University Environmental Historians view NPA’s Understorey

Janine Kitson, NPA member

NPA’s film Understorey was recently screened to environmental historians from universities around the country, at the Australian Historical Association Conference, held at the Australian National University in July, 2018.

Tom Griffiths, Professor of History and Director of the Centre for Environmental History at the School of History, Australian National University organized a viewing of Understorey to open the conference’s environmental history “Green Theme”.   Tom Griffith is a noted prize winning environmental historian and has a special affinity for Victoria’s old growth forests, as told in his book Forests of Ash: An Environmental History (2001).

Professor Tom Griffith said he was “thrilled and honoured” to have David Gallan, President of NPA’s Far South Coast Branch and Director of Understorey, attend and introduce the film to not only an audience of eminent environmental historians from around the country, but also to members of the NPA living in Canberra and on the South Coast who travelled to attend the event.

David Gallan highlighted the urgency to oppose the Regional Forest Agreements that allow the spiraling extinction of Australia’s wildlife that is dependent on forest habitat.

A panel of speakers discussed the film including the respected academics and historians Professor Mark McKenna, from the University of Sydney; John Blay, writer and naturalist and author of On Track: Searching out the Bundian Way; and Fiona Firth, PhD Candidate. Fiona shared her research into the role of indomitable women who spent their lives writing letters and pestering politicians to demand they protect their magnificent old growth forests.

The event finished with NPA hosting a reception where environmental historians and NPA members met and talked about how they could work with each other to end outdated and destructive extractive industries – such as industrial forestry. This industry has shattered the environment at a critical time, when all the indicators of planetary health are in decline in what environmental historians describe as the ‘Age of the Anthropocene’.

The documentary film Understorey tells the story of the South East forest battles that began when approval was given to the Japanese company Daishowa to build its export woodchip mill at Eden in 1969.  Locals soon became aware of just how voracious and destructive industrial logging for wood chipping was and feared for their pristine old growth forests, particularly in the Tantawangalo and Coolangubra forest catchments, near Bombala.

NPA Past President, Anne Reeves well remembers the South East Forest campaign, and how many from Sydney and further afield rallied to its support, and even her own experience of being arrested.

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