Rural Woman of the Year, scientist Giovanna Webb, has turned a role at a crocodile-park tourist attraction into a vocation, helping indigenous women preserve their culture through art.

Story By Kerry Sharp

As a graduate zoologist, Colombian Giovanna Cortes worked on South America’s boa constrictors, caiman and iguanas in a highly hostile environment. Then prominent Australian wildlife researcher Dr Grahame Webb enticed her halfway across the world to join him at Crocodylus Park, his saltwater crocodile farm in the Northern Territory.
Giovanna says Crocodylus Park was tranquil compared to the volatile zone she entered when she took her first job as an animal-husbandry intern on an isolated Colombian cattle and caiman ranch. “I was the only woman working on the place and the alarm bells should have started ringing when they gave me a gun to keep under my pillow at night,” she says. “I was a typical young person thinking I could conquer any challenges and went there without any questions about where I was going or what I was getting into … I wouldn’t do it now in a million years but I stayed for a year. One week after I left to go to another job, guerillas fighting with the militia in a dangerous internal conflict in the area captured and executed the farm’s overseer by hanging him in front of everyone.
I thanked God that I wasn’t there when it happened."

This story excerpt is from Issue #93

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2014