Protecting Wilderness and National Parks

Myles and Milo Dunphy

Myles Dunphy (1891-1985) was a tireless publicist for the wilderness cause, producing maps and even publishing a wilderness broadsheet as a supplement to the Katoomba Daily in 1934.

A week's holiday with friends in a Katoomba boarding house in 1910 began his life-long love affair with the bush. He systematically mapped the Blue Mountains wilderness where only blank spaces on parish maps previously existed. Today these maps are treasured for the detailed information and practical advice to Blue Mountains visitors.

From 1916 until the 1970s Myles Dunphy waged an active campaign for a state-wide system of national parks containing wilderness areas. His voluntary efforts extended over fifty years and inspired others, not the least of whom was his son, Milo.

Myles formed the Mountains Trails Club in 1914, the first bushwalking club to explore trackless wild places in Australia. The promotion of bushwalking through this club lead to the formation of the Sydney Bushwalkers, and with growing interest the Confederation of Bushwalking Clubs was formed in 1932. By the late 1920s Dunphy’s bushwalking experiences gradually turned to protection. As he said at the time: ‘The best scenery should be protected for public use and benefit’. The operative word being scenery - ecology had not yet been 'invented', although the need for forest and catchment conservation was well understood.

In 1932 Myles Dunphy formed the National Parks and Primitive Areas Council, which for the next 25 years advanced the case for national park reservation in NSW. From 1932 Myles promoted a system of national parks from the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW to the Hastings River in the north, including the 465,000 hectare Greater Blue Mountains National Park. These reserve proposals laid the foundations of the current national park system in NSW.

Myles Dunphy also pioneered the first wilderness reserve in Australia, the Tallowa Primitive Reserve in 1934, and from the 1930s continued to advocate the need for a professional parks service. He received an OBE for his services to conservation and the IUCN’s Fred M Packer award for ‘Long Service with Merit in Advocacy of National Parks’.

Renowned environmentalist, Milo Dunphy (1929-1996) absorbed his conservation ethic from a very young age - at 20 months he was taken to Kanangra Walls in a pram!

In the late 1960s and early 1970s he propelled nature conservation to prominence by fighting the proposed limestone quarry at Colong Caves in the heart of the southern Blue Mountains. Influenced by his father, Milo was alert to the danger, leading the campaign to preserve the heart of the Kanangra-Boyd wilderness. For the first time, nature conservation in NSW was in major media headlines. Milo's leadership, inspiration and initiative throughout the Colong Caves struggle helped establish the fledgling NSW environment movement.

No sooner had the dust settled, Milo was leading the struggle to save the Boyd Plateau from being planted with pine trees. Again, his enthusiasm ensured many joined the campaign. In this way Milo successfully carried forward his father’s conservation proposals. He helped expand the NSW national park estate from 2 per cent to 4.5 per cent, including the addition of significant areas of rainforest in northern NSW that are now World Heritage listed national parks and the Deua and Wadbilliga wilderness National Parks to the south of the State.

Milo was part of almost every major environmental campaign in eastern Australia, from Terania Creek in NSW to Lake Pedder in Tasmania. Wilderness was always Milo’s first concern and he devoted his life to the dedication of national parks and wilderness areas, involving the public in their protection. 

There are many places which are treasured today as parts of the public national parks estate, but which we tend to take for granted - places such as Colong, Myall Lakes, Bindook, Kanangra-Boyd, the Border Ranges, Kakadu and Terania Creek are living memorials to Milo Dunphy. For his services to conservation Milo was awarded an AM, the Sidney Luker Memorial Medal from the Australian Planning Institute and named Architect of the decade. The University of NSW also awarded him a Doctor of Science honoris causa for his efforts.

In May 1996, the former NSW Premier, Neville Wran described Milo as unquestionably the most persistent, and vigorous fighter and advocate for the environment we have had in this country.