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Hanson, Albert George (Bert) (1919–2005)

by Bill Kerruish

Bert Hanson, n.d.

Bert Hanson, n.d.

Bert [Albert George Hanson] was the seventh child of a pioneering couple who cleared and established a sugar cane farm on the banks of the Burdekin river at Home Hill, in northern Queensland. He rode a horse to primary school from where he won a scholarship to All Souls boarding school in Charters Towers. In March 1939 he was awarded a forestry cadetship by the Queensland Forestry Sub-department. On completion of his three-year science course he joined the Royal Australian Navy and trained as a radar mechanic. He saw active service on HMAS Gascoyne in the south-west Pacific. He claimed that his ship, which was on survey duty, was the first allied surface ship back into the Philippines after Macarthur left.

On discharge in 1946 he studied at the Australian Forestry School for two years and obtained a Diploma of Forestry. The Queensland Forestry Department appointed him to Atherton as the first professionally-trained officer to study the north Queensland rainforest. In 1951 he was transferred, for family health reasons, to head office in Brisbane as Assistant Working Plans Officer. Whilst in Atherton Bert had commenced a Bachelor of Commerce degree as an external student of the University of Queensland. This study was completed in 1953 and the degree awarded in 1954.

In 1953 he was appointed as Senior Investigation Officer to the Melbourne office of the Commonwealth Forestry and Timber Bureau. This office was, in effect, the ‘Timber’ portion of the Bureau. His research enabled him to persuade the Commonwealth to establish, in 1956, a harvesting research unit which, together with the Forest Research Institute, was transferred in 1975 to CSIRO, forming the Division of Forest Research.

In the mid-1950s he was Secretary, and in the early 1960s Chairman, of the Victorian Division of the Institute of Foresters of Australia.

In February 1958, following the retirement of H.R. Gray, he was appointed officer-in-charge of the Division of Timber Supply Economics of the Bureau. He developed an interest in forest policy and contributed to the establishment in 1964 of the Australian Forestry Council and its Standing Committee, and subsequently to the Commonwealth Government’s decision to finance the doubling by the states of the rate of softwood plantation establishment and to explore more intensive management of native forests.

His Division transferred to Canberra in 1967, where Bert was involved in the development of policies regarding the export of woodchips. He prepared evidence for the numerous inquiries into this trade, and for committees examining softwood plantations and the introduction of the metric system of measurement.

He was appointed Director-General of the Bureau on the retirement of Dr Neil Cromer in July 1975, a position he held for five years. He retired in 1982 because of stress-related illness brought on by a combination of wartime experiences and work.

This account would not be complete without reference to Bert’s warm and friendly nature. He had a quirky sense of humour and an extensive repertoire of jokes on which he drew whenever there was opportunity, and he was adept at seeing the funny side of minor crises.

Bert’s wife Mary died in 2002. He is survived by three children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Original publication

  • Australian Forestry, vol 69, no 1, 2006, p 73

Citation details

Bill Kerruish, 'Hanson, Albert George (Bert) (1919–2005)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/hanson-albert-george-bert-18445/text30090, accessed 20 September 2017.

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