An alien workforce

Board introduces a century of forestry

Environmental system to world standard

Forest conservation started in the 19th century

A forestry snapshot

Visionary changes forestry forever

Motor vehicles make easy access to natural areas

National parks grew from bush exploration

Queensland celebrates 100 years of forestry

Service celebrates 25 years

Women of the woods

by John Schiavo

burnt scrub
Forestry's "reservoir of labour" 
Former unemployed men work burnt scrub to plant forests during the Great Depression

Displaced persons temporary forestry camps
A safe haven for displaced persons. These temporary forestry camps in rural Queensland were spartan, but were a "million miles" from war-ravished Europe during and after the Second World War

One of the most interesting periods in the history of Queensland Forestry occurred in the years during and after the Second World War. 

With all Australia involved in the war effort, the construction of defence installations placed a heavy burden on timber supplies. Forestry was regarded as an essential industry and measures were taken to ensure that timber was made available for the war effort. 

As the male labour force shrunk, European prisoners of war were used to harvest Queensland's timber. Prisoners of war were sent to the Mary Valley as well as the Brigalow district around Chinchilla.

The need for timber became even greater for reconstruction after the war. Housing shortages placed a huge demand on wood supplies but the workforce to cut the timber was not available.

The solution came in the form of European refugees, officially referred to at the time as displaced persons. The Australian Government agreed to accept these people in July 1947. 

While millions of war refugees were resettled in the intervening period, about one million refused to return to their homelands. The majority of these displaced persons came from eastern Europe and remained in holding camps in central Europe after the war.

There were, however, a number of conditions placed on the agreement between the Australian government and the United Nations who coordinated the Displaced Persons Mass Resettlement Scheme.

People entering Australia had to agree to work for two years in any employment as directed by the Commonwealth Government. Essential industries in Queensland included the sugar industry and forestry. After this two-year contract expired, displaced persons were allowed to find their own employment. The scheme operated between 1947 and 1952.

During this time, between 6000 and 8000 men and women were employed in Queensland. About 1000 were employed by the Department of Forestry. 

This workforce peaked during 1950 when more than 650 men were employed, primarily in the massive reafforestation program undertaken by the department. 

The largest concentrations of forestry-employed displaced persons were at Imbil, Amamoor, Widgee, Gallangowan, Yarraman, Benarkin, Blackbutt, Colinton, Chinchilla, Elgin Vale, Atherton, and Beerburrum.

While some workers objected to the remoteness of the work and gravitated to coastal towns and cities, others remained employed by the Forestry Department after their contract had expired.


George Leonard Board
George Leonard Board

This year commemorates 100 years since the appointment of George Leonard Board as Queensland's first Inspector of Forests.

When Leonard Board took up his appointment on 1 August 1900 he began an era of official forest stewardship for the state.

He was the first of a line of forestry heads who progressively refined forest management to a science that balanced ecological needs with community needs for timber, recreation and multiple uses such as grazing and bee-keeping.

When Board was appointed, Forestry was a branch of the then Department of Public Lands.

His staff consisted of two forest rangers, and, for the annual salary of 500, he administered a rapidly growing industry throughout the state.

The Maryborough Chronicle in 1900 said of Leonard Board's appointment: "He is without a doubt one of the most experienced and capable men in the Lands Department, and he will not only fill the Inspectorship with credit (he will) make it a most serviceable and important office."

From a branch in the Public Lands Department, Forestry became variously the Department of Forestry, the Queensland Forest Service, and a business group within the Department of Primary Industries.

While the one-time Forestry Department had responsibility for almost all forest-related activities in Queensland (including national parks), forestry administration is now spread across several departments including the Department of State Development, the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Primary Industries.

DPI Forestry is the commercial arm of the Queensland Government's forest production activity.

The history of the state's forest leaders shows similar changes.

Leonard Board was an Inspector of Forests. Immediate successors were known as Directors. Then came Conservators, and now, Executive-Directors.

Leonard Board served from 1900 to 1905.

