Our Founder – Bob Brown

Last updated 19 Feb 2018 

Bob Brown made the huge leap of faith that brought Bush Heritage Australia into being in 1990. Two blocks of forest adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area were put up for sale. They were marketed as 'ideal for woodchipping'.

Dr Bob Brown in the Liffey Valley, Tasmania. Photo Peter Morris.
Dr Bob Brown in the Liffey Valley, Tasmania. Photo Peter Morris.
“I was walking high above two beautiful bush blocks that had come up for sale and that logging companies were keen to buy. I thought about what might happen if someone didn’t protect that land. I imagined a scene of grey tree skeletons and burning stumps.
"I walked through a gully dense with rainforest and carpeted by ferns. A small creek bubbled away nearby. I found some hand-worked shards of stone – a reminder of the Aboriginal people who’d been going there for thousands of years, to enjoy the morning sun. I felt a connection with humanity that stretched back to generations past, and forward to generations yet to come.  I couldn’t stand by and watch that spirit die." – Bob Brown

Bob used $49,000 awarded to him as recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize as a down payment on the land, borrowing the rest from friends and the bank. The campaign to pay off the remaining $200,000 loan was the birth of The Australian Bush Heritage Fund and that land is now our Liffey River and Dry's Bluff Reserves, parts of which are UN World Heritage Listed!

Bob Brown is dwarfed by tree ferns at our Liffey Valley Reserves. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
Bob Brown is dwarfed by tree ferns at our Liffey Valley Reserves. Photo Annette Ruzicka.
This was indeed a courageous move. No organisation existed that was dedicated to conserving and managing private land. There was no guarantee the funds could be recouped.

Bob talked about the Nature Conservancy in the US and predicted that such a large, national organisation dedicated to securing high-conservation value private land could work in Australia. People wanted to donate where they could see a result in real terms, he declared.

And so it began. Bob’s scribbled IOUs and grand ideas were converted into the Australian Bush Heritage Fund. Those involved on the Board and as staff members in the early years soon discovered he would be a hard taskmaster, forever pushing towards the dream. 

Bob's house on what is now our Oura Oura Reserve. Photo Al Dermer.
Bob's house on what is now our Oura Oura Reserve. Photo Al Dermer.
Once they knew they could pay off the debt, Bob urged expansion to employ staff, to make a new purchase, then another, and then to an official presence outside Tasmania.

Bush Heritage is one of Bob’s many babies, now grown into a life of its own. His sheer audacity of thought and action brought this organisation into being. Bob was our President until 1996 and a Board Member until 1997.

In March 2011, the then Senator Bob Brown formally presented his Tasmanian property 'Oura Oura' to Bush Heritage Australia.

The 14-hectare parcel of land is not just environmentally significant, but also played an important role in the history of the Australian conservation movement. Over the years the cottage hosted formative meetings of Bush Heritage Australia, The Wilderness Society, the Tasmanian and Australian Greens, and the Franklin River Campaign.

 
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