"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.

Forest Cover after European Settlement

P Woodgate and R Keenan

This brief paper outlines the extent of Australia’s forest cover and the changes since European settlement in the late 18th century.

The Definition of Australian Forest

The formal definition of forest in widespread use in Australia since 1992 is:

“An area, incorporating all living and non-living components, that is dominated by trees having usually a single stem and a mature or potentially mature stand height exceeding 2 metres and with existing or potential crown cover of overstorey strata about equal to or greater than 20 per cent. This includes Australia’s diverse native forests and plantations, regardless of age. It is also sufficiently broad to encompass areas of trees that are sometimes described as woodlands.” (National Forest Inventory)

Native Forests of Victoria Prior to European settlement

Ian Hastings, 2018 (bio)

"With this “Victoria’s forestry heritage” website and, indeed for any other ‘heritage' documentation, it can help in understanding the ‘now’ and future options and directions if there is some idea of what has been inherited. From a forestry perspective, there is the question of the condition and nature of the native forests across Victoria up to and at the time of European settlement."

Establish State Forests

On the 25th of October 1865 the Surveyor-General, the Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Survey, and the Secretary for Mines submitted a report to both Houses of Parliament entitled "The Advisableness of Establishing State Forests."

Extracts from the Report are provided below;

Red Gum Forest Condition, 1878

Extracts from a Report on the  Red Gum Forests of Gunbower and Barmah

"If we refer to the plan of the Barmah forest, it will be seen at a glance that the timber on the river bank, and back for an average distance of two miles, has been either partly or entirely worked, and that the mills which were laid down, with the exception of the Cornella mill, owned by Messrs. McCulloch and Co., have been abandoned on that account.

Vincent 1887 - The Unpublished Report

In the Tenth Progress Report of the Royal Commission on State Forests and Timber Reserves, published in 1900, there are passages quoted from an 1887 report by Vincent (a Conservator of the Indian Forests Service) about Victoria’s Forests. This is the report that the Government declined to publish, and which has still not been found in complete form during the research for this website.

The relevant extracts from the Royal Commission Report are provided below, and here is a PDF of what follows if required.