A powerful voice for nature
Originally the Colong Committee, Wilderness Australia was founded in 1968 by a fraternity of bushwalkers, cavers and cartographers who were concerned about plans to mine spectacular limestone caves on the Southern Blue mountains.
Unwilling to let a spectacular reserve be destroyed, a young environmentalist named Milo Dunphy organised a meeting of over 50 conservation societies at Sydney University Union Hall to rally opposition to the planned mine.
The then Colong Committee was established that night and tasked itself with preventing these caves from being quarried and crushed for cement. What followed was Australia’s first major wilderness conservation campaign, and Australia's first shareholder-based corporate campaign. We won!
The Colong Cave's campaign had favourable media attention, and convinced the state government to revoke the lease. The campaign seriously disrupted the operations of Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers holding the lease, when the Colong Committee bought up a parcel of shares and distributed them singly to hundreds of supporters who attended the company’s Annual General Meetings. In 1972, the company withdrew its mining application and our organisation renamed itself to the Colong Foundation for Wilderness.
Today, more than fifty years after our conception, we have again changed our name to Wilderness Australia and are a tireless and resolute advocate for our nation’s wilderness; achieving results when our native forests, wild rivers and precious wildlife need a powerful voice.
Preserving wild places for good
Together with businesses, other non-profits, Governments and passionate supporters like you, we’ve delivered some exceptional outcomes for Australia’s wild places:
- We sought wilderness management for South West Tasmania, Kakadu, Hinchinbrook Island, Daintree and national parks in Victoria.
- We successfully campaigned for the reservation of Lithgow’s Gardens of Stone, the Border Ranges National Park and Kakadu National Park.
- We played a leading role in realising Myles Dunphy's plan for a Greater Blue Mountains National Park, as well as spearheaded the successful campaign for its World Heritage listing.
- Our proposal for a Wilderness Act was accepted by the NSW Government in 1987. Through this legislation, we’ve helped protect more than 2 million hectares of Wilderness in NSW.
The protection of these vibrant, flourishing and pristine tracts of wild country is now helping: to preserve habitat for native plant and animal species; to sustain ecosystems that, in some instances, have continued largely unchanged since the age of the dinosaurs; and to protect sacred sites, story places from the Dreamtime, and the surviving archaeological remains of the First Australians - the oldest, living culture on the planet.
Photo credit: Ian Brown
The Boyd Plateau
Photo credit: Henry Gold
In 1968, the NSW Forestry Commission slated the Boyd plateau for logging to make way for a pine plantation; in effect, destroying sub-alpine forests providing habitat for rare and threatened animals like the tiger quoll, as well as plant species like the Brown Barrel, Snow and Ribbon Gum.
At a time when our campaign to save the Colong Caves was still underway, we launched a second, full-scale campaign to save this important native forest from the chainsaw and axe.
By creating and distributing the informative, beautifully illustrated publications that provided the backbone of the Parliamentary debate, we succeeded in keeping the conservation of this wilderness area in the consciousness of Parliamentarians at the state and federal level.
In 1975, after a seven-year campaign, the Minister for Lands and Forests – John Mason – announced there would be no planting of pines on the Boyd, bringing a successful end to our committed campaign to preserve this unique wilderness area.
The Border Ranges
The year of 1975 saw the NSW Forestry Commission announce its intention to construct a logging road onto Lever’s Plateau; a place inhabited by a number of threatened animal species like the Doubleeyed Fig Parrot, the Eastern Bristlebird, and the Marbled Frogmouth.
So, Wilderness Australia released a National Park proposal that would encompass the whole of Wiangarie, Roseberry and Mt Lindesay State Forests – it received strong support from other conservation groups.
By far the most important action in achieving publicity was enlisting the Sydney Morning Herald’s environmental writer, Joseph Glascott, to write about the campaign to protect the Border Ranges. He received a number of awards for the excellence of his reporting on this issue.
In 1982, after a long campaign by Wilderness Australia and our campaign partners, the Wran Government protected these rainforest areas in the Border Ranges National Park; World Heritage status as part of the Gondwana Rainforests soon followed in 1986.
Photo credit: Dave Noble
After it was discovered that plans were underway to dam the Colo River and build a power station on Newnes Plateau, a campaign formed to protect the Colo-Hunter Wilderness – New South Wales’ largest wilderness area – by having it gazetted as a National Park.
Wilderness Australia, our campaign partners and individuals who share our love for nature, like Dick Smith, joined the cause.
We distributed educational publications to raise awareness about this issue, showcasing the beauty and grandeur of the wilderness area. These efforts inspired key decision makers to protect this ancient, spectacular wilderness area.
In 1994, Park Ranger, David Noble’s incredible discovery that a species of tree thought to have been extinct for two million years, the Wollemi Pine, was alive and native to this area helped turn the tide of this campaign.
This ‘pinosaur with Jurassic bark’, which was more than 65 million-years old, captured the imagination of the world and formed a strong case for the protection of this wilderness area. This discovery spurred the reservation of this 362,000 hectare wilderness.
The Gardens of Stone
Photo credit: Henry Gold
In mid-1984, evidence surfaced that mining operations in Angus Place Colliery were causing rock falls on cliffs and cracks and fissures in this area’s distinctive ‘pagodas’; rock pinnacles containing resistant ironstone layers that, over the passage of time, have weathered out of the surrounding sandstone to form spectacular geological formations.
At a time when mining seriously threatened beautiful canyons, endangered swamps and globally significant rock pagodas, supporters like you allowed us to stand up for the protection of this spectacular landscape.
For thirty years, Wilderness Australia's Director, Keith Muir, worked relentlessly – hand-in-hand with the Gardens of Stone Alliance and the Blue Mountains Conservation society – to keep this important campaign alive.
Finally, in 2021, the NSW Government announced the 28,000-hectare Gardens of Stone State Conservation Area, ensuring the safety of at least 84 threatened plant and animal species, including the rare Giant Dragonfly.
The Greater Blue Mountains National Park
Photo credit: Henry Gold
Under Keith Muir’s leadership, we initiated, organized and conducted a ten-year campaign to see the Blue Mountains’ declared as a World Heritage Area.
Alex Colley, while working as our Honorary Secretary, had the idea to nominate the Blue Mountains as a World Heritage site and commissioned Geoff Mosley to compile a proposal in the form of a book, Blue Mountains for World Heritage, which was published in 1989.
Our nomination showed that local forests contain 91 species of eucalypt (accounting for 13 per cent of those worldwide), and that the Blue Mountains protects habitat of many endangered animals. To demonstrate its importance and significance, we secured secured support for the listing from eminent scientists of botany, plant ecology and biology, including Professor Sir Robert May, AC, President-elect of The Royal Society and Emeritus Professor Ralph Slatyer AC of the Australian National University, former chair of the World Heritage Committee.
In 2000, the Kanangara-Boyd National Park and the Wollemi National Park became two of the eight protected areas in the Greater Blue Mountains National Park inscribed as World Heritage by UNESCO.