Les Smith, eminent Whitehorse environmentalist and patriarch of the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society died on 16 December 2018.
Les was involved in the conservation movement for over 60 years, initially in England in the late 1940’s and continuing when he moved to Australia in the 1950’s.
He joined the Tree Society in the early 1960s and served with distinction on the executive committee in many roles over the years including committee member, president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, membership secretary and newsletter editor.
Les was actively involved in the campaign to save the Little Desert from being subdivided for farming in the late1960s. This campaign was instrumental in launching a wave of environmental campaigns throughout Victoria and also led to the formation of what is now Environment Victoria, an organization to which Les has contributed greatly since its inception.
He was Nunawading Citizen of the Year in the 1975.
Until recent times Les remained active as a volunteer, member or executive committee member of a number of organizations allied to the preservation and enhancement of our natural environment.
Apart from the tree society Les was actively involved with:
• Environment Victoria
• Bungalook Nursery (Whitehorse Indigenous Plant Project)
• Antonio Park, Yarran Dheran and Wandinong bushland park advisory committees in Whitehorse
• Urimbirra Co-operative that owns 1,000 ha of close to virgin bush adjacent to what is now the little Desert National Park. The property is covered by a Conservation Covenant administered by the Trust for Nature and only removable by Act of Parliament
• Friends of the Little Desert
• The Mullum-Mullum Festival (Les was the 2011 festival Patron).
Les, affectionately dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of environmental advocacy in the City of Whitehorse and beyond, was honored with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his community service in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2017. He was officially presented with his award by the Governor of Victoria, The Honourable Linda Dessau in October 2017 at a ceremony at Government House.
His legacy will live on in the natural world he fought so hard, and with such good grace, to preserve and enhance. Moreover Les inspired many people to embrace his environmental philosophy and deeds.
Our condolences and prayers go out to Helen and the Smith family on this sad occasion. Vale Les Smith OAM.