By Violet Li
Watching arborists perform stunts could easily trick you into an illusion that tree climbing is effortless.
The just-finished 2023 Victorian Tree Climbing Championships (VTCC) certainly pushed the false belief to the side when tree artists were seen to ascend, put the lines in, get into the spready red gums, and walk in the clouds.
Held at Banjo Paterson Reserve in Lynbrook from 11 to 12 November, more than 30 arborists convened and competed for the awards.
The championship started with five different events for preliminary rounds where the participants showcased their abilities to professionally and safely manoeuvre in a tree while performing work-related tree-care tasks in a timely manner.
The highest scoring participants went to the Masters’ Challenge – the championship round of the competition in which they fight for the male and female titles.
The Masters’ Challenge is designed to judge in a single challenge event the competitor’s overall poise, techniques, and mastery of the combined skills tested in preliminary events.
Two-time and 2023 ITCC champion Barton Allen-Hall won the men’s master and 2023 ITCC 4th place Alana Murray won the women’s. Jack Lewis who won the second place in the 2023 ITCC came second in the men’s.
Mr Allen-Hall and Ms Murray did a ‘shoey’, drinking a beer from a shoe, as a celebratory tradition.
Mr Allen-Hall believed being an arborist was a very interesting job and he had philosophical reasons.
“Every tree is different, so makes it more stimulating. You’re not just applying the same formula to every tree. You got to think each time,” he said.
“When you’re working, you’re working on a living thing. But, working on a living thing presents interesting challenges as opposed to building a building where they’re all the same.
“Trees are such three-dimensional things. You don’t really get a sense of how they are until you are actually in the canopy. Climbing definitely gives you another perspective, a way to know trees and to connect with trees.”
Ms Murray, an arborist for seven years, said she truly enjoyed working for one of the most dangerous industries in Australia.
“I still found it daunting all the time,” she said.
“I come in with a load of nerves, but it’s just something that you gotta push through because the community is amazing and the support’s amazing.
“Once you’re done, the feeling you get is brilliant.”
Apart from regulars in the ITCC, other arborists also shined their expertise, creativity, and most importantly their love for the lives on the trees.
Narre Warren resident Oliver Moore, who competed in the preliminary rounds has engaged with trees for about 18 years.
He started the tree climbing as way of keeping fit and he initially saw it very much a game.
“As I got a bit older and matured a little bit, I started to be more and more interested in the trees themselves and why we were doing this work,” he said.
“Because we’re living around these organisms, so that’s why our jobs exist.”
He said it was nice to have events like VTCC.
“It’s a big problem-solving exercise, really, and this competition sort of demonstrates problems of getting from this side of the tree to the other,” he continued.
“Maybe we can remove some branches where they might fall on someone or whether we could deal with a branch that might be snapped and hung. That’s the problem-solving aspect that I really like.”
VTCC first-time competitor Nikita Anderson, who has been in the industry for four years, said it was a good atmosphere at the competition.
“Everybody’s so friendly and encouraging. And it’s really good to meet other people that do the same work as you, and everybody’s interested in the same thing,” she said.
“You learn a lot of different things from a lot of different people, and everyone has their own unique way. So it’s good to hear what everybody else.”
The adrenaline and the rush she got from actually bringing down some big goals kept Ms Anderson in the industry.
“Everything’s different all the time too. It’s a different challenge every day,” she said.