Building a career and connection with animals

As a teenager Sarah Leonard volunteered at the Animal Welfare League dreaming of a career working with animals; now more than 15-years later she finds herself amid a tiger dental emergency and discovering three joeys during a bilby pouch check.

The mother-of-three recently completed TAFE Queensland’s Certificate III in Animal Studies as part of a unique program with the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation.

“I have spent the last 12 months feeding tigers, handling reptiles, looking after the koala husbandry, helping with rescued wildlife while learning direct from industry specialists,” said Sarah.

“A stand out moment was being among an incident when one of the tigers broke his front tooth and had to be darted and put under anaesthetic. It was amazing just watching it all happen as the vet, vet nurses and the tiger keepers all worked together.

“I also got to do a pouch check on one of the bilby’s and she had three joeys in her pouch, it was so beautiful to experience.

“It has been truly amazing and above all I have gained a nationally recognised qualification which has given me the skills to persue my dream career as an animal carer, trainer or health officer,” she said.

Sarah was one of the first students to complete the exclusive program which sees 22 students selected each year via an application process to study at TAFE Queensland’s Coomera campus as well as one day a week on-site at Dreamworld.

These students are immersed with animals alongside Dreamworld’s animal keepers and wildlife professionals to obtain practical skills and obtain insight into the importance of the survival of native wildlife.

Upon graduation, Sarah took on a volunteer animal keeper assistant position at Dreamworld during peak season and is now furthering her education with a dual qualification in Pet Grooming and Companion Animal Services.

“Applying for the TAFE Queensland and Dreamworld program was easily the best thing I have ever done, it provided me with so many opportunities, wonderful experiences and given me the confidence to continue my studies,” said Sarah.

“Not only were my TAFE teachers knowledgeable, approachable and helpful but the wildlife team at Dreamworld provided me with skills that you can’t learn from a textbook.”

“I have also made some lifelong friends in my class who are likeminded and as passionate about the welfare of animals as I am,” she said.

Anyone interested in studying the Certificate III in Animal Studies at TAFE Queensland may also be eligible for the State Government’s JobTrainer funding with school-leavers, young people and job seekers able to complete selected qualifications for free or low cost.

For more information about TAFE Queensland’s Animal Studies courses or to apply visit or call 1300 308 233 and see where TAFE can take you.

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