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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
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Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18



The Melbourne Bushies - Fifty years along the track (1940-90)
Chapter 15 - Conservation and Wilderness

Les Southwell with Tracy Guest*

There has been an enormous change in public appreciation of national parks over the past three decades - and especially of wilderness areas - just as their extent has diminished greatly over that same period. Bushwalkers have been in the forefront of promoting these changes. It was the vision and persistence of the noted Sydney bushwalker Myles Dunphy early this century that resulted in setting up the first national parks in New South Wales - his club even bought a block of land itself for a small park at 'Bluegum', west of Sydney. These initiatives later served as a model for a nationwide park system.

Public opinion has been progressively changed by a series of disputes that were seen as essentially local issues. But 1969 was a political milestone in Victorian conservation. Premier Bolte's government attempted to convert the Little Desert in the fragile Mallee country of northwest Victoria into wheat farms an uneconomic, destructive pork-barrel scheme to placate its Country Party minority partner. Members of several bushwalking clubs (including Ron and Gwynnyth Taylor of MBW) and other groups formed the 'Save Our Bushlands' committee. They campaigned in the by-election to defeat the government candidate, so the scheme was quietly dropped and the government finally began to regard conservation as a valid political concern.

Such disputes then were fought by a few individuals banding together, with bushwalking clubs remaining aloof from the fray. By this time, some disputes were beginning to take on national significance, and were being reported nationally: in particular, the Great Barrier Reef (mining and oil-drilling), Fraser Island (beach-sand mining and logging), and especially over the Southwest Tasmanian wilderness (Lake Pedder and the Franklin). Clubs finally began to realise that they would have to become involved as organisations and not simply as individual walkers.


* I am indebted to Tracy Guest for her research on conservation issues concerning the Club in the seventies. Many of the words in this article are hers.