Then came P. MacMahon (1905-1910), N.W. Jolly (1911-1918), E.H.F. Swain (1918-1932), V.A. Grenning (1932-1964), A.R. Trist (1964-1970), C. Haley (1970-1974), W. Bryan (1974-1981), J.A.J. Smart (1981-1985), J.J. Kelly (1985-1988), T. Ryan (1988-1993), N. Clough (1993-1995), T.N. Johnston (1995-1996), G.J. Bacon (1996-1998), and R.G. Beck (1998-).


Forestry in Queensland over the last 100 years has been driven by a commitment to environmental best practice.

The reason for this is simple, and was espoused by forestry leaders of early last century: if your livelihood depends on the forests, you look after them.

Last year was a milestone for DPI Forestry, which, after an exhaustive independent certification process, had its Environmental Management System certified to the International Standard ISO 14001.

DPI Forestry's environment management is first and foremost about sustainable forest management and production. 

Flow on benefits include assisting industry to gain competitive market advantages and improved risk management.

by Peter Holzworth

Archibald McDowall
Archibald McDowall

Richard M Hyne
Richard M Hyne

Many believe forest conservation began in the 1970s with the burgeoning conservation movement, but there were several men of conviction and influence in Queensland who fought and won the battle for forest conservancy in the 19th century.

Among them were Archibald McDowall, later to become the state's Surveyor-General, and Richard Hyne, businessman and politician.

The early history of the colony followed the usual processes of new settlement - survival and establishment, expansion and utilisation of natural resources and, finally, a growing awareness of the need for protection and better management of those resources.

During the early decades of settlement, the forests were essential in supplying the new colony with timber for housing, mining, fencing and the building of railways. The abundance of pine, red cedar and other hardwood seemed limitless. But much was wasted due to inaccessibility, transport problems, natural decay and the use of only the best logs from the fallen trees.

Concerns about the indiscriminate cutting of forests began to emerge in the 1860s and some timber regulations were introduced by the government, but these only provided low level controls on timber-getters. In any case, the government was committed to settlement and introduced Acts of Parliament in 1860 and 1868 allowing the private purchase of land for agriculture and pastoralism. This led to a greater reduction of the forests. 

Among the first voices to raise concern were those of the Acclimatisation Society of Queensland. In 1870, the society wrote to the Colonial Secretary about the over-cutting of forests, especially the effect such actions might have on climate, but the government was unmoved. 

In 1874, the Secretary of State for the Colonies sent a questionnaire on forestry matters to Walter Hill, head of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Hill responded by pointing out the wastage associated with poor logging practices and widespread ring-barking. 

The case against these practices was then taken up in 1875 by John Douglas, the parliamentary member for the timber town of Maryborough who called for a select committee to consider forest preservation, growth promotion and conservation of forests for utilitarian purposes. 

In that year, a Select Committee on Forest Conservancy deliberated on a number of these issues. It accepted evidence from many sources, including two Maryborough men, William Pettigrew and Robert Hart, both of whom had sawmilling interests. The committee made seven recommendations, but the government took little notice of most of them.

Argument and debate on forestry matters continued throughout the 1870s, but the timber industry had little political clout compared with that of the pastoral lobbyists. 

Enter Archibald McDowall. McDowall spent his early professional years (the 1860s) surveying in the Maranoa, Warrego and Kennedy districts, but it was during his time in the Maryborough-Wide Bay area that he made his presence felt in the debate over the best use of the state's forests.

And he did it in practical ways. While others had advocated logging restrictions, the introduction of forestry legislation and the increased reservation of productive forestry lands, McDowall - while in agreement with these sentiments - went a step further in promoting trial plantings, silvicultural practices in forests and many other forestry innovations.

McDowall carried out plantation experiments on Fraser Island from 1875 to 1885. His men cleared undergrowth around kauri pine seedlings and saplings to encourage greater growth. They also extended logging clearings in the scrub, planted them with kauri seedlings at set spacings and cleared narrow laneways through the scrub and planted them with seedlings as well. 

In addition to the experimental plantings, he prohibited licences to cut pine on the island in order to retain mature seed trees for future generations. He also introduced tree-marking and sale of logs at stump, both modern forestry practices. All this by 1889!

