As life on Earth has evolved, so too has the relationship between forests, woodlands, and humans. The area now known as south-eastern Australia is no different. For millennia humans and the area’s natural landscapes co-existed, first-peoples developing an intimate knowledge of the components, interactions, moods and nuances of the natural world they shared.
The British initiated the movement of people from other lands into the area in the late 1700s and. following the discovery of gold in the mid-1800s, that movement became a flood.
With aboriginal people increasingly marginalised, and the new arrivals believing the continent was too vast and too ‘foreign’ to be concerned about environmentally, the development of a culture that would seek to foster the ‘wise use of natural resources’ took a long time to evolve.
This section of the website seeks to examine that evolution, and the forms it took both in the wider community, and politically and bureaucratically. It begins by examining the early British colonial days, then following the story through to the 1990s. The approaches taken, particularly from the early 1900s, when the first effective government agency dedicated to the care and management of forests was formed in what, by then was the the State of Victoria, are examined in some detail.
The creation (in 1908) of a State Forest Department, and of a related Forests Commission (which began operation in 1919) represented the first serious attempt by government in Victoria to embrace the need to study, care for, and manage what had previously, in community parlance, been known widely as a major element of the ‘wastelands of the Crown’. In the early 1980s forest management was co-located with a range of other scientific disciplines that were important if forest management was to meet community expectations.
"Let us regard the forest as an inheritance, not to be destroyed or devastated, but to be wisely used, reverently honoured and carefully maintained. Let us regard the forest as a gift, entrusted to any of us only for transient care, to be surrendered to posterity as an unimpaired property, increased in riches and augmented in blessings, to pass as a sacred patrimony from generation to generation."
Baron Ferdinand von Mueller - Suggestions on the Maintenance, Creation and Enrichment of Forests (1879)