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Gwynnyth Taylor

Gwynnyth Taylor had a great love of the Australian bush, and educated and encouraged a generation of Australians to appreciate nature.

Inducted:
2001
Category:
Honour Roll

Gwynnyth Taylor worked for many causes, but it was as a conservationist that she was best known. She was a noted botanist and a bush walker. Gwynnyth worked as a landscape gardener with Edna Walling in the 1930s and when she married solicitor, Ronald Taylor, in 1940 they lived as the Walling village of Bickleigh Vale, Mooroolbark until 1946.

Later she created gardens using only native plants at homes in Montrose, Wartook (south of Horsham) and Forest Hill. Her work with Edna Walling is documented in the book 'The Gardens of Edna Walling' by Peter Watts, and her native gardens are featured in several books.

The Taylors had two children, Peter and Sue, and lived in Williamstown during their school years in the 1950s. Gwynnyth began her years of community service by joining the mothers club and parents and citizens associations of their local schools, and was a delegate to both state and federal conferences.

She joined the Williamstown Historical Society and early environmental groups trying to preserve historic and unspoilt Williamstown. She joined the Victorian National Parks Association in 1957 and was president from 1968-71.

This period was notable for the Little Desert controversy, which made conservation front-page news and a political issue. The Minister for Lands proposed to subdivide 80,000 hectares of the Little Desert for farms. This was strongly opposed by conservationists whose campaign was taken to The Age in editorials and letters to the editor. Gwynnyth organised the existing small conservation groups into the Save Our Bushland Action Committee (SOBAC). She arranged two public meetings - the first in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall on 28 September 1969 and the second in the Palais Theatre on 26 October 1969 at which the public showed overwhelming support for the conservationists' stand. The Minister for Lands lost his seat at the next election, and Premier Bolte gazetted a Little Desert National Park in December 1969.

To avoid such 'battles' in the future, the Premier established the Land Conservation Council (LCC) to advise on the use of public land. (Recommendations of the LCC have increased the area of national parks in Victoria from 0.6 percent in 1969 to more than 13% today). Gwynnyth helped the groups in SOBAC organise into a permanent body - the Conservation Council of Victoria - so that they could speak with one voice in future. This was a turning point in the history of conservation in Victoria.

At this time Gwynnyth was also very active in the campaign to save Lake Pedder, she later worked with the Wilderness Society to save the Franklin River. The Taylors moved to the Grampians in 1973 where Gwynnyth helped with conservation and local study groups and created a now-famous native garden from what had been a bare paddock.

Returning to Melbourne in 1980 she worked in the offices of the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society on a regular basis. She also re-established links with her local groups - the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society, the Montrose Environment Group and the Maroondah Group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants. She did everything quietly and capably - office work, giving advice on plants, arranging displays, attending working bees in reserves, and a myriad of other tasks.

She continued her work even in the early stages of Parkinson's disease. At a memorial celebration of her life at Dixon's Creek on 3 May 1998, her friends marvelled that one person could achieve so much. Issues as large as the Little Desert and the Franklin River and as diverse as saving a hut in the Bogong High Plains and the endangered Helmeted Honeyeater all attracted Gwynnyth, and she inspired many people to join her. Gwynnyth Taylor's spirit is in all the wild places that she helped save.

Reviewed 26 May 2022

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