If Archibald McDowall saw forest conservancy largely from a forest guardianship and arboricultural perspective, Richard Matthews Hyne saw it as a necessary bulwark against declining resource availability for the timber industry in Queensland.

Hyne, from Maryborough, was deeply involved in local politics, his region's burgeoning timber industry and forest conservancy generally. He was not a government officer like McDowall but a successful businessman engaged in timber-getting. He also was the Member for Maryborough.

In 1889, Hyne introduced a successful motion in parliament that the government act on forest replanting and create a Department of Forestry. Although Hyne's motion was carried, no action ensued immediately. This was not the first mention of a forest overseeing body, as a select committee had recommended the call for a Forest Conservancy Board 14 years before - in 1875.

In 1890, the Queensland Government called for reports on forestry matters.

Commissioners who made recommendations on these reports included P. McLean, Under-Secretary for Agriculture; P. MacMahon, Curator of the Botanic Gardens; A. McDowall, Inspector of Surveys and former District Surveyor at Maryborough; and L. G. Board, Land Commissioner at Gympie and Maryborough.

The commissioners recommended a plan for forest management, emphasising three aspects:

* Conservancy - reservation and management of existing forests
* Regeneration - replanting and enriching production forests, and
* Extension - extending forests into treeless areas

A Forestry Branch was created in 1900 within the Department of Public Lands and Inspector of Forests Leonard Board was appointed.

From a forestry viewpoint this was a fitting conclusion to the 19th century and to the beginning of government-approved forest conservancy.


Forest Showroom, George Street, Brisbane 1939
The Queensland Government Forest Showroom in George Street, Brisbane, in 1939
Although most public relations of this type is now done by industry, DPI Forestry continues to promote timber as "the most environmentally-friendly building product"

The forest industry is one of the top 10 contributors to Queensland's economy and ranks as the state's seventh largest manufacturing sector. 

Industry segments include forest growing, log sawmilling, re-sawn and dressed timber processing, preservative treatment of timber, joinery and furniture manufacturing, paper and paperboard production, and reconstituted board manufacturing.

The industry is one of the main sources of employment in many regional centres and consists of around 400 sawmills and associated processing facilities that provide employment for more than 17,000 people. In economic terms, for every dollar spent on the raw timber resource, a further $11.30 is injected into Queensland's economy.

For every 10 jobs created directly by the industry, a further 8.5 jobs are created in the wider community. In direct terms, the annual value of the industry is estimated at $1.7 billion, however, when flow-on impacts are considered, this value rises to $3.3 billion.

(Source: Centre for Agricultural Economics, 1998.)


E H F Swain
Forestry's visionary: Edward Harold Fulcher Swain

The turning point for forestry in Australia has often been seen as one man, a rumbustious larger-than-life forest visionary, Edward Harold Fulcher Swain.

A New South Welshman by birth, Swain was made Director of Forests in Queensland in 1918 and served in that position until his dismissal in 1932.

At the time of Leonard Board's appointment as Queensland first Inspector of Forests in 1900, Swain already had a year under his belt with the Forestry Branch NSW Lands Department.

He spent 16 years in NSW before heading to the United States on a two-year self-funded trip to study American forestry.

Swain returned to take up the position of Forest Inspector at Gympie in 1916 and became the first senior forester to seriously question the use of European forest principles in Australia.

Appointed Queensland Director of Forests in 1918, Swain began his 14-year crusade to revolutionise as much of forestry as he could. 

He dictated the curriculum for the study of forestry in Queensland, writing silvicultural manuals based on Australia's climate rather than that of Europe's.

He set up Queensland's first forest nurseries.

He established some of Queensland's first plantations, including the lofty giants now surrounding the Glasshouse Mountains.

He saw forestry as a business to be managed on business principles.

He garnered enough support to set up the Queensland Forest Service as a department in its own right and then moved towards possibly his most memorable achievement - preventing the erasure of the magnificent hoop pine forests in the Mary and Brisbane valleys.

The pro-development Lands Department of the day was determined to clear these forests for the growing dairy industry, but Swain locked horned with the department's officialdom and won.

