Backchat: Kathryn Wood- retiring Dorrigo Rainforest Centre Manager

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Kathryn Wood has only just hung up her work boots for the last time, after 22 years at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, the past 17 of these being the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre Manager.  This popular Bellingen local, who “cares passionately about nature and the environment” is now planning for life after retirement and possibly swapping those well worn work boots for her dancing shoes.  What better time for a chat with Rod?

How did you score such a great job at The Dorrigo Rainforest Centre?

It was 1995 and I’d had 9 months of lying on my back with two herniated discs, so I used the time to finish off a degree in Park Management while I was lying around. I was all set to go to Canberra to work in the Federal Dept of Environment when a three month position as Assistant Manager of the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre was advertised in the Courier-Sun. And I got the job. This led to various temporary roles over the following five years for NPWS based in Dorrigo, ranging from finance officer to fire management officer and then in 2000 the role as the Manager of the Rainforest Centre was advertised and I was lucky enough to get it.


What were your main duties each week?

I was responsible for the day to day running of the Rainforest Centre which included financial management, staff management and overseeing the maintenance of the facilities including the lease of the Canopy Café. Daily duties could range from calming a terrified visitor finding their first leech on them to trying to fix a blocked sink in the public toilets using a paper cup as a suction tool.


What will you miss the most about working in Dorrigo?

I’ll miss the drive up the mountain! You probably think I’m joking but I enjoyed winding up and down from work each day and driving through the rainforest and past the waterfalls and getting those breath-taking vistas down over the valley. People come from all over the world to see the park so to be able to work for 22 years in a World Heritage rainforest site has been such a privilege. I’ll really miss my colleagues as they are a great bunch of people – everyone is so dedicated to what they do and it is a very supportive workplace.


Kathryn Wood, Backchat, I Love Bello Shire, Bellingen, Dorrigo, Urunga

Kathryn’s final day at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre

Favourite dish at The Canopy Cafe in the Rainforest Centre?

Probably rhubarb apple crumble with yoghurt but the mixed vegie juice with ginger and lemon was my favourite pick-me-up.


What happens next for Kathryn Wood?

I’m not sure at this very early stage in my retirement. I would really like to do more botany and bush regen and grow lots of flowers and vegies. Not sure where that will be yet but I don’t think I’ll be sitting around in Bello cafes all day!


Your best memory of childhood was?  

Growing up in Bondi and being able to wander down to the beach, playing in the laneways and picking frangipani flowers.


Your best sporting moment was?

I’m not a sporty type of person – more into dancing!


I have heard you’re the salsa queen.  Do you think you could teach me to dance in your retirement?

I’ll give that some thought Rod.


What would you like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered for being a good friend and someone who cared passionately about nature and the environment.


What are you reading right now?

‘Bored and Brilliant’ about turning off our devices and allowing ourselves to be ‘bored’ for a bit and see what happens. I thought it might be a good book for the start of retirement.


What are you listening to right now?

‘Fat Freddys Drop’ – a New Zealand band that I saw at Womadelaide a few years ago and more recently at a concert in the Domain in Sydney.


What really annoys you?

Vehicles driving on the beach.


I’m with you there!!

The best lesson your parents taught you?

My mother taught me that I was OK whatever I did – she was so supportive and loved the fact that I did lots of things that she didn’t get to do in her generation of women. I’m still trying to work out what lesson my father taught me but probably that I had to stand up for myself in this often male-dominated world.


The last big belly laugh you had was?

At my farewell when some of the staff sang a song about me to the tune of Norwegian Wood – the lyrics were so funny (and so true).


What project are you currently working on?

I’m working on the ‘what happens next’ project.


How do you relax?  

I go for walks on the beach and of course, I dance salsa.


Favourite restaurant in the Shire?

Qudo is my favourite restaurant for a special date and the Federal is my favourite for meeting up with friends. Both have consistently good food.


The previous career you wish you could forget?

I had a health food restaurant in the ‘70s, was a herbalist in the ‘80s, did various co-ordination jobs in community services when I arrived in Bellingen and I enjoyed them all.  So there’s no previous career I wish I could forget unless I’ve already forgotten it!


Favourite holiday destination & why?

Bali – it’s a place I never wanted to go to because everyone went there but I started going there 10 years ago and have been at least once a year since. I have some lovely Balinese friends and enjoy massages every second day. I always come back relaxed and ready to get stuck into the next year.


Have you starred in any major films since The I Love Bello Shire video?

Haha – no thank goodness – I’m actually camera shy and not sure how I really did that video!

In the Movie Kathryngate, who would play you?

Susan Sarandon, based on her role in ‘Thelma and Louise’.

kathryn wood, dorrigo rainforest centre, I Love Bello Shire, Bellingen, Dorrigo, Urunga


Bellingen Shire is a secret Australian hamlet along the Waterfall Way on the NSW mid-north coast. This region is popular for its unique landscape where the Great Dividing Range almost touches the sea. It boasts a diverse history and proud indigenous culture, and is home to an eclectic and supportive community of farmers, alternative lifestylers, tree-changers, and families who have called this region home for generations. Interesting in so many ways and with so much to offer, it’s no wonder visitors return time & time again, while other never leave… Check out the Bellingen Accommodation directory and Where to Eat in Bellingen Shire.

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