REG Johnson, who returned from flying duties in World War II to become the Victorian
government's chief cartographer and draughtsman and then played a leading role as a
conservationist and environmentalist, died at the age of 90, still sharing his vast
knowledge with students.
He gave his time unstintingly to community work, and obstacles were minor hiccups.
Victoria's bird emblem, the helmeted honeyeater, owes its official status to Johnson,
who was the convener and blistered-hands shovel man of a group dedicated to restoring
degraded creek land at Silvan in what was a remnant of the bird's original habitat.
For years, Johnson and his wife, Kathleen, and co-members of the Bird Observers Club
of Australia lobbied governments to halt private clearings on public land, and coaxed
politicians to see this elusive bird, with its erectile helmet, still nesting in the
area. Eventually, government funding meant additional land could be bought along
creeks, leading to the establishment of Yellingbo Conservation Reserve. Many of the
indigenous eucalypts there today are
The helmeted honeyeater's existence and status remain precarious, but no one did more
for its chance of survival than Johnson. For him, the protection of public land was a
moral obligation. On one well-known occasion in 1969, when Henry Bolte's government
announced its intention to subdivide the Little Desert into farms, Johnson was
instrumental in forming a coalition of concerned groups to save its fragile
environment with its vulnerable species.
It was Johnson's encyclopaedic knowledge of the environment and his vision of
enhancing natural habitats that led to Land for Wildlife. The initial response from
officialdom was tepid, but he persistently trod on toes in a gentlemanly fashion
until politicians and bureaucrats agreed that wildlife habitat on private land would
diversify gene pools. Johnson and the nature writer and amateur ornithologist Ellen
McCulloch, OAM, jointly ensured the launch of Land for Wildlife, which is now a
national undertaking with thousands of participating properties.
Excerpt taken from: The Age. Date: 02/09/2011. Page: 18
About the Friends
- Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater
- Yellingbo, Woori Yallock Creek sub-catchment, Australia
- Have you ever wanted to contribute to conservation of a threatened species? The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's state emblem and is listed as: 1. Critically endangered (DSE Advisory List Of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna In Victoria - 2007) 2. Threatened (Victorian Govt. Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988) 3. Critically endangered (Federal Govt. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) Can people make a difference to this bird's long-term survival? We believe anyone can. Check out the 'Take action' button on our homepage (www.helmetedhoneyeater.org.au), then contact us for more details.