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Edward Kenneth (Ken) Cox (1913–1995)

by Andy Skuja

Ken Cox died at St. John’s Hospital in Hobart on 22 March 1995 at the age of 81, after a short illness.

Ken was one of a very small group of professionally trained foresters who pioneered the introduction of formal forest management in Tasmania.

Ken was born in May 1913 in Queenstown and spent most of his early childhood on Maria island, where his father managed the Cement works at Darlington. He attended the Primary School at Triabunna and Hobart High at Newtown.

In 1930 he gained an Australian Forestry Scholarship and studied at the University of Tasmania before completing the course in Canberra. He was appointed to permanent staff of the Forestry department in 1935, and worked the next few years as a field officer with the Working Plans Branch.

In 1938 he was nominated to the Waite Institute in Adelaide and spent some time in Western Australia on soil survey practical work:

In 1940 Ken was appointed District Forester at Smithton, which in those days included the forestry operations at Burnie.

In 1941 he enlisted and served as Pilot Officer in the Bomber Wing of the 100 Squadron in New Guinea and returned to Smithton in 1945 as Divisional Forester. He moved to Burnie shortly afterwards, where he was appointed Regional Forester Hardwood, in 1971, encompassing the Smithton, Burnie, Devonport and Queenstown Districts.

He joined the Forestry Commission in June 1972 as Assistant Commissioner Marketing, and retained this position until he retired in 1977. His later years were spent travelling the world, adding to his immense and almost complete botanical collection of Tasmania’s plants.

His main contribution to the profession lay in his expertise in wet eucalypt forest regeneration and fire management. He was an able administrator and people manager, who led from the front. He set very high personal and professional standards and expected the same from those with whom he worked.

His distinguished record speaks for itself but what about the man? To most Ken Cox was somewhat of an enigma. He was a modest, moderate and shy person who preferred his own company. He was dour, taciturn and a stern task master, as the likes of Wes Beckett, Paul Unwin and Max Gilbert to name a few, will attest. Yet he was always obliging, helpful and considerate in his personal relationships. A very good tennis player, a keen bushwalker and naturalist, not adverse to a drop with the boys on special occasions. Respected for his fairness and absolute integrity — a role model of his time.

Edward Kenneth Cox leaves behind him a legacy of loyalty to his staff, utter dedication to duty and an unwavering commitment to the ideals of his profession. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

Original publication

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Citation details

Andy Skuja, 'Cox, Edward Kenneth (Ken) (1913–1995)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 17 June 2024.

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