Department of State Forests (Forests Commission). (1908-1983)

NLA Persistent Identifier
https://nla.gov.au/nla.party-1629182

Biographies

Establishment

Responsibility for the forests function was shared by a number of portfolios until 1909 when the Minister of Forests assumed responsibility for the Department of State Forests (VA 534). Until that time, responsibility had been exercised by:

prior to 1875 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1875-1890 Minister for Agriculture (VRG 34)
1890-1891 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1891-1893 Minister of Mines (VRG 30)
1893-1899 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1899-1900 Minister for Forests
1900-1903 Commissioner of Crown Lands and Survey
1903-1904 Minister of Agriculture
1904-1909 Minister of Mines and Forests.

For convenience each of the Ministers responsible for forests from 1900 to 1909 has been placed in the Forests Group (VRG 41) for the period of their responsibility for this function.

Until 1908 the Department of Agriculture (VA 618), Crown Lands and Survey (VA 538), Mines (VA 2719) and Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) were at various times responsible for State Forests. In 1908 the Department of State Forests (VA 534) was established under the provision of the Forests Act 1907.

Until it became a Department of State in its own right in 1918, it functioned as a sub-department of the Mines and Water Supply Department (VA 2720) until 1909 and thereafter of the Mines Department (VA 612). The Department of State Forests (VA 534) has therefore been included in both Mines (VRG 30) and Forests (VRG 41) for the period 1908-1918. The Department of Mines and Water Supply (VA 2720) and the Mines Department (VA 612) have also been included in the Forests Group (VRG 41).

Functions

The Department was responsible for State Forests and forestry policy, including issuing leases and licences, planting and/or thinning of forests, the development of plantations, forest renewal, protection and management, nurseries, forest schools, prevention and supervision of fires within forest areas, the development of commercial aspects of forestry including harvesting and marketing of produce, provision of recreation facilities, protection of wildlife, forestry research and recommendations on the acquisition or alienation of land for forest purposes.

Although not formally recognised as part of its function the Department had a continuing interest in soil conservation from the 1930's. A Commission established in the late 1930's to investigate the issue recognised the need to control and monitor soil conservation and in 1940 a Soil Conservation Board was established.

Administrative Structure

On 1 October 1919 the three member Forests Commission assumed control of the operations of the Department of State Forests and all staff were transferred to the Commission. Although not formally abolished the Department of State Forests appears to have ceased to exist in the late 1930's. The Forests Commission inherited all powers, duties and responsibilities formerly exercised by the Department.

As a result of an Inquiry into the Public Service in 1937 the Public Service (Transfer of Officers) Act 1939 was passed which transferred the officers of the Forests Commission to the State Forests Department and made the chairman of the commission the permanent head of the Department. Thus the "old" Department was resurrected but the Forests Commission was not abolished and continued to operate as the controlling authority for forests policy and operations within the Department of State Forests. Over the years the two titles were inextricably associated and the agency continued to be known as the Forests Commission. Administratively this situation continued until 1983 when three Departments were consolidated into the new Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (VA 1034) among them the Forests Commission (Department of State Forests).

Location of Records

Significant quantities of Forests records were transferred to the Public Record Office Victoria in the 1990s which are include in the series listed below. See also List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, section 3.6.9.

View the full record at Public Records Office Victoria

Resources for Department of State Forests (Forests Commission).

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