Superintendent of Plantations
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?
Johnstone was born in Scotland, and received initial training and background in large-scale estate landscaping and plantation forestry in Scotland and England. After migrating to Australia and first working on an estate in South Australia, he became the curator and developer of Maddingley Park at Bacchus Marsh in 1987 and stayed in that role for 10 years.
In 1898, Johnstone, apparently at the instigation of George Perrin the then Conservator of Forests, moved to the State Forests Department stationed at Macedon.
He applied for the position of Conservator of Forests in 1901, after Perrin’s death in December 1900, and was proposed as joint Conservator of Forests with Mr HR Mackay. However, considerable political debate and opposition to Johnstone, including him being described as “a glorified landscape gardener” meant Johnstone was not appointed. However, he was subsequently appointed the Superintendent of State Plantations, which included oversight of the Creswick plantation.
In 1907 the Forests Act included provision for the regulation and training of forest staff, creating the opportunity for a School of Forestry to be established. Johnstone began to promote the idea of a Forestry School to the Conservator of Forests, the relevant Minister and the Government and drew on support from Alexander Peacock, the then local Parliamentary Member for Creswick.
The Old State Nursery Office at the former Creswick State Nursery constructed around 1911 was designed by Johnstone.