Swain was a brilliant thinker who did remarkable things for the conservation and management of forests in Queensland, but he worked with little fear or favour towards his political masters.

This attitude saw him at loggerheads with any number of elected and non-elected officials, and eventually proved his undoing.

When the State Government of the early 1930s wanted to open the hardwood forests of north Queensland for settlement, Swain played the role of conservationist and vehemently opposed the plan.

He claimed a Royal Commission for the Development of North Queensland was "rigged", and wrote a dissenting 200-page Royal Commission report himself.

Although his views were later endorsed by the Auditor-General and finally adopted by the government, Swain's political masters thought he had gone too far, and dismissed him, without compensation, four years before his contract was to expire.

Swain left Queensland to become NSW Commission of Forests for 13 years, and completed his career as a United Nations forestry consultant in Ethiopia until 1955.

E.H.F. Swain spent his retirement years in Queensland, the state he loved best, and died in 1970.


Few things have increased recreational visits to Queensland's forests over the past 100 years as much as the development of the motor car.

And, according to the Department of Natural Resources, more people camp in natural areas each year than attend the home games of the Bronco's, Bullets, Brisbane Lions and Queensland Reds combined. 

A recent DNR study confirms Queenslanders' attraction to natural landscapes, finding that 25 per cent of the south-east Queensland population over 15 years camp at least once a year. 

The study also shows that 51 per cent of the south-east Queensland population pleasure drive in state forests. 

Traditional family vehicles are the most frequent visitors. These make up around one-third of vehicles traversing our forests. Four wheel drives make up just one-fifth of the visitors. 

The Department of Natural Resources manages state forests to cater for the myriad of nature-based recreational activities that visitors enjoy

DNR Permits Officer Donna McCarther said most people who applied for a "permit to traverse" a state forest usually wanted somewhere to go to get away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

Permits are also required for nature-based cycling, horse riding, motorcycle riding and camping in most state forests in Queensland and can be obtained through regional DNR offices.

However, access to most day use areas, walking tracks and trails, and designated forest drives, does not require permits. 


Bushwalking at Coomera Gorge, Lamington National Park 1938
This family enjoyed a bushwalk at Coomera Gorge, in the Lamington National Park, in 1938

As well as recognising the 100th anniversary of the establishment of a Forestry Branch in Queensland, the National Parks Association of Queensland (the NPAQ) is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its establishment in 1930, under inaugural president, Mr Romeo W. Lahey.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there were a number of keen adventurers, bushwalkers and bird watchers exploring the mountains and scenery of south-east Queensland. Roads were little more than tracks and transport was by foot, train, milk and cattle trucks and, occasionally, private vehicles.

Through these activities, it was realised there was a necessity to preserve virgin areas of scenic beauty in their natural state for the enjoyment of future generations. 

As a result, legislation to establish national parks in Queensland was enacted in the early 1900s and the first national park was proclaimed on 28 March 1908 at Witches Falls, Mt Tamborine.

By 1930 the number of parks grew to 16 and, by 1940, investigations and submissions resulted in a further 123 terrestrial and marine national parks being proclaimed, due largely to a close association between the Queensland Forest Service and the fledgling NPAQ.

Not until later was the concept of preserving species and biodiversity understood and accepted. The need to retain species of flora and fauna and be aware of the surrounding environment is even more urgent today.

This has required the NPAQ to exercise a greater degree of vigilance in
monitoring both Commonwealth and state legislation to ensure it retains and protects world heritage areas and Australia's national identity.


Ron Beck
Executive Director, DPI Forestry, Ron Beck

Queensland celebrates 100 years of forestry this year. In what was one of the earliest formal recognitions of the need for forest management, the Queensland Government established a Forestry Branch in its Department of Public Lands in 1900.

Mr George Leonard Board, the then Land Commissioner for the Gympie, Maryborough, Bundaberg and Gladstone Districts, was appointed the state's first Inspector of Forests.

Known to all as Leonard Board, he took up his position on 1 August 1900.

