"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.

Author Bios

 You can access short biographical notes about people who have prepared articles for this site by scrolling through this Blog,
or by opening this


Paul Barker

Paul Barker joined the Victorian Public Service (VPS) as an Administrative Officer in 1964, initially being posted to the then Education Department. He subsequently moved, on promotion, to the Department of Labour and Industry in 1969, to the Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation in 1973, and to the Forests Commission in 1982. Along with the Commission’s other staff Paul was transferred to the newly created Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands in late 1983.

In February 2001, in part due to deteriorating health, Paul retired. Four months later however he was re-hired by the Department, through an agency, as a part-time consultant. As his health continued to deteriorate, Paul finally departed the VPS in June 2003, after an almost forty-year career.

In the course of his work, Paul developed a wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of Victoria’s bureaucratic heritage, and the documents and systems that underpinned its legacy. During the latter decades of his career, and in retirement, Paul has always been ready to assist bureaucrats, students, researchers, NGOs and others wanting to draw on this valuable historical resource.

During the post-1985 era in Victoria, when departmental re-organisations became regular events, Paul was also in the frontline when it came to preserving and accessing the State’s, often threatened, documented history.

While every career is unique, Paul’s story is in many ways typical of the hundreds of non-technical staff who made major contributions during the 20 th century to advances in the care and management of the State’s ‘wild’ lands.

David Flinn

David entered the VSF in 1963 and eventually completed a PhD in 1975 on the calcium nutrition of Radiata Pine. He spent his entire career in forest R & D with a focus on soils and nutrition of native forests and softwood plantations. He retired in 2000 as Inaugural Director of the Forest Science Centre, an alliance between the University of Melbourne and Centre of Forest Tree Technology of the Department.

He became a part time consultant in forest science and permanently retired when aged 69 years to free up time for Hazle and himself to enjoy their 5 beautiful grandchildren. Guiding lights during his rewarding and enjoyable career included, but were not restricted to, Ron Grose, Fred Craig, Barrie Dexter, Kevin Wareing, Joan Kirner, Bob Smith, Richard Rawson, Mike Leonard, Gary Morgan and John Turner.

Fiona Hamilton

Fiona was one of the first intake of female students at VSF in 1976. She graduated from VSF in 1978, and then obtained her BForSci (Hons) at Melbourne University in 1981. She was awarded the Caltex Woman Graduate of the Year for Victoria, and used her award to study at Oregon State University, receiving an MSc in forest modelling in 1983.

Before going to the US, Fiona lectured at Creswick, now part of the University of Melbourne, teaching botany and dendrology. On her return, she worked on forest modelling and timber harvest regulation. She returned to Creswick in 1984 to work on research into fuel reduction burning, before being appointed senior fire research officer in the Fire Management Branch. During this time she was awarded an Emergency Services Foundation study award, took part in a US Fire Study Tour and toured Canada and the US to learn about fire information systems. On her return she managed the development of the first bushfire information systems for the Department.

In 1993 she became team leader of forest growth and yield, and played a key role in the development and delivery of the Statewide Forest Resource Inventory (SFRI) project. This project provided the foundation for review and revision of timber resource availability over the next 10 years. Successive major fires in 2003, 2006/7 and 2009 each required reviews, with Fiona leading the resource analysis and modelling, defending the data and analysis, and liaising with VicForests, industry and staff on the changes.

From 2011 to 2014 Fiona lead a project to monitor the impacts of increased planned burning on biodiversity. developed in response to a recommendation of the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, following the 2009 fires.
Fiona is married to fellow forester, Fred Cumming, has two children, and lives in the Wombat Forest.

Leon Pederick

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 three years. He was posted to the Wail Nursey for a time before, in 1958, heading into research 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 highly significant.

After finishing full time work Leon wrote about his family and working life in "A Forester's Tale - Memoirs of a Victorian Tree Breeder", and he has kindly given permission for extracts of that publication to be used on this site.



Russ Ritchie

Russ was born in Castlemaine, but spent his early life in Bright when his father (William) was transferred there to become the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of the Bright Plantations.

He subsequently passed the VSF entry exam in 1942 and obtained his Diploma of Forestry Creswick in 1944.

