- By Fiona Brand

As a member of the Canberra Community I acknowledge we are meeting on Ngunnawal land.

As a member of the National Parks Association of the ACT I’ve been asked to tell you briefly the history of the formation of Namadgi National Park.

The history of the formation of national parks worldwide shows that there are three necessary elements. First, someone has to recognise that a certain area is so environmentally valuable that it must be kept for future generations. Secondly, a group who share the vision, form around this person and idea and demonstrate the staying power to lobby governments for as many years as it takes. Thirdly, there has to be political will to eventually legislate to declare the national park.

These three elements are in the story of the foundation of Namadgi National Park.

Dr. Nancy Burbidge, a botanist at CSIRO and a member of the Royal Society which was lobbying for Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, arranged in 1959 an exhibition of the nature photography of Edric Slater of CSIRO. Nancy wanted to ‘test the waters’ to see if the people of Canberra were interested in the natural environment and the idea of forming a National Parks Association which could lobby for a national park in the ACT.

A large number of people viewed the exhibition and expressed interest, so Nancy with several CSIRO colleagues and Prof. Pryor of the Forestry School, called a meeting at the Institute of Anatomy in early March 1960. The meeting was well attended and a committee was appointed to found a National Parks Association of the ACT with the aim to gain ‘A National Park for the National Capital’.

To educate the NPA’s consistent membership of several hundreds and the Canberra community about the environmental values in the ACT, the association has over the years always conducted bush walks and outings each weekend, has researched for and written proposals for reserves like Molonglo Gorge. From time to time the association has organized poster and essay competitions in the ACT schools and has had information stalls at events in Canberra. It has published books about the flora and fauna in the ACT, and actually the book ‘Native Trees of the ACT’ is about to be reprinted. NPA co-operates with like-minded groups like the Canberra Bushwalkers.

The NPA committee in 1962 authorized Dr Robert Story, Julie Henry and myself to investigate the bushland around Mt Kelly to see if that area was suitable as a national park. The Alpine Club had a bushwalk to Mt Kelly on their autumn programme so we joined this party led by Allan Bagnall. We walked over the paddocks of the Boboyan Valley, climbed into the forested hills between Mt Gudgenby and Mt Scabby and followed sparkling Sams Creeks to the foot of Mt Kelly where we camped overnight. We climbed Mt Kelly which is 6000 ft high and the views all round over mountain ranges and valleys and to the Long Plain and mountains of Kosciusko National Park convinced us that this piece of beautiful alpine country must be a national park for all future generations.

Julie and Robert wrote the proposal for a modest sized national park, calling upon CSIRO and ANU experts to add their information. The proposal, with maps and photographs was presented to the Minister for the Interior Mr Gordon Freeth in 1963 and the association awaited the result.

It proved to be a long wait, but the committees patiently presented the proposal to each succeeding Minister for the Interior. None of them said the proposal was nonsense, but they said money was not available for such a proposal. Fortunately, there was goodwill within the Minister’s department and over the years sympathetic public servants added pieces of land to the original proposal, and the Gudgenby Nature Reserve of 51,000 hectares was declared in 1979 by the Minister Bob Ellicott.

In the year 1983 Mr Tom Uren was appointed Minister for the Territories and Local Government, and he agreed to accompany the NPA committee led by Den Robin, vice president, and Neville Esau, past president, out into the proposed national park area. Mr Uren was and is a great environmentalist and when he saw the beautiful mountains and valleys he said of course the area has to be a national park. The Namadgi National Park was gazetted in 1984. Political will had given the community what it had been seeking for 21 years.

The community-based National Parks Association has always worked mentally and physically with the Park Service. It has been a watchdog and barked when events occurred not to its liking, but always praising good management and good managers.

We grieve with the Park Service at the destruction caused by bush fires last year and honour Brett McNamara and his rangers and park workers for their bravery in fighting the fires and managing the after effects.

May the Canberra community have Namadgi National Park at its backdoor for centuries to come and may the Namadgi Advisory Board and Park Service manage it well.

There is also an earlier Presentation to the Interim Namadgi Board in 2003.

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