Interview with Kerry Wharley

FWPA Indigenous Scholarship recipient

Kerry Wharley

Case Study

Name: Kerry Wharley
Position: Site HSE Manager
Company: Boral Building Products, Kyogle Processing Plant

  • Studying Certificate IV

  • Recipient FWPA Indigenous Scholarship 2011

Age: 30

Can you tell us about your job?
Sure, I’m the Health, Safety & Environment Manager at the Kyogle Processing Plant. The role used to be Occupational Health and Safety, but now it’s had environment added. I’m responsible for ensuring al safe processes are followed, risks identified and managed and that we meet environmental standards, especially in terms of emissions of things like stormwater from the site.

Why did you decide to do Certificate IV?
Well, I’d already done Certificate III in sawmilling and processing, so Certificate IV was the next step – and part of getting the role as HS&E Manager.

What does studying involve?
Two nights a week – and two 85 kilometre drives. Not to mention studying in between times. It’s a good thing I’ve got a very supportive wife who doesn’t mind handling the kids on her own while I’m studying!
Actually when I first went back to studying, I wasn’t looking forward to it – too many bad memories from high school I guess. But it’s been great – Boral’s processes are pretty similar to the Australian Standard and I’m really enjoying it.

What difference does having a scholarship make?
Having an FWPA Indigenous Scholarship makes studying easier – it’s good to have some extra financial help. I found out about it through Forestworks and they encouraged me to apply – so I went for it!
So how did you get into occupational health?
I started working for Boral at the Gloucester mill 12 years ago, racking and stacking timber in the yard. The company’s really strong on safety at every level, so I guess that’s where my awareness of it started. 
Then an opportunity to get on the Safety Committee cam up and I went for it – as I said Boral’s right behind workplace safety and I’m interested in it personally, so that makes it easy.
When the Gloucester mill closed they offered me a relocation package to Kyogle, so I took it. I got more involved with OH&S, as it was then, and then the manager’s job came up and I was encouraged to apply – at first I was acting in the role, now it’s permanent.

What would you say to someone thinking about working in the timber industry?
If you want to work in an industry where’s a really strong sense of community and there’s opportunity to make a career – do it!
In my experience people who’ve worked in timber for a few years are the salt of the earth – and they care about looking after our forests and the materials they work with.

Do you feel that what you are doing makes a difference?
Yes I do. I think that working in an industry that produces wood products that are beautiful and bring joy to people makes a difference. Wood is a renewable resource, we harvest trees and plant more – it’s a better way of getting materials than digging holes in the ground!
Trees are so important to the planet too, they store carbon and produce oxygen and help protect the environment for future generations.
Find out more about the FWPA Indigenous Scholarship

Please note: We spoke to Kerry about his study and job. We hope you find this useful and interesting – but please remember, that all courses and jobs are not exactly the same and may be different in many respects. You should confirm all the details of a particular course with the organisation offering it.