Traveller settles in shire’s gardens

AFTER working for construction and landscaping companies in South-East Asia for more than 13 years, Steve Cruickshank is happily settling into life as Collie’s Collie Shire Council’s parks and gardens supervisor.

It is almost a homecoming for Steve who started his working life as an apprentice at Capel Golf Club in 1992. Since then he has worked at Sanctuary golf course and extensively in South East Asia.

Steve completed his turf management apprenticeship at Capel in 1992 and along the way won the WA Apprentice of the Year award.

In 1993 he moved to the Sanctuary course before being lured overseas.

Winning the WA Best Indentured Apprentice award in 1993 attracted the attention of his future employers in Brunei.

Steve’s first overseas job was with contractors for the Brunei royal family. Steve later worked in southern China, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia.

His work in Brunei involved maintaining a private golf course set aside for the royal family. He spent about six years in the country working as the course’s construction superintendent.

"I was in charge of operations, which led into turf and horticultural maintenance,"he said.

The beautiful 18-hole course was not very easy to compare to other courses, he said.

"It’s hard to describe, to be honest," said Steve.

He said he sat on a bulldozer for a year and was involved in interpreting design, levelling and surveying the grounds.

The company also maintained the royal family’s palaces and houses.

Brunei was a long way from Eaton, where Steve had grown up, and he had to learn how to speak Thai and Malay.

All the staff in Brunei spoke Thai, so I was given a crash course, he said.

Work was difficult at first because of the language barrier.

"I had to learn to communicate in ways other than English".

Steve was also involved with the Empire Hotel, a five star resort connected to the golf course.

After working for the Brunei royal family, Steve moved to Singapore in 2000 to become the Orchid Country Club’s horticultural operations manager.

Work was his life and the 27-hole golf course certainly kept him busy.

Steve’s employers also sent him across South East Asia to work on other projects they owned.

His South Asian tour, of more than 13 years, ended in Kuala Lumpur.

"I travelled so extensively with my work, for so long, that I wanted to come back to Australia," he said.

"It got to the stage where I was travelling three out of four weeks".

Naturally, he was drawn back to the south-west and the opportunity to become Collie shire parks and gardens supervisor.

"It’s not often I get the opportunity to be involved in something where I can ply my experience and trade," he said.

Steve met Collie Shire Council’s chief executive officer, Jason Whiteaker, and was impressed with his vision for the town.

"During the interview we talked about this vision to develop Collie," said Steve.

"The opportunity to be involved with that process is exciting, that’s why I took the job."

There were other reasons.

"Collie’s a good place for settling down and raising a family."

His pet project after last month’s storms is inspecting damage to Collie’s trees to see how they have been affected.

"I have a passion for trees, that’s something that interests me. Collie is a mature, well treed area," he added.

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