            Kylie Weston

Kylie Weston

Kylie Weston
Image copyright WA Museum