"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.

About People

  • Gibson Brian

    Brian F. Gibson A.M.

    Forester and Senator for Tasmania
    Mike Leonard (bio)

    Brian commenced studies at the VSF in 1954, following both his father and an uncle as students at the school. Brian's father Kingsley (Ken) entered the VSF in 1929, subsequently being based at Bendigo, Forrest, Nathalia, Erica, Stawell, Daylesford (as DFO), Delatite, Mansfield (as DFO), Bairnsdale (as Asst. Div. For), and Traralgon (as Asst. Div. For.).  Brian’s Uncle, Colin, entered the VSF in 1931, and he died during WW2.

  • Griffin Gerry

    Gerry Griffin

    Gerald (Gerry) Griffin entered the VSF Creswick in 1942. His first posting with the Commission, in 1945, was to the Assessment Branch; then to the Bruthen District followed by the Corryong Sub-district of the Upper Murray Forest District.

    In 1951 he was promoted to District Forester in charge of the Casterton District. Further DFO appointments were to Maffra (Briagolong) in 1951, Nowa Nowa in 1954 and Orbost in 1959.

  • Harris Ian

    Ian Harris

    Straw into paillasses; crock into pots 


    ….. both of which were basic to the forestry story some decades ago.  Some of us can relate to either or both; whether stuffing straw into hessian paillasses at the School of Forestry and ex- prisoner-of-war camps, or at the Macedon nursery learning the basics of nursery practice, including the placing of crock from broken pots into new pots before putting in soil for seedlings.

  • Harrop Ken

    A Man's Career

    Ken Harrop
    Article from Tyalla 1974

    KG Harrop, the author of this article, is the newly appointed Divisional Forester to Central Division. His qualifications are Diploma of Forestry Creswick and Diploma of Forestry Victoria. In answer to a request by the editorial staff he has written this account of his work since he left the school. Few people outside the forestry profession really know what a forester does, and it is for these reasons that this article is presented.

  • Heislers John

    John (Ansis) Heislers’ Career in Forestry

    Arnis Heislers, 2018 (bio)

    John was one of 88 persons interviewed in 1993 by Greg Borschmann in an oral history project of persons involved with Australia’s forests and woodlands (The People’s Forest). I have drawn on my father’s tapes for much of the following account.


    He was born in Riga, Latvia in 1910 to Estonian parents. His father had wanted him to follow in his footsteps and study theology, but did not enforce his view when John said he wanted to pursue forestry. He chose forestry because he developed a love for life in the country, having spent most of his long summer school holidays on farms of his relatives in Estonia, some of whom were foresters.

    He said it was an exciting era for forestry in Latvia after 1918, when the former private forests under disparate ownership were consolidated into the public estate and brought under sustainable management. John enrolled at Riga’s university in 1931 in forest science, a 4 ½ year course, and graduated in May 1940 after interruptions from a voluntary break taken after 2 years and then military training. They were turbulent times because the Soviets occupied Latvia in June 1940. There were political purges and many locals in positions of importance were transported to Russia and replaced by Russian immigrants.

  • Hodgson Athol

    If you wish to use for more text at the bottom of the article place here.

    Athol Hodgson

    Forester, Innovator
    A Significant Contribution


    Athol Hodgson, who died on 5 August 2018, made a significant contribution to Victorian forestry in a number of areas. Born in Wagga Wagga in 1930 he spent his early years on the family farm at Nariel in North East Victoria where, on at least one occasion, he helped the family protect the property from bushfire. Schooling at Nariel, Corryong and then Bendigo High School provided him with the qualifications to enter the VSF from which he graduated in 1950. He went on to get his Degree at the University of Melbourne in the mid-1950s.

  • Holmes David

    Some Migrant Memories

    Dave Holmes (bio)

    “Tears in the Rain” 1


    In the past year I celebrated the 40th anniversary of my migration to Australia with a small group of family.

    It is a story that actually began 50 years ago when two friends and forestry students at the University of British Columbia (UBC) talked and dreamed about travelling adventures in New Zealand and Australia after we finished our degrees - John Fuller and I. John had taken a gap year and hence was a year behind me in his studies, but we hoped to meet up "down under" if our adventures overlapped.

