"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

The Victorian School of Forestry

Malcolm McKinty (bio)

The Victorian School of Forestry came about through the inspiration and initiative of John Johnstone, Superintendent of State Plantations in the 1900s.  The School was located in the former Creswick hospital, built in 1863 and bought in 1910 by the Victorian Government under the-then Premier Sir Alexander Peacock, representative for the seat of Creswick.

The School's main gates were dedicated to Sir Alexander on 10 October 1952. The Minister for Lands and Forests, Sir Albert Lind, performed the dedication and opening ceremony which was reported in detail by the Creswick Advertiser; a copy of which can be read here and a video of the ceremony can be viewed here.

Initially, the school was located in Tremearne House (1881) - the former residence of Dr John Tremearne who was the medical officer for the hospital.  Located in the grounds of the hospital, it was purchased by the Department of State Forests in 1909 for £1,163 7s 3d.  The first intake of six students started lectures in October 1910.

vfh0032ed

Tremearne House and the Victorian School of Forestry,1915
Source: FCRPA

This pamphlet shows the key features of the campus as it existed in 2010.

vfh0107ed
WH Horn (student) RG Lindsay (student) H. Felstead (nursery) NL Boston (nursery) J Sampson (student) A Ken (nursery) A Warren (student)
Date: about 1912
Source: A Faithfull, 2014

The Department of State Forests 1911 Annual Report notes:

"The Forest School was opened for lectures in October of last year, the nucleus of the staff of instructors requisite being obtained from the School of Mines, Ballarat. The class-subjects taught are botany, geology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and surveying. In the latter subject practical instruction is also given in the field, and laboratory work for the chemistry class is provided at the School of Mines. The lecturers report well of the aptitude shown by the students in class work, and of their general progress during the year. At present we have to break into the winter term in order to give the students experience in general plantation work in various districts. Next year, however, with a larger number of students, and more ordinary planters trained to this work, it will be possible to keep the plantation class at Creswick. We have been much hampered at the School by lack of accommodation, especially in the matter of dormitories. The Government have recently authorized the transfer to the Forest Department of the premises now occupied as a hospital at Creswick. This is a large quadrangular structure of stone and brick, which occupies a fine site overlooking the town, and is close to the present school. The several buildings comprise 26 rooms, including large subdivisions suitable for the purpose of lectures and a museum. A forest reserve of some 12,000 acres is within a mile of the school, while plantations which already exceed 800 acres, together with a large forest nursery, are hard by. When this roomy structure is properly equipped, and the teaching staff for technical subjects is strengthened, the chief requirements essential for sound tuition in forestry will have been provided."

Over the period 1910 to 1979, 592 students entered the School to undertake studies towards the Diploma of Forestry Creswick.  Of these, 522 completed the course. A list of those graduates can be found here.  A further twelve students completed the first year of the Diploma course in 1979 then transferred to the second year of the Degree course at Melbourne University in 1980. 

Many of the students went on to further studies with Melbourne University and other tertiary institutions and/or completed major theses, on-the-job, to achieve the Diploma of Forestry Victoria.  A list of Melbourne University Forestry graduates can be found here.

Over the years, several of the students who did not complete the Diploma course also found employment with the FCV.


Read these "rules" first and then you may understand why there are many stories about what life was like at the VSF.

Below are a few of those stories.

Frank Smith graduated in 1927
J Mckinty and B Semmens graduated in 1936
Murray Paine graduated in 1943
A Eddy graduated in 1948
Athol Hodgson graduated in 1950 - Track 1 & Track 2
Leon Pederick graduated in 1950
Peter Lawson graduated in 1961
Peter Lawson, Roger Smith and Brian Fry (all 1961 graduates) have written a book.

Contact the Editor