After one-and-a-half years on Timber Assessment in the Neerim South Forest District, on Lake Mountain near Marysville and the Upper Yarra Dam Site, he was transferred to South Gippsland to supervise pine and hardwood planting at Childers.

In 1949 he transferred to Stanley Plantation in north east Victoria as OIC, and in 1955 to Beech Forest as OIC of the Aire Valley Plantation. In 1958 he was transferred to Gellibrand Forest District as District Forester when a reorganization of the FCV saw the amalgamation of adjacent District and Plantation administrations.

In 1962 Russ transferred to Trentham District. and from there received promotion to Assistant Divisional Forester at Horsham in the Western Division. After several years at Horsham, he was transferred to Ballarat in the South West Division, and from there received promotion to Fire Protection Officer at Head Office in Melbourne.

In 1971, he became the Divisional Forester, North East Division based in Wangaratta. He retired in 1984 when the Department of Conservation, Forests & Lands was formed.

Les Lasham

After Les completed the 1966 Forests Commission Foreman’s Training School he was posted to Powelltown in the then Upper Yarra Forest District in November 1966. Les retired in November 2003 after 37 years working in forest management, initially as a Forest Foreman and Forest Overseer with the FCV, and later as a Work Centre Supervisor with CFL and successor Departments. He worked predominantly in the former Upper Yarra Forest District, and the former Dandenong and Port Phillip Regions and Gippsland Area.He was also heavily involved in fire training and as training assessor.

His career in forest management involved a wide range of roles, duties and experiences including supervision of road construction and maintenance, eucalypt nursery management, assistance with forest regeneration and re-forestation programs, plantation establishment, aerial Phasmid control, assistance with some forest research projects, 4WD trainer and assessor, plant operations manager, and fire protection and management.

Les was awarded the 1972 VSFA Travel Award to report on Nursery Practices and Reforestation Techniques within Victoria.

David Holmes

David gained a Bachelor of Forest Science at the University of British Columbia in 1969, and during his study spent his summers as a tallyman working in the BC Forests Service in forest inventory, growth and yield studies, and volume and decay studies in various locations in the Province.

He travelled and worked in Australia and NZ from Nov 1969 to May 1971, before returning to Canada to work for the British Colombia Forest Service in inventory and field management roles.

He came to Australia with his family in 1979 and joined the FCV, working first in the Beaufort District. He went on to become the Manager of the Forest Management Branch in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources before retiring from the public sector in 1995 to work as an independent forest consultant.

John Taylor

John graduated from Creswick in 1964 and from Melbourne University in 1967. He worked for the Forests Commission in Research, Working Plans, FEAR and Statutory Planning branches. From 1971 to 1978 he was a research officer at the Land Conservation Council. In 1986 John became Manager of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, and in 1993 Director of Parks and Gardens with Brisbane City Council.

In retirement John returned to forestry, and with his wife, owns some dry sclerophyll forest and a spotted gum plantation in northern New South Wales which are managed for wood production.

Peter Hopmans

Peter completed a degree in Applied Science at RMIT in 1975 whilst working in the laboratory of FCV, and then went on to complete a PhD in soil science and plant nutrition on the subject of nitrogen fixation by legumes at the University of Melbourne in 1982. He returned to the Research Branch of FCV to work with David Flinn on soils and tree nutrition of plantations and native forests for the next 20 years, before taking the golden handshake in 2004. Too young to retire he started the next phase of his career as a consultant continuing with his work on soils and nutrition of radiata pine plantations for Hancock Victorian Plantations and other forestry companies. He has always enjoyed the challenges of forest science and his greatest reward is seeing the adoption of new knowledge in forest management.

Phil Whiteman

Phil graduated from ANU Forestry in 1981 and Monash University in 1994, and he spent the first three years working for CSIRO on genetics and seed collection programs in Traralgon and Canberra.

For the next 17 years he worked for APM Forests (aka APMF, Amcor Plantations, Australian Paper Plantations), for about a decade in nurseries and research and then eight years in plantation operations.

After APMF was purchased by Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) in 2001, and initially known as Grand Ridge Plantations, Phil was Gippsland Plantation Manager for 11 years.

He then moved to Melbourne for six years as HVP's Environment and Certification Manager and he is still (in 2019) in that role although he moved back to Gippsland in 2018.