In 2000 the Queensland Government agencies now managing forests in Queensland have planned a number of celebrations to commemorate Queensland's forest centenary. 

Community organisations have also joined the celebrations. These events include public displays and community activities in Brisbane and throughout Queensland.

Present-day DPI Forestry Executive Director Ron Beck said the range and nature of state government forestry functions had continued to evolve and develop and today were managed by DPI Forestry, the Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of State Development.

"These agencies, together with the timber industry, forest industry workers and the broader community have been key players in the developing relationship between government, industry and the community during the past 100 years.

"This 100th anniversary provides Queensland with an avenue by which we can pay tribute to the early architects of the forest and timber industry and those who have progressed the profession down the years.

"Their vision, enthusiasm, innovation and downright hard work created a multi-million dollar industry which is essential to the health of the Queensland economy," Mr Beck said. 

Mr Beck said it was his privilege to head DPI Forestry as it entered the next 100 years.

"It will be difficult to fill the shoes of our pioneering giants, but they have shown us what can be achieved through commitment and a sense of purpose," he said.


Curtis Falls in Tamborine National Park 1937
A young bushwalker enjoys Curtis Falls in Tamborine National Park in 1937

As well as 100 years of forestry, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The Service was formed on 5 June 1975 under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.

It combined the National Parks Branch of the then Department of Forestry and the Fauna Conservation Branch of the Department of Primary Industries and created a single government authority responsible for conserving native plants and animals and areas of scenic, historic and scientific interest. 

The Service's lineage, however, can be traced to the 19th century.

In 1878 Tamrookum pastoralists Robert Martin Collins and his brother William visited the United States Robert and were impressed by the world's first national park, Yellowstone National Park, created in 1872. 

As a member of Queensland Parliament (from 1896 to 1899) and Queensland President of the Australian Royal Geographical Society, Robert Collins campaigned to reserve scenic areas of the McPherson Ranges he could see from his home.

His lobbying proved successful and the government accepted the national park concept, passing the State Forests and National Parks Act in 1906.

The early 1900s also saw local councillors Syd Curtis and Joseph Delpratt became alarmed at the amount of clearing taking place on Tamborine Mountain. 

On 15 June 1907 the council recommended that a part of the mountain be set apart as a reserve and on 28 March 1908 Witches Falls National Park became Queensland's first national park.

Later the same year a halt was declared in clearing the dense forests along the top of the Bunya Mountains when Bunya Mountains National Park was declared.

On 31 July 1915 an area of 47,000 acres (19,000 ha) in the McPherson Ranges was reserved as Lamington National Park, thanks to Collins' foresight and the efforts of a young engineer Romeo Watkins Lahey, from a Canungra sawmilling family.

Lahey convinced the Lands Minister that a large reservation in the rugged area would have more benefits to the community than logging and clearing and spread the national park concept more widely when he became the founding president of the National Parks Association of Queensland in 1930.

Over the years, the Forestry Department had a small but very dedicated staff working on national parks. A handful of rangers was responsible for managing and protecting parks often many miles apart and they struggled to do their job effectively.

Fortunately, foresters always had an eye out for the best of nature and landscape and identified and recommended scores of areas large and small to be added to the slowly growing Queensland national park tenure.

Today's Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is responsible for managing 212 national parks covering 6,623,648 ha or about 3.8 percent of Queensland.

by Peter Holzworth, Ian Hatcher, and Kieran Lewis

William Pettigrew  
William Pettigrew, who set up Queensland's first modern sawmill on the banks of the Brisbane River in 1852


Tins of tubed hoop pine seedlings - Imbil
Tins of tubed hoop pine seedlings ready for transporting to Queensland's first major native conifer plantations

Log punting McKenzie's Jetty Fraser Island 1929
Log punting at McKenzie's Jetty on Fraser Island in 1929. Fraser Island was the site of early exotic pine plantations in Queensland

Steam tractor hauls hoop pine
A steam tractor hauls sawn hoop pine from a Benarkin sawmill, c. 1923

Steam logs for veneer production
Steaming logs for veneer production at Brisbane Sawmills in 1932. 
There were 600 licensed sawmills in Queensland in the 1930s. (There are about 400 today)

In 1823, Surveyor-General John Oxley sailed into the Brisbane River and saw "timber...of great abundance". Just 17 years later, following a time as a penal depot, free settlers began to colonise areas to the north and west of Brisbane.

