Georgia Shapter is the first to admit she’s had an eventful life: interesting and full, with a couple of ‘poor relationship’ choices along the way.
Her adventures have taken her from Sydney where she was born, to the UK where her parents were born, and back to the Northern Rivers where she works at one of the region’s local icons, the Macadamia Castle.
Of course the route she took to get here was a curly one.
Georgia was adopted as a baby by an English couple who lived in Australia. This meant that she had connections in the UK and from age 15 to 17 she lived there and finished her schooling.
When she returned she undertook a photography course and worked for many years in the photographic industry.
When she moved to the Northern Rivers she decided to go back to university and enrolled at SCU to do Environmental Science.
It was when she was in the middle of that course that her mother found an advertisement for a job at the Macadamia Castle. Georgia applied and got the job. She left uni to devote her time to her new role, and says she has never stopped learning on the job for the 17 years she has been involved with the organisation.
‘I’m still learning to this day. Late last year Tony (owner and boss at the Castle) sent me and one of my colleagues to Taronga Zoo in Sydney. There’s always so much more to learn about park management and husbandry.’
But Georgia did have a break from the Castle for a while when she took on a role with TAFE NSW teaching animal husbandry. During that time she maintained her connection to the Castle, taking students there for hands-on learning.
After the death of her partner Jason in 2018, Georgia naturally stopped working.
‘For many months I was numb. I didn’t even know how to talk or function properly any more,’ she says.
‘I’m so grateful to the people who supported me during that time. Lennox Head is amazing.
‘When I started coming out of the fog, I thought I’d ask for some work back at the Castle. It’s been one of the most stable things in my life, and it’s always been a second home. It was perfect for me as I recovered and began to integrate back into the community.’
Now she shares the Park Manager role and is responsible for the daily operations of the park from staffing and customer service, to animal health and husbandry standards.
‘We have such an incredible team here now, and it’s a great little park, that definitely punches above its weight.
‘When I was kid I was really anti-zoo. In fact I spent most of my ninth year on the planet planning the great escape for all the animals in the zoo. I used to dream of a break-in and kidnap operation so that I could return them all to where they came from.’
‘But I believe the Macadamia Castle is playing a crucial role in educating people about animal welfare and extinction. We have a couple of endangered species here and we get to make a difference, even though it might seem small.’
What’s the best thing about your job?
‘Educating people and sharing children’s first animal experiences. Those first childhood connections are cruciial for future compassion towards animals. Plus I love to make people happy.’
‘I’m not really good with blood. Sometimes it makes me pass out. I wouldn’t make a very good vet nurse. But I’m getting better.’
‘Oh so much: bush walking, camping, music, dancing, photography. How much space do you have?’
Work life philosophy?
‘Always be present in the moment. And make the most of every single day.’