Myles Joseph Dunphy, doyen of wilderness in Australia, was born in Melbourne in 1891. Exploring wilderness and extolling its values was to become for Myles a way of life. He was arguably for Australia what John Muir that great American evangelist for national parks and wilderness was for North America. Although coming somewhat later than John Muir, Dunphy was a remarkable visionary. As an advocate for national parks Myles had no equal in this land.
The question has been asked how much was Dunphy influenced by the ideas and thinking of American wilderness philosophers. Although as a young man Dunphy’s reading had included the American magazines Outing and Outdoor Life which were about adventure in the great outdoors, his ideas on conservation and wilderness were without doubt homegrown.
Myles Dunphy turned ten years of age in the year of Federation, 1901. Probably every youngster was enamoured by the event and there is every reason to suggest that young Myles was no exception. In Australia the economy was recovering from the depressed years of the 1890’s. There was again full employment and working conditions had improved considerably. Australians had good cause for optimism. Part of the nation’s pride was the belief in the athletic qualities of its people. Healthy outdoor living was taken as the way of life for most Australian citizens. A shorter working week had been achieved and a marked increase in public recreation had resulted. Perhaps the nation’s chief preoccupation was with cricket, though excursions to the seaside or out into the bush were also popular.
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