From timber stacking teen to logyard legend

07 Jul 21

Our Stories

The youngest of seven children, Jeoffrey Van Den Hoogen followed in the footsteps of his father, a few brothers, and a sister, creating a career in local forestry.

On a one month trial at Jubilee, Jeoffrey – better known as Coogee – started out stacking timber by hand in the Greenmill.

45 years later, Coogee has shared what’s kept him here despite never ‘officially’ being told by his original boss that he passed that month trial…

The youngest of 7 children, Jeoffrey ‘Coogee’ Van Den Hoogen followed in the footsteps of a few other family members

“Dad was in sawmilling, as well as poultry farming. He worked the two jobs to keep the 7 of us alive.

Of that 7 I’m the youngest, and a few of us have worked in the industry. My brother Martin worked here as a leading hand in the planer mill, my brother Bushy worked as a saw doctor, another brother Johnny worked here in the log yard with me, and my sister Carla also worked at a timber mill.

I started when I was 17 stacking by hand in the Greenmill.

The guy who employed me said he’d give me a month trial.

45 years later I guess I’m still waiting for my trial to be over – he never told me I had a full time job.

I worked there in the Greenmill for the first few years, where I’d go through a pair of boots every three months. It was harder manual labour then.

After the stacker I went to the bandsaw and was out in the logyard at night running the debarker.

I’ve been on the ground in the logyard now for the last 30 years driving the grab.

Over that time I’d say the safety is the biggest thing that’s better. We never had vissy wear (high vis) and you had to get your own. I was the first one on site to get a vissy top. There weren’t safety tags or locks in the machines either. You’d just turn off the machines and hope no one touched it. Things have definitely improved to be safer.

Work isn’t the only thing in my life, it’s good to have other things going on. Outside of work I’m a life member of the street machine club, I’ve got a 62 Dodge that I’m still doing up.

I’ve got two Harleys and I’m with the Longriders Motorcycle Club which is my main passion at the moment.

In the past couple years my wife and I have bought a caravan too, we’ve have been on a few trips but I’m not ready to retire yet.

What’s kept me here is I love my job. Logs can go any way, they’re unpredictable and that keeps things interesting. I’m always trying to challenge myself to be better.

To do it, it’s 4 different jobs in one, every day it’s a challenge, but I think that’s what’s so good about it and why I’ve stayed so long.

I enjoy it, so why leave?”

OneFortyOne acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their deep connections to land, water, and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations people today.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori communities have a strong spiritual connection between people and the land – the wellbeing of one sustains the wellbeing of the other. We strive to build meaningful relationships with iwi as tangata whenua (people of the land/region), to be responsible intergenerational kaitiaki (stewards/guardians) of the land where our forests grow.