Member Profile: Meet Dan Austin

Our industry in safe hands says June Taylor as she talks to HMAA SA member Dan Austin for her latest member profile from South Australia.

It’s pleasing to see new, young and inspirational members emerging in the horticultural world; many who have become leaders in their field, are passionate about plants and the environment, and are always enthusiastic about any projects that they may tackle. One such member is Dan Austin.

Dan’s horticultural roots stem from working as a teenager on the family orchard in the Riverland in South Australia. It was possibly from here that his deep love and interest in plants grew, snowballing with a diverse range of experiences since entering his apprenticeship.

Back in his early days as an apprentice in horticulture and on apprenticeship wages, Dan was awarded the Playford Trust Scholarship, which he says opened a world of exciting opportunities both financially and professionally, something that he could never have imagined. This exposure allowed him to complete his apprenticeship and earn the title of South Australian Apprentice of the Year. His apprenticeship was followed by an internship in horticultural media studies at Radio 5AA in Adelaide while at the same time beginning a role as lecturer in horticulture at TAFESA.

Since that time, Dan’s career took a unique path due to his travelling. He has travelled to four continents and discovered a diverse range of experiences. These included working with subsistence farmers in Tanzania, establishing vocational training programs for AusAID in the Solomon Islands, studying the South African nursery industry, and working in Israel at the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens.

Dan has worked extensively with the horticulture industry in Australia and abroad in roles ranging from horticultural media and consultancy to management and training. One of his regular roles has been to write for the nationally circulated Hort Journal Australia, which enabled him to gain comprehensive writing experience.

As a result of this experience, he wrote his first book, Off the Garden Path. Green Wonders of the World, in 2021, which highlights some of the world’s most spectacular flora in some of the planet’s most exotic locations. The book is poised to form part of a series with the next volume, Off the Garden Path. Green Wonders of Australia, well underway and set to feature a range of contributors from across Australia.

Full circle

Dan’s career has gone a full circle from his early days as a horticultural student as he now lectures at TAFESA’s Urrbrae Campus right where it began all those years ago. He has co-ordinated training programs from Certificate II in Horticulture to Certificate III in Production Horticulture and Certificate III in Horticulture traineeship program. This provides training to more than 100 apprentices from across the state at any one time as they undertake their studies just as he did some 20 years ago.

“It’s a rewarding position that allows me to present to students some of the many opportunities I’ve been afforded by our industry and support them with their own applications,” Dan explains.

Dan says that his career focus is on strengthening the horticultural industry in Australia and internationally.

“I hope to provide continuous quality input by strengthening networks and creating opportunities for education and industry growth,” he says.

Recognition and awards

Dan Austin has won numerous awards and achieved much in a short time span. He holds qualifications in horticulture, garden design, conservation and land management, as well as vocational educational training and is a member of professional organisations including the Mediterranean Garden Society SA, Australian Institute of Horticulture, SA Herb Society, Therapeutic Landscapes Australia and the IPPS (as well as HMAA).

In 2021, Dan won two awards in the HMAA’s Joy Harland Memorial Photographic competition. These were followed this year with the awarding of the 2022 HMAA Book Laurel to him for Off the Garden Path. Green Wonders of the World.

With those of the calibre, inspiration and enthusiasm of Dan coming to the fore, we look forward to a very bright future in Australia’s horticultural industry.

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