Class of ‘58

Peter Ayres, Terry Whe­lan and Bryan James were all part of the for­ma­tion of Field & Game Aus­tralia and in telling their sto­ries for the 60th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tion they set a chal­lenge for the new gen­er­a­tion.

Field and Game - - 2018 NATIONAL CARNIVAL -

The sim­ple fact is that lit­tle has changed from those for­ma­tive years when a range of chal­leng­ing is­sues led to the cre­ation of the orig­i­nal Vic­to­rian Field & Game As­so­ci­a­tion.

Threats to wet­land habi­tat, ac­cess for hunt­ing, pub­lic opin­ion of hunters, hunter be­hav­iour and po­lit­i­cal ad­vo­cacy were very real is­sues in the 1950s, and they still are, so the fight is re­ally a con­stant one to main­tain and build on what we have.

Terry Whe­lan worked at a tan­nery with a lot of hunters and clay tar­get shoot­ers, and quickly joined Field & Game. “I was al­ways a keen shooter,” he said. “I re­mem­ber go­ing to church as a kid with Mum and Dad and fol­low­ing flies on peo­ple’s backs with my fin­ger; I didn’t get any, I didn’t have the lead right prob­a­bly.”

Terry, the youngest of seven chil­dren, grew up on a farm in Gipp­s­land and by the age of 10, he was the proud owner of a Daisy air gun. “It was ‘watch out for the birds’ around home then,” he said. “I think I bought the first Lith­gow .22 with rab­bit skin money when I was 12. We roamed the pad­docks; you didn’t even ask for per­mis­sion then, you just went with the dogs and a ri­fle, or later a shot­gun.”

Times were chang­ing though, and in the early 1950s, the Field Sports­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion formed to build bet­ter re­la­tion­ships with prop­erty own­ers and main­tain ar­eas to hunt.

Peter Ayres re­calls meet­ing in Sale, where the idea for a hunter con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tion was first floated. “There were sev­eral things on the agenda, the most im­por­tant one was that all the wet­lands were pri­vately owned and we looked like los­ing them,” he said. “We could see the writ­ing on the wall.” Peter said it was a re­porter from the

Gipp­s­land Times, where he worked for 46 years, who planted the seed. “He got up and said, ‘The only thing I can see is you fel­las have to form an or­gan­i­sa­tion and you have to pay a fee’, which brought a lot of groans,” Peter said. “In those days there was no li­cence fee, no arms li­cence, noth­ing, but he said we needed to do it to buy the wet­lands back.”

Peter said hunters were drawn to the idea be­cause they had come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that if noth­ing was done, the habi­tat and hunt­ing op­por­tu­nity would be lost for­ever.

In those days, after a string of flood events, Peter said wa­ter was con­sid­ered an en­emy of progress. “All they thought about was drain­ing it,” he said.

Sav­ing wet­lands and con­vinc­ing the gov­ern­ment of the day to im­pose a fee on hunters and use the pro­ceeds to set up the State Game Re­serve net­work cre­ated a legacy still en­joyed by mem­bers to­day. “I was re­ally pleased when the As­so­ci­a­tion formed and I’ve been in­volved ever since,” Terry said. “Our fam­ily has al­ways helped with the nest­ing boxes; I’ve got five boys and I have al­ways en­cour­aged them to be con­ser­va­tion­ists, we help with any­thing.”

Bryan James was also in­volved from the be­gin­ning of the Field Sports­man’s As­so­ci­a­tion and later Field & Game. “The Shire pres­i­dent Ray Archibald had

prop­erty down at Hol­lands Land­ing and he was hav­ing a lot of trou­ble and looked like clos­ing ac­cess to his prop­erty. He thought we should do some­thing to cre­ate an or­gan­i­sa­tion land own­ers could trust,” Bryan said. “It didn’t take long to re­alise we needed an or­gan­i­sa­tion that could also deal with gov­ern­ment be­cause there were con­cerns about the drain­ing of swamps for farm­ing and it was clear that gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion would be needed. “We needed some­thing more than a dis­con­nected crowd of shoot­ers.”

Bryan said the achieve­ments of those early days were made eas­ier by hav­ing a sym­pa­thetic gov­ern­ment led by Sir Henry Bolte, who was also a keen duck hunter.

Even so, he said the con­ser­va­tion ef­forts of hunters, and their will­ing­ness to pay to pro­tect pre­cious habi­tat, es­tab­lished a rep­u­ta­tion that con­tin­ues to serve us well. “Our rep­u­ta­tion speaks for it­self,” he said. Bryan was un­able to make the 60th din­ner but in a video mes­sage he said it should act as a new be­gin­ning for the next gen­er­a­tion of hunter con­ser­va­tion­ists.

“It is per­haps a fresh start­ing point for the younger gen­er­a­tion to strive to achieve the same things,” he said. “You have to be pretty vig­i­lant to make sure other peo­ple with dif­fer­ent opin­ions don’t hold sway and you have to em­pha­sise your con­ser­va­tion cre­den­tials.”

Peter Ayres

Bryan James

Terry Whe­lan

Terry Whe­lan is a mem­ber of the fa­mous Iron Cir­cle

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