"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.

Forest-Based Recreation - An Overview

Mike Leonard (bio)

For tens of thousands of years people, and the natural environment that covered the continent now known as Australia, had a relationship that is perhaps best described as ‘intimate’. Natural landscapes provided food and shelter, medicines, cultural settings, spiritual nourishment, and an environment to relax in.

At the end of the 1700s Britain initiated a movement of people from other lands, initially into the south-east of the continent and, following the discovery of gold in the mid-1800s, this human migration became a flood.

The new arrivals invariably found themselves in a strange, and even a somewhat threatening environment. Muted green and grey landscapes, plants and animals previously unknown to science, soils often considered poor, a seemingly erratic and uncertain climate, and frequent floods and bushfires in many locations. The notion, among the newcomers, that such settings could, in Victoria, be places for relaxation, or for recreational pursuits, took time to evolve.

By the later-1800s groups such as the Bright Alpine Club, established to ‘explore the alpine regions’ around the township were forming; and associated accommodation houses were appearing. In 1894 Australia’s first walking fraternity, The Wallaby Club, was formed in Melbourne. Having done three trial walks before deciding to go ahead with a club, which would be all male, the founders declared the new club was:

" ... an assembly of good fellows, fond of walking – not in the athletic sense, but as a means of reasonable outdoors enjoyment that would be conducive to health, conversation and good companionship. As the public park in Athens formed the original Academy of Greek philosophers, so the open spaces in the bush lands around Melbourne were to be the habitat of the purposed club ... "

Four months later, a ‘Melbourne Amateur Walking and Touring Club’ was also established. 1