Much timber was needed in the colony for housing, boat-building, fencing, and other development and forests were logged for pine, cedar and other hardwoods.

William Pettigrew contributed to the production of sawn timber for the burgeoning colony by opening the first sawmill in Brisbane in 1852 and his name has become synonymous with the start of a genuine forest and timber industry in Queensland.

The Queensland Government proclaimed its first timber regulations in 1860 with the accompanying threat of seizure of logs if timber-getters were found not to be complying with the regulations. The first timber reserves were gazetted in 1870. 

Archibald McDowall became a strong advocate of forest conservancy around this time. A district surveyor at Maryborough and later Surveyor-General of Queensland, McDowall showed great vision on many forestry issues, foreshadowing later forest management practices and the drive for forested land reservation. 

A Forestry Branch was created in 1900 in the Department of Public Lands and an Inspector of Forests, George Leonard Board, was appointed, along with two forest rangers in supporting field roles.

At the time of Board's appointment, the area of forest reservation in Queensland was about a million and a half acres. Within two years, this had doubled and, by the end of 1904, the figure had risen to well over three and a half million acres.

The extent of the forest estate was rapidly increasing but exploitation of Queensland's forests for timber continued.

A further positive move in the first decade of this century was the enactment of the State Forests and National Parks Act of 1906. Effective from 1907, Crown lands for the first time could be reserved as state forests or national parks. 

In 1908 Queensland's first national parks were declared at the Bunya Mountains and Mt Tamborine. 

In 1911, under new Director of Forests N. W. Jolly, the need for a "determination of annual permissible cut" was proclaimed. This was formalised in 1926 when the Forestry Branch regulated the amount of timber that could be cut by the industry in state forests and timber reserves.

During the tenure of Jolly, from 1911 to 1918, forestry began to take on a professional image for the first time. The seeds of a new "Forestry" were being sown - forest inventory surveys, yield calculation, silvicultural research trials, timber technology and rudimentary fire protection. 

The early exploitation of the forests had diminished the "great abundance" of Oxley's day, but forest management changes about to be made by modern foresters and rangers were to redress the imbalance. 

Strict rules covering the logging of hardwood forests were introduced in 1937, based on sound silvicultural principles and with the goal of maintaining sustainable harvesting of the hardwood needed to meet the growing demand of the construction industry.

The plywood industry began during the First World War. By 1926, there were eight plywood plants in the state, using six million super feet of timber, mostly hoop pine. The Sawmill Licensing Act was passed in 1936 regulating the sawmilling industry when there were 600 sawmills registered in the state.

During the Depression of the early 1930s, various relief programs were provided to save people from the dole. During World War II, massive quantities of timber were cut for the war effort and the industry was declared an essential industry.

The beginning of Queensland's enormously successful native conifer planting program began in the 1920s. The early plantations were of native species such as hoop pine, which required very fertile sites also in demand for agriculture and settlement.

Those first plantations were seeded by the newly-named Queensland Forest Service in 1920-21 and were mostly hoop and bunya pine. The Mary Valley, the Brisbane Valley and far north Queensland were destined to become the principal centres for growing these conifers.

Ten years after the native conifer plantation program began, the Queensland Forest Service began its exotic pine program. Early plantings of pinus species occurred at Fraser Island, Atherton and Imbil.

Forest conservators N.W. Jolly and E.H.F. Swain played pivotal roles in the development of these plantations. 

Swain's use of matching species around the world, using similar climatic patterns, was very successful in identifying slash (Pinus elliottii) and loblolly (Pinus taeda) pines as being suitable for Queensland. 

Caribbean pine (Pinus caribaea) would show great promise in trials in the mid-1970s, becoming successful north of Beerburrum.

From 1945, various Queensland governments actively supported a freeholding policy that allowed private citizens to purchase and clear large tracts of Crown land for agricultural production.

