arry Traill, 51, is most comfortable a long way from the Sydney Opera House, where he will deliver a talk to the TEDxSydney 2014 audience on Saturday, 26th April. Read on to hear why he’s a fan of Bob Brown, bandicoots and barramundi.




Mostly conservation – sometimes what tree to plant exactly where in my garden for the best aesthetic.

What is your definition of adventure?

Two weeks’ work off-track in Northern Oz.

Which living person do you most admire?

Bob Brown. Up close he’s the same as from a distance–he is human and has foibles like us all, but is without doubt a secular saint.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I’m tall and I mumble a lot, though fortunately not usually while public speaking.

When or where did you learn the most?

In New Guinea in my early 20s, learning how radically different other cultures can be.

What is your current state of mind?

Looking forward to a long walk in Arnhem Land at my next break.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Putting the brakes on large-scale clearing of bushland in Queensland.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“Moving forward”.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A river in the bush. Rainbow birds overhead. Bandicoots in the bush. Barramundi in the water.

Who are your heroes in real life?

People who take the harder road and fight for the planet to be better, greener, smarter, happier.

Have you ever had a Eureka moment? If so, what was it?

In research I’ve had a few working out answers as to why particular animals lived in particular places. They usually came in the shower and in dreams like they are supposed to.

Which talent would you most like to have?

More extroversion.

When did you first stumble across TED?

A few years ago–I thought a friend was talking about a talk put up on the web by some big-noting eponymous dude called Ted, obviously a bit of a wanker as I had never heard of him.

What’s your favourite TED talk, and why?

Too hard. I like heaps of them–including ones I vehemently think are wrong but are well delivered.

What most excites you about speaking at TEDxSydney 2014?

The chance to talk about Outback to a bloody big audience who may not think about it much.

How’s your work/life balance working out?

Pretty good. Used to be a workaholic, but no more, and more effective for being more chill more often.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

Tricky question for a zoologist, I have lots of favourite animals I’d like to be for a while. Perhaps a dingo – they are smart and are on top of the food chain in Australia.

What do you do to relax?

I watch the birds come in to the garden.

Member Comments
Barry Traill ~ 27 Apr 2014 5:20 PM

Thanks Virginia, that is much appreciated. If you can please share the video with friend and colleagues- I think it will be of great help to get this knowledge out to more Australians.

Barry Traill ~ 27 Apr 2014 5:16 PM

Hi Anton, I though Alan Savoury gave an excellent TED talk, but unfortunately his solution- hard 'rotational' grazing by cattle is definitely not a cure all, perhaps especially in Australia where flora is not generally well-adapted to hard hoofed animals. Ecologists and rangelands experts in other continents have made similar critiques and pointed to a lack of sites where Alan's exact methods have been shown to work. I can dig up the more detailed critiques of his views if that's of interest Anton. Perhaps the broader point is what about cattle generally in Australia. From a conservation point of view they do have an impact on wildlife. My own take is that the most important thing is to take a landscape view. As part of a matrix of use in the big Outback landscapes- can pastoralism be part of the mix of property tenures sustainably- yes I think it can.

Anton Rosenberg ~ 26 Apr 2014 9:19 PM

Very interesting talk. Thank you. Question for you Barry: People like Alan Savoury believe that the cure for soil degradation is making the cattle work the land like herds in the Savannah. Do you agree?

Virginia Gordon ~ 26 Apr 2014 8:48 PM

Barry turned my understanding of "The Outback" on its head. People leaving sees the animal community diminish. Counterintuitive. I loved his quiet way of showing how we can better care for our country and all who lives in her.