The University of Queensland (UQ) graduate Samara Hegarty has been announced as a state finalist for a prestigious award, thanks to her vocational animal care training as a student.

Formerly based at UQ’s Gatton Vocational Education Centre (UQ-GVEC) and the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Samara is vying for the Queensland Training Awards’ Vocational Student of the Year award after winning the Darling Downs South West regional finals. “I’ve always wanted to work with animals, so I chose a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Wildlife Science and soon realised that I could enrol in a Certificate IV in Captive Animals through UQ-GVEC,” Samara said. “Undertaking a hands-on qualification with my degree was the best thing I could have done for my career. It helped me decide that I definitely wanted to work with animals, particularly in zoos, allowed me to gain real industry experience, make connections, learn practical skills and generally make me more employable.”

Samara’s vocational training at UQ led her to volunteer at the Rockhampton Zoo, where she was offered work as a casual zookeeper, even before completing her studies. “Zoos can be very competitive in terms of finding jobs, and my Certificate IV gave me an edge over other applicants for my job, especially those that had the same degree as me,” she said.

She now hopes to use some of her skills to better the lives of animals both in captivity and in the wild. “I just want to do the most I can to help the greatest number of animals and species that I can. At the moment I’m extremely happy working with the wonderful team at Rockhampton Zoo, but in the future I’d like the chance to do some field work and to continue to broaden my knowledge and skills. I also have an interest in animal enrichment and training and would love to explore these areas further in order to improve the lives of animals in captivity.”

The Queensland Training Awards’ State Gala Dinner will be held in Brisbane on Saturday 8 September.

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