Bjarne Dahl - Pioneer Assessor

Mike Leonard (bio)

As set out elsewhere on this website, the early 20th century was a challenging time for Victoria’s newly established, foundational Forest Service. Responsible for around a third of the State, an area in the main remote and poorly, at best, mapped, and one dominated by plants and animals that were only just beginning to be studied, relevant skills were often thin on the ground.

The Forests Commission, which since 1910 had been training future professional and technical staff at its School at Creswick, near Ballarat, was also still, occasionally, recruiting from overseas, usually from England and Scotland. In early 1928 however, it decided to employ three Norwegian forest assessors; Bernhard Johannessen, Kristian Drangsholt, and Bjarne Dahl.

Dahl was to go on to have a lengthy and successful career both in Victoria and nationally, initially with the Commission, and later with the company Australian Paper Manufacturers (APM).

Assessment work, particularly in those early years was arduous, involving lengthy stays in largely trackless bush, supplies being brought in by pack horse. Arguably, during his 20 years as an assessor with the FCV, Bjarne saw more areas of Victoria’s forests than did most other foresters.

In the early 1940s Bjarne became Chief Forest Assessor for the FCV and, by early 1945, he had established an Assessment School at Kalatha Creek, near Toolangi. The first intake for the three month course included all six foresters who had graduated from the VSF the previous year. (The Assessment School’s location was moved to Kinglake West in 1947).

In the latter part of 1948 Bjarne left the FCV to take up a new position with Maryvale-based APM. His years at the FCV left a fine record and, among things, he had played a key role in preparing the FCV to play its part in the post-WWII housing boom.

As part of a new supply strategy, APM had decided that is wanted to establish an additional, non-State forest based timber resource and that was to be Bjarne’s key role. Over the following years he established what was to become APM’s considerable private estate, purchasing primarily abandoned farmland in Victoria, New South Wales and in Queensland.

Bjarne retired in 1961, his final task being to plant a Mountain Ash seedling that signified the 30th millionth tree planted by APM.

Following the death of his wife in a tragic accident in 1976, Bjarne decided to leave his considerable estate to the FCV to be used for the ‘…establishment, promotion and cultivation of suitable eucalyptus trees…’

Subsequently, in 2007, an independent Bjarne K Dahl Trust was established. Since October 2016, the Trust operates as Eucalypt Australia, with information available on their website.

Sources consulted include:

From fjords to eucalypt forests: Bjarne K. Dahl's journey - by Peter Evans.
Man of the Forest by David Drangsholt.

See also:

Relevant interviews by Peter Evans