02 May 2016

Talking about trees - what ACT Forestry workers had to say in the mid 90s

In 1994 and 1995, historian Brendan O’Keefe conducted ten oral history interviews for a project titled A Social and Economic History of Forestry within the ACT.

Aerial view of cleaning in Hall’s Block, Uriarra Forest, 17/10/1951.
Image Source:
ACT Heritage Library image 009386

The interview subjects were men who had who had worked at ACT Forestry and the project was supported by funding from the
ACT Heritage Grants Program. These interviews give a fascinating and informative insight into the history of forests and forestry in the ACT.

Among the interview subjects is Bill Bates, a former Forestry Overseer at Uriarra Forest, who clocked up nearly 50 years services with ACT Forests.

Professor Lindsay Pryor, a former student of the Australian Forestry School in Canberra, was also interviewed. Professor Pryor was appointed Foundation Professor of Botany at the Australian National University (ANU) in 1958 and made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 1983 for Services to Botanical Science.

Australian Forestry School, corner of Banks and Schlich Streets, Yarralumla, 1951.
Image Source:
ACT Heritage Library image 009132

It was believed that the original recordings of the interviews were lost in the 2003 Canberra bushfires; however, the interview transcripts were recently lodged with the ACT Heritage Library and are now available to be viewed by the public.

Researchers and interested members of the public can access these transcripts by visiting the ACT Heritage Library. Alternatively, they are available as PDF files for download via the Social and Economic History of Forestry within the ACT collection on the ACT Heritage Library website.

Want to know more about the history of forestry in the ACT? The ACT Heritage Library holds a number of interesting items, including