Victoria's Forestry Heritage

A History of Management

Bjarne Dahl (1898 – 1993)

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.

Read more ...


The Young Forester in 1964

Leon Bren (bio)

With contributions from Brian Fry and Peter Lawson

This originally hand-written letter from my brother-in-law, the late Roger Cowley (1940-76) to his “little sister” (aged 14 at the time) turned up in family archives. Matching the date with the days puts the year as 1964. The letter gives an account of fire-fighting half a century ago (and when people still wrote real letters). Roger went through the Creswick Forestry School in 1958-60 (dux of the school) and Melbourne University in 1962-63. He was counting Alpine Ash seedling regeneration (and fire-fighting as required) for the Forests Commission Victoria in the Connors Plain-Mt Skene area of Victoria’s alps, together with Peter Lawson (a fellow graduate). The “frog” was a bird-seed-filled cloth frog, not a real one (fashionable at the time). The construction of the “Tamboritha Road” a few years previously had been a major investment for the Forests Commission and opened up Alpine Ash forests for logging (shock/horror now) north of Heyfield (Victoria).

Read more ...

Leon Pederick

Tree Breeder

Leon graduated from the VSF in 1950, and was awarded a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from the University of Melbourne in 1955. Further study led to a PhD which was conferred at the University of Melbourne in December 1967. His thesis was "‘Cytogenetic Studies in Pinus radiata D. Don".

On graduation from the VSF he went to the Assessment School at Kinglake before working on assessment projects in a number of locations around Victoria for about five years. He was posted to the Wail Nursey for a time, before heading into reseacrh in the area of tree improvent and tree breeding. He was to work in this field until retirement in May 1993, and his contribution in this area in particular was very significant.

Read more ...

John Johnstone

Superintendent of Plantations

Gerry Fahey’s paper presents a case for John Johnstone to be acknowledged as “the primary inspiration” for the establishment of the Victorian School of Forestry, notwithstanding the more widely accepted reports and acknowledgements of Sir Alexander Peacock’s strong support for the School’s establishment.

So who was this John Johnstone and what do we know about him and his role in the establishment of VSF?

Read more ...

Walking to Work

M E W Stump (bio)

"Mark gave me a copy of the text in March 2016, together with some photographs and newspaper cuttings. The descriptions of dry firefighting with hand tools are brief and record what was achieved year by year
over and over by experienced firefighters, day and night, in public forests, at modest cost, more than half a century ago." Alan Eddy, 30 April 2016

Mark Stump was an Assistant Forester at Heyield from December 1954 to May 1957

"The philosophy attaching to the combatting of remote fires at that time, was that the suppression crew should be self-sufficient for a period of three days. This principle assumed that a three-day period would provide sufficient time in which to access, extinguish and withdraw from a small fire without the necessity of additional support. For a large remote fire, which could not be dealt with in an all up time frame of three days, the self-sufficiency period provided time for District Administrative Staff to organize the despatch of support equipment/supplies, to be carried to the fire site by pack horse."

Read more ...



Featured Publications

Circumspice '59
- Lawson, Smith & Fry

Leon Pederick - A Forester's Tale

The Eddy Papers

Brian Doolan's Papers

The Bjarne K Dahl Trust has given the FCRPA permission to provide a link to, and use extracts from, Bjarne K Dahl's Journey authored by Peter Evans.

Chapter 7 of Falvey L and Bardsley B (1997)  is entitled Forestry at Creswick and the University, 1910-1997. The chapter is made available with permission from the authors.