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Bednall, Brian Herbert (1904–1988)

by A. H. Cole

Brian Herbert Bednall died on 15 April 1988 aged 83 years. I believe those who knew him well understand me saying that customarily he even gave this last act an air of dignified efficiency.

Born in Adelaide on 5 July 1904, his association with forestry began in 1922 when he entered the Forestry course, then being offered in Adelaide University.

Following a trip to Western Australia around the end of his University studies, he accepted an offer to work for the Western Australian Government. That association lasted over 22 years, the first fifteen in the jarrah and karri forests, followed by about seven in a district which included pine plantations.

In conjunction with others, Brian became deeply engrossed in solving some obvious pine growth problems which they correctly diagnosed as caused by a nutrient deficiency. As a consequence he shared in the discovery of zinc as one of the critical elements for effective pine silviculture. That highlight reinforced his continuing interest and active support for forest research for the rest of his life.

In 1947 he returned to his home State as Conservator with the Woods and Forests Department. The opportunity and challenge of developing utilisation of the State's forest resource clearly appealed to him, and he proceeded vigorously to develop the Department's commercial activity. His success ultimately led to an increase in the whole South Australian forest activity which continued well beyond his term as Conservator of Forests.

He was very sensitive to the principles of sustained yield and rightfully, I think, saw himself as a resource curator rather than an exploiter. The term “Conservator” was probably very appropriate. This attribute and his research bent made him intensely supportive with respect to that growth decline in forest crops widely referred to in Australia as the “2R problem”. Although its solution for radiata pine was not uncovered until after his active involvement in forestry, his relief was obvious.

He was justifiably proud of the fact that South Australian Government forestry began to pay dividends during his reign as Conservator.

A progressive leader, he could be very persuasive at all levels. He talked people into action and himself out of difficulty on innumerable occasions, both on the shop floor and in the halls of politics.

He was a founder member of the Institute of Foresters of Australia and its Federal President in 1961.

He also attended, as far as I can determine, all Commonwealth (and previously Empire) Forestry Conferences up to his retirement as Conservator in 1969.

As a connoisseur of whisky and accomplished pianist, organist and choirmaster, records of his exploits exist in obscure bars and churches throughout Australia and parts of the world.

Some or all of this ‘larger than life’ activity gained him a CBE in 1963 and an unfillable place among foresters and their associates now in 1988.

Original publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 51, no 3, 1988, p 205

Additional Resources

Citation details

A. H. Cole, 'Bednall, Brian Herbert (1904–1988)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/bednall-brian-herbert-18184/text29754, accessed 24 November 2017.

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