  • Johnstone John

    John Johnstone

    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?

  • La Gerche John

    John La Gerche

    Peter McHugh (bio)

    For tens of thousands of years humans, and the natural environment, co-existed in relative harmony in the area now known as south-eastern Australia. From 1788 however, sustained migration, sponsored by the British, commenced.

    The discovery of gold, in the 1850s, was to result in a literal stampede of humanity, from across the Globe. Among other things it was to be a brutal time for the environment, and particularly for the area’s forests and woodlands, as the skeletal British-based bureaucracy struggled to adapt.

    In 1882, one of Victoria’s first foresters in the then British Colony was appointed, to supervise the Ballarat-Creswick State Forest. Over the next couple of decades this remarkable individual, and truly committed public servant, John La Gerche, battled to deal with what he termed ‘…the great (forest) slaughter…’ and its aftermath and, in so doing, became a great example to those who, to this day, follow in his footsteps.

  • Lasham Les

    My Forest Journey

    Les Lasham (bio)

    When I walked through the doors of General Steam Navigation Co at Tower Square opposite the Tower of London in early 1955 at age fifteen for my first full time employment, I had no idea that eleven years later that I would be walking through the door of the Forests Commission Victoria office at Powelltown, 70 kilometers east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia which was the district office of the Upper Yarra Forest District.

  • Lindsay Reginal D

    RG Lindsay

    One of the First VSF Students

    What follows is an extract from “The Leafy Tree - My Family”,by Daryl Lindsay.
    It concerns Reginald Graham Lindsay, one of the first six students enrolled at the VSF.

  • McHugh Peter

    Peter McHugh

    First Year with FCV

    The article here, written by Peter, covers his first year of work with the FCV in 1978.

    Contact the Author


  • McKinty J & Semmens B

    Jim McKinty & Bert Semmens

    VSF students 1934-36

    Paraphrased from Jim’s notes and from Bert’s unpublished Recollections: My career in Forestry

  • McKinty Jim - Firefighter 1939

    Jim McKinty - Firefighter 1939

    Transcribed from Jim’s notes and as related to Malcolm McKinty

    Following his graduation from the VSF in 1936 and until December 1941 Jim was attached to the Commission’s Forest Assessment Branch.

    In November 1938, Bjarne Dahl, Jim (then 23 years old) and their chainman (Fred) travelled by train to Healesville then by car to Sylvia Creek near Toolangi. There they loaded their equipment onto packhorses lead by Bill O’Connell and trekked over the hills to the Murrindindi River where they set up camp. The task was to map a large section of the Victoria Range between the Yea and Acheron Rivers, progressing south along the range towards Mount St Leonard. Dense scrub here made heavy going and they took turns with slashers to clear the survey lines.

  • Meadows Bill

    Bill Meadows

    The Man Who Named Lake Elizabeth

    Peter Greig (bio)

    Written on 7 December 2015

    Lake Elizabeth stretches languidly for a kilometre along the heavily forested valley of the East Barwon River, about seven kilometres east of the little township of Forrest, on the Otway Ranges’ northern slopes. It’s a popular attraction for campers, walkers, and canoeists, not least because you can spot platypus – in the early morning and at twilight – if you’re lucky.

  • Morrison Ken - Heywood

    Reflections on 1960s Forest Management in the Heywood Area

    Ken Morrison

    Introduction by David Williams


    Ken Morrison was appointed District Forest Officer of the Heywood District in 1960. Ken’s observations about management of hardwood forests in south-western Victoria and life as the District Forest Officer in the 1960s are captured in his recent reflections which are reproduced here.

  • Morrison Ken - Matlock and Bendoc

    "Matlock, Bendoc, Wedlock"

    Ken Morrison

    Introduction by Ian Hastings
    Read the Complete Article


    "Matlock, Bendoc, Wedlock" was a common expression in the FCV based on the belief that, for a single Forester or Forest Overseer, one way of avoiding a posting to either of these very remote locations was to get married before such a posting might be seriously considered.

