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Jennings, George Henry (1917–1989)

by I. A. McKinty

George Henry Jennings was born in 1917 at Ringwood and grew up in Bayswater, which at that time was largely a rural area. After completing High School at Box Hill, he gained a scholarship to the Victorian School of Forestry and began training at Creswick in 1935.

He was posted as an Assistant Forester to Powelltown Forest District in 1938 and was soon plunged into the toil of the fire season leading up to “Black Friday” when the Mountain Ash forest of Central Victoria was devastated.

After a short period at Mansfield, George returned to the Ash forests in Neerim Forest District where he was located at Tanjil Bren, a new village, at the focus of the tremendous effort to salvage logs from the burnt forest.

His responsibility covered every aspect of the operations—camps, tree felling, log hauling, road construction, log transport and storage of surplus logs under water in dams and in dumps under water sprays. In summer, this complex had to be protected from fires which readily start by friction as logs were dragged through litter.

George married Heather Swaffield in 1945 and was based at Neerim South until promoted to District Forester and posted to Yarram District. Here he was involved in the program of purchasing degraded farmland and converting scrub and to plantations of Pine and hardwood with plants raised in the South Gippsland Nursery. Soon, however, he returned to Neerim for three years in charge of the declining salvage activity.

Posted next to Heywood District in the south west of the State, he was to spend six years where conversion of scrubland to pine plantation gave constant fire protection problems.

From there it was off to Mildura to become acquainted with management of native pine, she-oak and red gum, attempting regeneration in spite of the pressure from grazing by rabbits and a population explosion of kangaroos.

Stawell District was next for more than five years with the development of the Grampians for tourism and their preservation from pressure of same and from fire.

Transferred to Nathalia District, he faced the problems of grazing of the Murray River floodplain and the regulation of irrigation for regeneration of the red gum of Barmah Forest.

His last post was Bendigo with the management of box-ironbark forest and the establishment of Forest Parks in response to the pressure of environmental interests.

George had great patience and listened to complaints and problems before passing on his knowledge and advice in a manner to gain agreement, but he did not knuckle under to pressure, but reacted decisively. He was well respected in the communities in which he lived and formed many friendships across the State.

He retired in Bendigo in 1978 at the age of 61 after 43 years of service, but continued a close association with projects and organisations with which he had been active.

He had received a certificate of merit for his 40 years of service to the Scouting movement and was an officer of his Church wherever he had lived.

He served in Bendigo Rotary Club for 25 years, was a foundation member of Bendigo Probus Club, and was Vice President at the time of his death.

During his retirement, George applied his skills to improving his garden, cultivating orchids, and once a week entertaining the inmates of Mirridong Home for the Blind from his extensive record collection.

George had not been well for some months when he died of a stroke on 2 October 1989 at Bendigo Base Hospital. He was buried from St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral at which service many fellow foresters attended.

He is survived by his wife, Heather; sons, Ian and Russell; and grandsons, Andrew and Christopher.

Original publication

  • IFA Newsletter, vol 31, no 2, June 1990, pp 29-30

Citation details

I. A. McKinty, 'Jennings, George Henry (1917–1989)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/jennings-george-henry-18339/text29959, accessed 20 September 2017.

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