The Forestry Department, as it had then become, challenged many freehold applications and was successful in retaining vast areas, some tens of thousands of hectares, for state forests.

But it was a fundamental legislative change that occurred in 1959, the promulgation of the Forestry Act, which has been the driving force behind forest management in modern times.

Among other things, the Forestry Act enshrined cardinal principles of forest management including the permanent reservation of forests, the perpetual production of timber and associated products, and the necessity for soil and environment conservation and water quality protection. 

For some, however, these safeguards were not enough, with sections of the community seeing forests as having values and uses beyond timber production. This came to head in the battle over management of the wet tropics of north Queensland in the 1980s and 1990s. 

Struggles for stewardship of the forest estate became militant, vociferous and widespread, leading to other confrontations at Fraser Island and in the Conondale Ranges.

The Regional Forest Agreement negotiations of the late 1990s, however, brought a return of balanced decision-making based more on science and knowledge than rhetoric and emotion. Queensland's forest stakeholder agreement, covering native forests in south-east Queensland, is widely accepted as a productive model for the future of the forest and timber industry.

Other important dates for modern forestry in Queensland included 1975, when an entire section of the Forestry Department became the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service (which this year celebrates its 25th year), and 1996, with the formation of the Department of Natural Resources, which now has regulatory control of Queensland's forests.


Lynch sisters 1800's
The four Lynch sisters, Mary, Kate, Nell and Rose, toil in forests near Gympie in the late 1800s 
(John Oxley Library photograph)

Colonial home
An early colonial home - forestry womenfolk provided for their families in primitive conditions

No story about forestry in Queensland would be complete without mention of the essential role played by women down the years.

Settlers who forged their way through deep timber often did so with their families in tow. 

It was the women, often just young girls, who raised and educated children, provided for the family, worked at making a home out of a slab hut with dirt floors, and gave essential medical aid, all with virtually no money or home comforts, and miles from the nearest settlements.

But home duties were not the only contribution of the women of the woods. Many worked as hard cutting timber as the males in their families.

An example of the indefatigable spirit of these early women is the four Lynch sisters, Mary, Kate, Nell and Rose, who were daughters of Irish immigrant Cornelius Lynch.

Cornelius set up a cattle property near Gympie in the late 1800s and, being a timber-cutter, taught his daughters to clear and fell pine and hardwood mill logs, drive bullock teams, carry out contract fencing and cart wood for the Gympie mines.

The women worked hard and were much in demand for they were sober, industrious and stood no nonsense. One stranger who made an unseemly remark found himself dragged from his horse and thoroughly rolled in a mudhole.

They were proud, too, in the way of the Irish. A neighbour once noticed them working hatless and bought hats for each of the girls. Next time he drove by he saw the hats nailed to a fence post. They would take no charity.

The girls made a good living cutting hoop pine in the early 1900s and when timber became scarce near Gympie they moved to the Nanango and Kingaroy districts. A bill of sale for this era shows 23,000 feet of timber sold for 6/14/5d (around $13.45).

The sisters worked with their cross saws and axes in the Bunya Mountains and always dressed in long black dresses when they were working.

What these women did was not only hard physical labour demanding strength and endurance, but it was conducted under primitive living conditions. They were often the only women in the large logging camps and their accommodation was a tent.

When opening up new areas, the sisters firstly had to clear tracks so that the horse and bullock teams could get to where the timber was cut.

The sisters were the subject of an article in The Sunday Mail of 7 December 1975. Author Nev Hauritz quoted two men who worked with the sisters, Charlie Birch and "Brigalow" Masden. 

Both men were around 80 years old then, but still had vivid memories of the Lynches. They recalled "good looking women who were a match for the male cutters".

But the four-sister felling team disbanded when some of the girls married.

Cutting a tree

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The State of Queensland, 1996-2002


Queensland forest history
(Queensland forestry history) An alien workforce
(Queensland forest history) Board introduces a century of forestry
(Queensland forest history) Forest conservation started in the 19th century
(Queensland forest history) National parks grew from bush exploration