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MELBOURNE to OTTAWA, CANADA LETTERS: MUTUAL FORESTRY INTERESTS

Three covers appeared on Ebay demonstrating a mutual interest in forestry both in Australia and Canada. The first cover was a spectacular advertising cover from a commercial firm with a fine franking in red, the advertisement showing a pictorial stand of trees and the text of ‘INVEST IN TREES, Your Money Grows, Afforestation (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., 413 Collins St. Melbourne’, associated with a double circle MELBOURNE/ 2 V 32/ VIC and 2 copies of the POSTAGE PAID 1d W7 AUSTRALIA printed stamp. It was addressed to the Manager, Canadian Foresty Association, P.O. Box 746, OTTAWA, CANADA (Figure 1).

The reverse shows a return address to Afforestation (Aust.) Pty . Ltd., 413 Collins Street, Melbourne as well as a crowd of trees and the text ‘Money in Trees, TIMBER IS A GOOD ASSET’ (Figure 2).

The second cover has an On His Majesty’s Service, two penny red KGV Head stamp with an ‘OS’ overprint which is cancelled with a roller cancel of MELBOURNE/ 11 PM/ 2 NOV/ 1932/ VIC. as well as a slogan cancellation of ‘PREVENT/ BUSH FIRES. The sender was identified as the Secretary, Forests Commission, Melbourne C.2. It is addressed to The Manager, Canadian Forestry Association, 51 Sparks Street, OTTAWA, Canada, and the reverse was not seen (Figure 3).

The third cover was ‘On His Majesty’s Service and the red two penny KGV Head stamp was perfined ‘VG’ (Victoria Government) and it was cancelled with a MELBOURNE/ 11 PM/ 31 MAY/ 1933/ VICTORIA roller cancel together with a slogan ‘POST EARLY/ EACH DAY. The cover was addressed to Me. R. Black, Manager, Canadian Forestry Association, Ottawa, Canada. The return address was Secretary, Forests Commission, Melbourne, C2., and the reverse was not seen ( Figure 4).

The Trove Newspapers for Victoria was not a good source for information on the Forests Commission, Melbourne, but I did learn from an item in The Argus (Melbourne) 11 June 1930, page 11 that the chairman of the Forests Commission was a Mr. A.V. Galbraith and that the Commission had available for distribution at a nominal charge large numbers of healthy and well grown seedlings of Pinus insignis in an attempt to stimulate re-forestation and using trees for windbreaks, as they were quick growing in the Western District and other parts of Victoria (Figure 5).

Little did I suspect how contentious this subject was, not only between the Australian States but also between the States and the Federal Government, until I came across a single website that was difficult to distill the vast research to obtain the essence of the information in a few pages. The website was termed "A history of forestry education in Victoria, 1910-1980, accredited for Home School Grades 6-12! What follows is probably a failing grade of a summary of some highlights. The year 2010 was the centenary of the School of Forestry at Creswick, and the document examines some events, personalities and the dueling for supremacy in the forestry industry by the University of Melbourne and the School at Creswick, from 1910 until the Creswick and University of Melbourne courses were amalgamated in a 4-year degree in 1980. I admit that the emphasis of my paper is slanted towards the involvement of the Forests Commission of Victoria in the training of Victorian foresters.

The choice of Creswick as the location for the Victorian School of Forestry was interesting in that, apart from the presence of a government nursery raising seedlings for mine site rehabilitation, a nearby forest reserve and small areas of plantation in the region no substantial forest operated in the region. The necessity to keep the costs to a minimum appears to be central to the school’s founding principles driven by the availability of a vacant goldfield hospital in the town suitable for the running of the course as by having instruction delivered by the staff of the Ballarat School of Mines due to the difficulty and cost of obtaining teachers . Complete control of the school fell under the State government Forest Department (later the Forests Commission of Victoria). The initial intakes for the 3-year Diploma course never numbered more than 7 students and averaged 4 per year. A broad range of science subjects were taught (botany, chemistrey, geology, maths and surveying) and they were given supervised practical training in nursery, plantations and forest operations. A.J. Ewart, professor of Botany at Melbourne University was chairman of the Board of Examiners.

In 1916 at the Third Interstate Forestry Conference in Adelaide discussions covered the possible establishment of a National Centre for Forestry Training. By 1920 the Forests Commission of Victoria appeared to be in favour of a national centre of forestry training and was seemingly amenable to its location outside Victoria. The lack of a qualified instructor in Forestry noted from 1916 resulted in a senior master of the school, Mr. C. E. Carter, being sent to Yale University in the U.S. in 1920. Returning with a Master of Forestry, in 1923 he resumed duty as Headmaster of the Creswick School and he immediately restructured the forestry curriculum.

In 1927, the Australian Forestry School opened in Canberra as the national training centre for forestry. Despite initial support from Victoria, and supplying students for training, significant differences arose between Victoria and the Federal Government, mostly around Victoria’s determination to continue support for Creswell to supply forestry-trained staff for its own State needs. Charles Lane Poole, principal of the Australian Forestry School and Commonwealth Forestry Advisor, was critical of Creswick’s standards and the quality of students it produced.

Conflict reached such a level that Lane Poole denigrated Creswick as a ‘mere woodsman’s school. Carter’s forestry training at Yale and his appointment as principal, plus redesign of the course to give a scientific basis to Victorian forestry training and management probably protected the Creswick school from early closure. Subsequently the Forests Commission of Victoria withdrew its support for the Australian Forestry School and sponsored no students after 1931, electing instead to sponsor selected Creswick graduates to complete a Bachelor of Science at Melbourne University, the Creswell students being allowed an exemption for their first year.

Forestry ceased as an undergraduate course at the University of Melbourne when the final student cohort completed study in 2009, and in 2008 it had become a master’s level course. Entry to this course required a bachelor’s degree with subjects such as chemistry, botany and geology. In 1934 the Forests Commission of Victoria created its own professional body, the Victorian State Foresters Association. In time the Australian Federal Forestry graduates were employed in most States, except in Victoria, where only Creswick graduates were appointed. I have stopped excerpting information in the 1930's for this was the time period of the 2 O.H.M.S. covers sent from the Forests Commission of Victoria. I could find no direct association between the Canadian Forestry Association in Ottawa and that of Victoria.

 

 
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