"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.

1830's and Before - Forests Prior to Colonisation

Ian Hastings, 2018 (bio)

"With this “Victoria’s forestry heritage” website and, indeed for any other ‘heritage' documentation, it can help in understanding the ‘now’ and future options and directions if there is some idea of what has been inherited. From a forestry perspective, there is the question of the condition and nature of the native forests across Victoria up to and at the time of European settlement."

1865 - The Need to Establish State Forests

On the 25th of October 1865 the Surveyor-General, the Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Survey, and the Secretary for Mines submitted a report to both Houses of Parliament entitled "The Advisableness of Establishing State Forests."

Extracts from the Report are provided below.

1878 - Red Gum Forest Condition

Extracts from a Report on the  Red Gum Forests of Gunbower and Barmah

"The length of time that our redgum forests will last, at the present rate of consumption, is variously estimated at from four to six years."

"If we refer to the plan of the Barmah forest, it will be seen at a glance that the timber on the river bank, and back for an average distance of two miles, has been either partly or entirely worked, and that the mills which were laid down, with the exception of the Cornella mill, owned by Messrs. McCulloch and Co., have been abandoned on that account.

1887 - Notes and Suggestions on Forest Conservancy in Victoria

F d'A Vincent

Sir Frederick d'Abernon Vincent was born on 12 February 1852, and by 1887 he was the Deputy Conservator of Forests (within the Indian Forest Service) with the Government of Madras. So, at the age of 25, he was asked to provide his views on forest management in the Colony of Victoria. He did so in what could only be called "frank and fearless" terms. His report was so scathing that, at least at that time, it was not tabled in Parliament, and although it was referenced by subsequent reviews it was never generally made available. While he was scathing in his view of the way our forests were being managed at that time, he did look to the future and suggest a number of ways forward. Some of those suggestions were to help set the scene for the way our forests would be managed well into the twentieth century.

The Report by Vincent is now available (see Transcript and a Copy of the Original ), and the quotes below will give you an early flavour of the document.

From what I have said above it will be understood that I am very unfavourably impressed with the present state of the forests. Wherever I went they told me the same story of neglect and waste, and I feel sure that no one could help arriving at any conclusion other than that mismanagement has been rampant everywhere, and disastrous in this effects.

In newly settled countries, which are largely covered with forest, one often finds great extravagance and waste. But, as it has long been known that the area of good forest in the Colony was very limited, and that supplies of timber were running short, I am surprised that some effectual measures have not been taken to prevent further waste.

The present arrangements with this view are quite puerile and so ill-conceived that they can scarcely be seriously discussed. In the first place the distinction between State Forest, Timber Reserves, and other Crown Land can only lead to difficulties.

The boundaries of the respective areas have been selected with little regard for the real requirements of the case. Little care, so far as my enquiries go, has been taken to select as State or Reserved Forests the best forest and that most conveniently situated for export. The local officers, or indeed anyone else, could give numerous instances of the best forest being given up to selectors, or kept as Crown Land for splitters to work in, at a minimum charge, that which was more remote being reserved for the State.

The best examples of this are the Cape Otway forest, described above, and the magnificent forest in Buln Buln County, and elsewhere along the Gippsland line. Many other instances will recur to everyone who has been a short time in the Colony; and the one thing about which all agree is the wild way in which large areas are thrown open to selection by the Lands Department long after Mr Ivey and others have drawn attention to the matter.

1890 - Report of the First Conservator

Richard Rawson (bio)

George Samuel Perrin was appointed as our first Conservator of Forests in 1888. His first Report to both Houses of the Parliament of Victoria was for the year ending 30 June 1890, and it pulled no punches.