"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.


  • Arnis Heislers

    Assessing in 1960/61

    Arnis Heislers, 2013 (bio)

    What follows is an extract from a 2013 publication by Arnis Heislers, which was republished by Epic ArtWorkz in 2016. Arnis graduated from the Victorian School of Forestry in 1960 and, like many other graduates, the first stages of his working life with the FCV were concerned with assessing and mapping timber resources. The full publication is available on this site, and it contains wonderful photographs recording his time in alpine forests.

  • Forest Assessment - Big Picture

    Assessment of the Forest Resource

    Roger Smith (bio) 

    Assessment is the act of making a judgement or deciding the amount, value, quantity or importance of a resource.

    For many young foresters, starting out on their career by joining the Assessment Branch/Section for a few years was regarded as a Rite of Passage, an early stage in their career whereby they gained experience in exploring and walking through the often unmapped and trackless bush, marking a transition to a different and more permanent stage of their career.

  • Jim McKinty - Forest Assessor

    Jim McKinty - Forest Assessor 1937-1941

    Mal McKinty (bio)
    Read the Full Story

    In the Full Story there are a number of links to maps. The map that covers the recconnaissance work of 1940 and 1941 is based on a 1959 FCV map of the Macalister River Watershed. A webmap is also available for this part of the story and you can access the Map here.

    Following his graduation from the Victorian School of Forestry in 1936, and until December 1941, Jim McKinty was attached to the Forest Assessment Branch of the Forests Commission.

    From January 1937 Jim worked with Bjarne Dahl’s assessment team at Snobs Creek and later that year along the Yarra Yarra Track on the Great Divide above Warburton. Then, from early 1938 and extending into January 1939, now with his own team, he assessed along the Victoria Range between the Yea and Acheron Rivers. This work was interrupted in January 1939 by the need to battle bushfires at Toolangi and East Warburton.

  • Just Cruising

    Cruisers and Mappers

    A Unique Group
    Brian Fry (bio)

    Timber assessment in Victoria after WW2 was vitally important in helping to plan supply for the sawmilling industry, and therefore the construction and housing industry. The article by Arthur Webb about his assessment experiences in the early 1950s discusses some of the hardships involved and the nature of the crews that did this work.

    When recently browsing through some old FCV correspondence, I came across the following:

    Memorandum dated 5 December 1945
    Prepared by B. Dahl
    Assessment of Big River
    Progress Report No 4

    “It was necessary to take some men off the assessment parties to assist Fitzpatrick in his work and this left the two assessment parties operating from Snob’s Creek Gap short of men. Later in the month 5 men walked off the job, claiming that the walking was too hard. It is true that the walking is strenuous because no tracks have been adequately cleared, but it also is true that the class of men which has been available has been of a type which in the pre-war years would not have been employed in this type of work. All in all 18 men have left the assessment jobs this year.”

    Dahl’s Progress Report No 6 of 4th February 1946 states:

    “The access to these camp sites had been scheduled to be in order early in January, but a second breakdown of the bulldozer has seriously delayed the work. This machine has now been out of order for three weeks. The Army Bedford truck on which the assessment parties depend for transporting supplies, has broken down on several occasions. This truck has no brakes, and the tyres are completely worn out. It is therefore dangerous to drive it.”
  • Pack Horse Camps

    The Remarkable Pack Camps of the 1950's

    Arthur Webb (bio)

    The widespread bushfires of 1939, which decimated the supplies of sawlogs available to the timber industry, were still having a profound impact in 1950. Also in the 1950’s, the State Authorities of Victoria were scrambling to meet the demand for sawn timber arising from meeting the backlog for new homes. The surge in construction of new homes arose from deferral of construction during the war years, coupled with the large increase in the State of Victoria’s population with the arrival of migrants and the baby boom of the post war years.

    The FCV met the challenge of suppling timber resources to overcome the crippling effects of the 1939 bushfires and meeting the States' surging demand for timber. It did this initiating a massive salvage program, and by relocating sawmills from the Central Highlands to tap forest areas in East Gippsland, and the mountainous areas of North East Victoria and Gippsland, which had escaped the impact of the fires . Sawmills were relocated to the towns of Heyfield, Orbost, Cann River, Swifts Creek, Mansfield and Porepunkah.

    Part of this massive operation of relocating the sawmilling industry required the building of access roads by the FCV to reach the untouched forests known to exist in the mountains. In some instances the quantity of sawlogs available were known, but in other instances this was not the case.

    This was so with the Alpine Ash forests in the mountains north of Heyfield and Briagolong. They were known to exist but there was little knowledge of the extent of the stands, nor of the volumes or quality of the stands. The same situation applied to the Alpine Ash forests growing on the Great Dividing Range in the vicinity of Mount Selwyn to the south of Porepunkah. There was no road access to these areas when DWM Paine, Forest Assessor, was handed the task of establishing the quantities of sawlogs available in these remote locations.

    The FCV was fortunate to have Murray Paine heading the Assessment Branch in the 1950’s, and in subsequent years. He was one of the early professionally-trained foresters who recognized the value of aerial photography for delineating differing stands of different species of eucalypt. In conjunction with Vern Henderson, head of the Survey and Mapping section, Murray used aerial photos of the mountains north of Heyfield and Briagalong to delineate stands of Alpine Ash. This information was put on topographical maps and then Murray designed, for then, a radical sampling scheme using randomly-located 1/3 acre sample plots as his means of measuring the volumes of the stands. He set sawlog standards for his crews to recognize in the field, and trained his assessment crews to apply these standards. And, from about 1960, he used computers to calculate the volumes of the sawlogs measured by his bush crews. He wrote the computer programmes to do all of this, something almost unheard of in those times. Old hat these days, but in the 1950’s it was very forward thinking. In the summer of 1953/54 Murray put into operation his plans for establishing the quantities of sawlogs in the remote mountains of Victoria.

    This is the story of the living and working conditions Assessment Branch crews employed by Murray enjoyed when working in the remote Alpine Ash forests of Victoria in the 1950’s.