"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

  • 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.

  • 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.

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    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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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


  • Jim McKinty & Bert Semmens

    VSF students 1934-36

    Paraphrased from Jim’s notes and from Bert’s unpublished Recollections: My career in Forestry

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • "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

    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

    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".

  • Duke William Murray Paine

    Forest Assessor

    Murray went to the VSF from Birchip in 1941 as a 16 year old, and graduated from the University of Melbourne in 1946 with a BSC (Forestry). He went on to have a most influential career in both the FCV and CFL before retiring from the public sector in 1985. In 2000 he completed a story about his life entitled "A Good Run in the Perfect Job", and his sons, Bruce, David and Mark have given permission for the FCRPA to use extracts from that publication on this site.

    Perhaps Murray was best known for his major contribution to the understanding of Victoria's timber resources because of his time as Forest Assessor for the FCV from 1953 until the early 1970s. Field assessment work field most often involved new VSF graduates, and many would remember Murray for his strong mentoring role during this time. However, as his story shows, his career path had other elements that we need to explore. 

    Below are some extracts about particular subjects that are covered in Murray's story, and his complete account on each subject is available via the link attached to each heading.

  • 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 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 very significant.

  • George Samuel Perrin (1847-1900)

    The First Conservator of Forests

    GS Perrin was appointed as Victoria's first Conservator of Forests in 1888. In 1890 he delivered his first Report to Parliament, and he died in Ballarat in 1890. On reading the Report you could be forgiven if you were positive about future management of our forests. However, the following quotes from the 14th Report of the Royal Commission established in 1897 indicate that Perrin was hamstrung in his endeavours to bring about important changes in management.

  • Wesley 'Rex' Philpot

    Written by Rex in 2002


    My first introduction to “Wireless” was in 1924 when one of my Uncles let me hear music from a pair of headphones laying in a bowl of some sort, I have never forgotten it. This was in England, but when we arrived in Australia, in 1926, it was very rare to find a wireless, and those that did exist were crude TRF receivers usually always with a separate tuning ‘condensor’ for each one, two, or three tuned circuits.

    Valves filaments (heaters) were supplied with DC from lead acid accumulators, and the local Motor Garage usually made quite an income from the charging of (usually) 2 volt batteries.