I (Dianna) have been a wildlife carer for many years while living in urban Sydney. As well as having a full-time job I was always very busy as a reptile handler, and had innumerable possums, birds, lizards, snakes, echidnas and wombats in care. Wombats, while not normally found in metro Sydney, were cared for until a local group from where they were found was able to take them on, buddy them up, and move them on to release through their members.
We retired to our property Rocklily near Wombeyan Caves NSW when Warwick was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, in 2012. We could think of nothing we would like to do more than be fully involved in caring for and releasing wildlife from Rocklily. We felt that there just was not much information on what happens after release, and have researched and really focused on ways that we can see what happens and monitor the animals for as long as possible. We are also trying to raise them to be resilient (just like the kids we used to foster).
The wombats at Rocklily in 2008-9 were all mangy (scabies mite) and dying fast, many wildlife people told us to shoot them but we finally learnt what to do to treat them in the wild. Using swinging flaps in burrow entrances (ice cream lids with caps hot glued in ) we treated a the wombats and it took 18 months to finally say mange was gone from the valley! We have continued to learn and help others treat mange wombats in the wild, these days it only takes much less time to win this battle.
We are also providing a safe place for wild animals and focusing on education on various environmental issues. Both of us have become members of Wildlife Rescue South Coast, this group covers a large area from the coast right over to Taralga half an hour west of us down to the Victorian boarder, skirting the ACT of course.
Rocklilywombats is totally funded by us and our efforts. Mainly our savings and all profits from our website rocklilywombats keep our boat afloat! We are not a chariety, the paperwork is more than just the two of us could manage and still do what we do.
Before animals, yes, we both had other lives! We met through scouting, as did both Waz’s and my parents, and the outdoors has always played a big part in our lives, with bushwalking, ski touring and caving. Believing in zero population growth we only have one son Drew (‘skilled’ in Welsh, an old family name). We were scout leaders for many many years. Dianna was a Cub leader and Venturer leader and Warwick also a Venturer leader—that’s teens aged 14-18 years old, a great age. This led us to becoming foster parents for 14 years specialising in crisis care of teenagers, just for fun!
Warwick was a production engineer and his final project was working with Ron Allum to set up the factory that built James Cameron’s submarine Deepsea Challenger, that went to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Warwick and Ron had a great time inventing the very specialist syntactic foam that became the flotation, along with all the other bits that needed to be designed and made to get the project happening, such as a giant pressure vessel to test everything that went on the sub. This was a fantastic close to his working life that ended with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Warwick even gets a speaking part in James’ movie about it, ‘Deep Sea Challenger’, and our bios are on the Deepsea Challenger website. Parkinson’s has not stopped Warwick from doing an amazing job of making our old farmhouse liveable and fire safe, and all the animal enclosures as well we epicycle old roller doors and anything we can find and he's been using his mill to mill our onsite timber as well. A truly handy man.
Dianna had had her own business, Wild Stuff, manufacturing technical outdoor equipment including climbing harnesses. Selling the business to friends gave me more time back and expanded what I did/do: ‘making people fly without drugs’! Yes, I designed and manufactured specialist flying harnesses for movies and theatrical work. This really started big-time with all the flying harnesses for the opening and closing ceremonies in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, which led to a busy 15 years. I’m now just consulting. My final job was James Cameron’s project, starting with a lifting harness for the life support sphere (1.5 tons) to allow it to be taken to the USA for pressure testing, then the eventual strapping the life support sphere to the flotation and all the lifting and restraint slings. I appear in the movie too, and there is an exhibition at the Maritime Museum Sydney in late May 2018 where I feature as one of the 6 main builders. The exhibition is traveling Australia and around the world for a few years, something I'm very proud of.