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White, Bernard John (Barney) (1928–2000)

by Roger Underwood

Barney White, n.d.

Barney White, n.d.

Barney [Bernard John] White was one of WA’s best and best loved foresters. He died in July 2000 after several years’ illness, aged 72. He grew up in country WA, the son of a bank manager, was educated at St Louis, UWA and the AFS, and then worked as a district forester, in research and at Head Office for his whole career.

Barney was a “Man of the Trees” well before the term was adopted by others. His first and lingering love was for the karri forest, and this is where he did his best work, and where this picture of him comes to mind:

It is somewhere deep in the karri forest, perhaps down
along the lower Shannon. The portly figure is well
wrapped against the chill of a winter's day, with sheep-
skin jacket, military boots and white safety helmet worn
at a modestly rakish angle. There is the appreciative
glance up the bole of a beautiful tree, followed by an
affectionate pat of the tree trunk. Beyond, there is a
hillside of regeneration, purple tips turning over in the
wind, and Barney is quietly waxing enthusiastic about
this little bit of forestry work, in his opinion well-conceived
and professionally carried out.

Any day in the bush with Barney always seemed to include lunch. More often than not this came early, like mid-morning. Then, out would come the well-stocked crib box, and the yarns would start to flow. Yarning over crib time in the bush was, in Barney’s day, one of the great forestry traditions, and Barney was one of the great performers in this tradition.

Barney’s bush yarns were entertaining, memorable and instructive, especially for the impressionable young foresters who came under his mentorship at this time, people like Jack Bradshaw, Roger Underwood, Per Christiansen and Rick Sneeuwjagt. Through him they learned about forestry, but also they learned to respect the people in forestry and our professional heritage.

Barney’s professional achievements were many. There was his work with karri silviculture and in the design of the reserve system for the southern forests. He had been a respected DFO at Shannon River and Pemberton. And he led the research team at Manjimup, whose ground-breaking outputs included the karri fire behavior tables and the fauna recovery program. WA foresters are grateful for Barney’s friendship, wise mentoring, gentle humour, integrity and tolerance, and for his fine example as a forester and a man of grace and humility. In some organic way he seemed almost to be part of the bush, to be a natural element of the karri forest eco system. To us, Barney’s spirit will always be there, in a shaft of sunlight through tall trees, in a gust of spring rain, in the dark waters of a southern brook, in a splash of bottlebrush by a granite outcrop on a wind-swept coastal flat, in the reflections in a river pool.

Original publication

  • IFA Newsletter, vol 41, no 4, August 2000, p 18

Citation details

Roger Underwood, 'White, Bernard John (Barney) (1928–2000)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 5 August 2020.

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