KG Harrop, the author of this article, is the newly appointed Divisional Forester to Central Division. His qualifications are Diploma of Forestry Creswick and Diploma of Forestry Victoria. In answer to a request by the editorial staff he has written this account of his work since he left the school. Few people outside the forestry profession really know what a forester does, and it is for these reasons that this article is presented.
John was one of 88 persons interviewed in 1993 by Greg Borschmann in an oral history project of persons involved with Australia’s forests and woodlands (The People’s Forest). I have drawn on my father’s tapes for much of the following account.
He was born in Riga, Latvia in 1910 to Estonian parents. His father had wanted him to follow in his footsteps and study theology, but did not enforce his view when John said he wanted to pursue forestry. He chose forestry because he developed a love for life in the country, having spent most of his long summer school holidays on farms of his relatives in Estonia, some of whom were foresters.
He said it was an exciting era for forestry in Latvia after 1918, when the former private forests under disparate ownership were consolidated into the public estate and brought under sustainable management. John enrolled at Riga’s university in 1931 in forest science, a 4 ½ year course, and graduated in May 1940 after interruptions from a voluntary break taken after 2 years and then military training. They were turbulent times because the Soviets occupied Latvia in June 1940. There were political purges and many locals in positions of importance were transported to Russia and replaced by Russian immigrants.
Athol Hodgson, who died on 5 August 2018, made a significant contribution to Victorian forestry in a number of areas. Born in Wagga Wagga in 1930 he spent his early years on the family farm at Nariel in North East Victoria where, on at least one occasion, he helped the family protect the property from bushfire. Schooling at Nariel, Corryong and then Bendigo High School provided him with the qualifications to enter the VSF from which he graduated in 1950. He went on to get his Degree at the University of Melbourne in the mid-1950s.
“Tears in the Rain” 1
In the past year I celebrated the 40th anniversary of my migration to Australia with a small group of family.
It is a story that actually began 50 years ago when two friends and forestry students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) talked and dreamed about travelling adventures in New Zealand and Australia after we finished our degrees - John Fuller and I. John had taken a gap year and hence was a year behind me in his studies, but we hoped to meet up "down under" if our adventures overlapped.
Gerry Fahey’s paper establishes the case for John Johnstone to be acknowledged as the person "to whose inspiration and initiative the establishment (of the Victorian School of Forestry) was largely due" rather than Sir Alexander Peacock, the-then local Member of Parliament, whose support Johnstone sought to set up the School.
So who was this John Johnstone and what do we know about him and his role in the establishment of VSF?
"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)