For tens of thousands of years humans, and the natural environment, co-existed in relative harmony in the area now known as south-eastern Australia. From 1788 however, sustained migration, sponsored by the British, commenced.
The discovery of gold, in the 1850s, was to result in a literal stampede of humanity, from across the Globe. Among other things it was to be a brutal time for the environment, and particularly for the area’s forests and woodlands, as the skeletal British-based bureaucracy struggled to adapt.
In 1882, one of Victoria’s first foresters in the then British Colony was appointed, to supervise the Ballarat-Creswick State Forest. Over the next couple of decades this remarkable individual, and truly committed public servant, John La Gerche, battled to deal with what he termed ‘…the great (forest) slaughter…’ and its aftermath and, in so doing, became a great example to those who, to this day, follow in his footsteps.
A special workshop was held during the 2001 joint Commonwealth and IFA Forestry Conference in Fremantle, WA. An initiative of Chris Haynes, the workshop was developed as part of the IFA Conference Partners Program, to explore the role of partners in the forestry profession.
With the aid of slides, an international group of forestry partners (all women this time - we hope some male partners will join us for future sessions) talked about our association with Forestry through the years and found that we shared many common experiences. There were also some unusual and unique situations described, with much laughter.
We then went on to identify the forces related to Forestry that impact on our lives now - the highs and the lows. From this exercise emerged the following main points relating to the role of partners in the forestry profession.
Taken from VSFA NL No. 4, November 1954.
In 1954 the FCV still generally managed plantations and native forests through separate organisational arrangements. Measurements of wood volumes in the article are given in super feet, which would have meant super feet, Hoppus Log Volume.
The area of Reserved Forest is approximately 76,000 acres, that of Protected Forest is negligible. About 40,000 acres are Messmate-Peppermint-Gum forest of good quality, with a relatively favorable silvicultural history and therefore highly productive. 90 acres of pine plantation at Mt. Franklin, to be increased to 145 acres, is under District control.
The District straddles the Dividing Range, and embraces the headwaters of the Loddon, Moorabool, Werribee and Lerderderg Rivers. Topography is undulating foothill type, except in the valley of the last-named stream which for several miles is gorge-like. Rainfall ranges from 30" minus to 40" plus.
Barry Marsden was the lead player in the development of the new aerial ignition machines based on the "Premo Principle", and the Aerial Drip Torches described in this article. Bryan Rees played a key role in field testing the "Premo" machine.
From the late 1960s, aerial ignition became a very important part of Victorian forestry operations. Initially, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters were used for fuel reduction burning, with helicopters also playing a key role in large-scale backburning during fire suppression operations. Eventually, helicopters also came to be important in igniting regeneration burns following timber harvesting.
The section "What Changed?" was written by Mike Leonard
"We began our training at the forestry school just two years after the catastrophe, and we found that almost every statement about the department and the industry was prefaced by 'before 1939' or 'since 1939' and everyone was quite toey". Murray Paine
In the early days of January 1939 one of the greatest natural disasters in Australian history fell on the State of Victoria. Over a period of a week hundreds of fires that had been burning spasmodically across a large part of the State gathered into a series of vast conflagrations that swept the forest areas, destroying homes and surrounding settlements, in some case almost obliterating small townships, and killing seventy-one people. The fires were accompanied by record temperatures and winds that reached velocities estimated at over one hundred miles an hour. They created freak conditions that in turn accentuated the intensity of the flames and the extent of the damage they caused. Men and animals died horrible deaths. Sometimes their bodies were found after the fires had passed, charred beyond recognition; in other cases they died seemingly from suffocation, scarcely marked by the flames. Strange sounds and sights were reported by those caught in the inferno who escaped to tell their stories. Matches burned blue in an atmosphere apparently charged with an excess of carbon-dioxide. Great clouds of flame leaped from hill to hill, driven by windstorms that carried masses of inflammable gas. Dull booming sounds were heard in advance of the walls of flame. Solid metal melted in the heat. When it was all over, large areas of the State presented a grim scene of desolation. Across thousands of square miles the trees stood stark and blackened. The ash from their destruction lay deep on the baked earth. The tall tree-ferns that filled the mountain valleys had simply disappeared, along with all the rest of the vegetation. Fifteen hundred people were left sheltering in camps and temporary homes. Others lay in hospital wards, their limbs and bodies burned by the flames which had surrounded or passed over them. WS Noble (1977) (Frank Noble, a son of WS Noble, has kindly given the FCRPA permission to use his father's book on this site.)