Seminar by Brett Bennett
Tuesday 29th June, 5-6pm
Lecture Theatre, Forestry Building (48) Linnaeus Way (comes off Daley Road)
Charles Lane Poole (1885-1970) and Edward Harold Swain (1883-1970) are perhaps the two most influential foresters in Australia’s history. Born in Britain and trained in France, Lane Poole served as the conservator of forests in Western Australia from 1916-1921 and as the principal of the Australian Forestry School and the inspector general of forests for the Commonwealth government from 1927-1945. A patriotic and idiosyncratic Australian, Swain served as the chairman of the forestry board in Queensland from 1924-1931 and as the forestry commissioner of New South Wales from 1935-1948. Both men had strong and often conflicting views about forestry education, silviculture, management, and economics.
Swain sought to make an Australian forestry suited to its unique climate, culture, and socio-economic conditions. Lane Poole tried to remake a continental European and British imperial forestry tradition in Australia that emphasized a strict professional training and a conservation program based upon the management of existing forests. In many ways, Lane Poole’s professionalism won out over Swain’s bold vision, but over time Swain’s assessments about Australian forestry proved to be a more accurate predictor of the direction that forestry and Australian society would take in the 1950s until the present day. But in spite of his professional success, Lane Poole failed to achieve his single goal to centralize research and forestry policy within the federal government. His failure and vision still reverberates with Australian forestry to this day.
I argue that we can use the historic examples of Lane Poole and Swain to better situate the present and future of Australian forestry. Many of the problems they identified still remain today, and their ideas can provide us new ways of thinking about old problems.
Brett Bennett is currently a PhD candidate in history at the University of Texas at Austin and a visiting resident in the Centre for Environmental History at the Australian National University. In 2011 he will take up a position as lecturer in modern history at the University of Western Sydney. He has published widely on forestry history in Australia, India, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. His masters thesis and article in the May 2009 issue of Environment and History explored the founding of the Australian Forestry School. Most recently he wrote an editorial in the 28 April Canberra Times calling for the protection of the former school buildings.