  • MSC Experiences

    MSC Experiences

    Kester Baines (bio)

    I worked on the Connors crew for four consecutive summers, from Dec 1968 – Feb 1969, then Jan-Feb 1970, ‘71 and ‘72, being a leading hand on the ‘71 crew and senior leading hand in ’72.

    Our first fire was in the Buxton-Taggerty area, which started on the same day as the bad Lara fires (8 Jan 1969). We worked in the Black Range, Royston Range and Blue Range and were there for five days. All up we worked on 13 fires over the four summers, mostly lightning strikes in the high country, but one near Mt Roundback on Wilsons Prom was also quite large. But our first was the worst – it’s the only time I’ve been in a fire that was crowning at times. Scary!

  • Nug Nug Chinook

    Nug Nug Chinook

    Bernie Evans (bio)

    This article is based upon a conversation between Bernie and Richard Rawson in August 2018, and it is likely that it describes the first ever use of such a large helicopter in a wildfire control operation.

    On the 17 February 1983, at the same time as the State was in terrible strife from the fires of 16 February (Ash Wednesday), a fire started in what was then the FCV District of Myrtleford, where Bernie Evans was the District Forester and, the way things worked at that time, he was also by right the "fire boss".

  • Pack Horse Camps

    The Remarkable Pack Camps of the 1950's

    Arthur Webb (bio)

    The widespread bushfires of 1939, which decimated the supplies of sawlogs available to the timber industry, were still having a profound impact in 1950. Also in the 1950’s, the State Authorities of Victoria were scrambling to meet the demand for sawn timber arising from meeting the backlog for new homes. The surge in construction of new homes arose from deferral of construction during the war years, coupled with the large increase in the State of Victoria’s population with the arrival of migrants and the baby boom of the post war years.

    The FCV met the challenge of suppling timber resources to overcome the crippling effects of the 1939 bushfires and meeting the States' surging demand for timber. It did this initiating a massive salvage program, and by relocating sawmills from the Central Highlands to tap forest areas in East Gippsland, and the mountainous areas of North East Victoria and Gippsland, which had escaped the impact of the fires . Sawmills were relocated to the towns of Heyfield, Orbost, Cann River, Swifts Creek, Mansfield and Porepunkah.

    Part of this massive operation of relocating the sawmilling industry required the building of access roads by the FCV to reach the untouched forests known to exist in the mountains. In some instances the quantity of sawlogs available were known, but in other instances this was not the case.

    This was so with the Alpine Ash forests in the mountains north of Heyfield and Briagolong. They were known to exist but there was little knowledge of the extent of the stands, nor of the volumes or quality of the stands. The same situation applied to the Alpine Ash forests growing on the Great Dividing Range in the vicinity of Mount Selwyn to the south of Porepunkah. There was no road access to these areas when DWM Paine, Forest Assessor, was handed the task of establishing the quantities of sawlogs available in these remote locations.

    The FCV was fortunate to have Murray Paine heading the Assessment Branch in the 1950’s, and in subsequent years. He was one of the early professionally-trained foresters who recognized the value of aerial photography for delineating differing stands of different species of eucalypt. In conjunction with Vern Henderson, head of the Survey and Mapping section, Murray used aerial photos of the mountains north of Heyfield and Briagalong to delineate stands of Alpine Ash. This information was put on topographical maps and then Murray designed, for then, a radical sampling scheme using randomly-located 1/3 acre sample plots as his means of measuring the volumes of the stands. He set sawlog standards for his crews to recognize in the field, and trained his assessment crews to apply these standards. And, from about 1960, he used computers to calculate the volumes of the sawlogs measured by his bush crews. He wrote the computer programmes to do all of this, something almost unheard of in those times. Old hat these days, but in the 1950’s it was very forward thinking. In the summer of 1953/54 Murray put into operation his plans for establishing the quantities of sawlogs in the remote mountains of Victoria.

    This is the story of the living and working conditions Assessment Branch crews employed by Murray enjoyed when working in the remote Alpine Ash forests of Victoria in the 1950’s.