MY WYNDHAM: Ben Goodwin is a horticulturist at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Where do you live?

I am from Werribee and reside in Westleigh Gardens. I love the avenue of eucalyptus trees that greet you when you are coming in to Werribee along the Princes Highway. Westleigh Gardens also has a great community, which is good knowing that there are many people in the area looking out for others and trying to keep the area as safe as possible.

I’ve lived in Werribee my whole life, almost 24 years. Werribee has changed massively in this time, transforming from a small country town to a miniature city.

How long have you been working at Werribee Open Range Zoo?

I have been working at Werribee Zoo for five years, three of those years I was undertaking my apprenticeship in horticulture, which then led to the role of qualified horticulturist.

I have been involved in gardening almost my whole life. My dad had a change of career into horticulture in my early years of life and always involved me in any work around our garden and getting out into nature. I have been lucky enough to have had a great respect for the environment and all things entailed in it since I was young.

My father was also lucky enough to undertake his horticulture work experience at Werribee Zoo around 2001. Dad was a member of the Werribee River Association, so I would tag along to their planting days and a few catch and release programs for animals such as platypus and microbats.

In 2014, it had been a few months since completing year 12 VCE and the opportunity came up for a horticulture apprenticeship at Werribee Zoo, so I jumped at it and was lucky enough to be successful.

What do you enjoy about your job?

I enjoy the diversity of the role, and that every day you could be doing something completely different. Being at a workplace that strives to achieve a future rich in flora and fauna is a great feeling and is aligned with my personal values. Growing and harvesting the food for the animals is a pretty rewarding job, too.

Amongst many other things, part of my role in the horticulture team is to maintain the grounds and exhibits around the zoo while keeping it looking as best as possible. I have been lucky enough to be involved in fairly large-scale projects in the Browse Plantation expansion, including irrigation systems and planning for the future browse requirements.

Tell me about the Browse Plantation.

We are lucky enough at Werribee Zoo to have enough space to grow and supply a large amount of food for animals from Werribee and Melbourne Zoo. These mostly consist of branches harvested for animals such as koalas, gorillas, giraffes and many of our other animal species we have at the zoo.

Our plantations are spread out across approximately 19 hectares. We have over 17,000 productive browse trees and are working to add an additional 10,000 trees in the very near future.

Many of these trees consist of various species of eucalyptus, acacia and exotic species such as elms, bamboo and tree lucerne.