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Quain, Stephen John (Steve) (1931–2008)

With the passing of Steve [Stephen John] Quain, who died in Bunbury on 18th August 2008 at the age of 76, Western Australia lost one of its finest foresters, and a universally respected man.

Steve was widely known throughout the southwest. Over a 30-year career, he worked as a forester in the karri and jarrah forests and in the establishment of pine plantations north of Perth. He was accomplished in forestry operations, science and administration, and worked his way up through every step in the ladder, becoming eventually the Chief of Operations for the Forests Department and the Director of Regional Operations for CALM.

Steve was born in Victoria Park in Perth, the son and the grandson of timber workers. He was a brilliant student, gaining scholarships to CBC, the University of WA and the Australian Forestry School. After graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry in 1952 he spent a year in north Queensland working on a rainforest regeneration project and then some months as a geological survey hand in the Northern Territory. In 1954 he commenced work as a forester in WA, initially as a junior officer at Pemberton, and then later as the Divisional Forest Officer at Shannon River, Gleneagle, and Wanneroo. His greatest contribution to forestry came at the time when he was the Regional Superintendent at Manjimup when he oversaw critical developments in karri forest regeneration and fire protection, and helped to establish a highly efficient administrative and management system for southern forests. A feature of Steve’s forestry administration was the way he was able to get operations and research staff to work together cooperatively on the problems of the day.

Steve was an accomplished sportsman, especially as a cricketer, footballer and tennis player. As a schoolboy he played First Grade cricket in Perth; later he was known as the finest cricketer and footballer in the Warren district, representing Warren many times at Country Week carnivals. He was also a keen fisherman, and he intimately knew and loved the south coast between Augusta and Walpole.

Steve Quain was admired and highly respected by his colleagues and friends. He had an unsophisticated manner, and tended to dress and speak a bit like “an old bushy” (as he was once described), but he had a sharp mind, was perceptive about human behaviour and foibles and was well-informed about a wide range of issues, not just forestry and land management. He was widely read and had a special interest in Australian history. In recent years he became particularly concerned about the declining standards of bushfire management in south-west forests. He was an active member of The Bushfire Front right up to his final illness and was always relied upon to provide a sound historical perspective to, as well as a perceptive analysis of current problems.

In addition to his technical and professional capabilities, Steve was a man of great integrity and courage, who believed in old-fashioned values such as loyalty, fairness and good sportsmanship. A whole generation of younger foresters grew up regarding him as their mentor, not just in the field of forestry, but in life as a whole. We all knew him as “the forester’s forester”.

Original publication

  • Forester, vol 51, no 4, December 2008, pp 26-27

Citation details

'Quain, Stephen John (Steve) (1931–2008)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 9 August 2020.

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