Bernie Fox was passionately committed to protecting Victoria’s natural heritage. Sadly, he passed away in April 2016, but his legacy lives on and has been recognised through a Lifetime Achievement Award from Parks Victoria as part of this year’s Kookaburra Awards.

The current Friends of Brisbane Ranges president, Colin Cook, says Bernie had two remarkable talents.

“He knew people. He was able to see inside and recognise the hidden potential and skills. And he could make you aware of these and act on them.”

Bernie played a major role in many conservation campaigns including protecting mallee flora and fauna, creating Point Nepean National Park and expanding Brisbane Ranges National Park.

He served as president of the Friends of Brisbane Ranges, the Victorian National Parks Association and the Victorian Mallefowl Recovery Group. He was on the committee of the Victorian Environmental Friends Network, distributing their quarterly newsletter.

Bernie inspired people of all ages from all backgrounds to get involved with nature conservation. He was a great friend of the Friends groups, and personally took part in hands-on activities such as tree-planting and track maintenance.

Environmental champion

One of Bernie’s most well-known contributions was his tireless work to have 1200 hectares of land added to the Brisbane Ranges National Park.

He also campaigned strongly to stop the proposed Hattah/Nowingi site for hazardous waste facility in north-west Victoria, which was proposed to be located across the Calder Highway from Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, between two national parks and in high conservation value remnant vegetation that is habitat of threatened species.

The proposal was abandoned in 2007, a major win for the area which includes unique flora and fauna, including old growth mallee scrub, the endangered Malleefowl and the Mallee Emu-wren.

Bernie also volunteered many hours in working towards the protection of Point Nepean.

A lasting legacy

Bernie was instrumental in getting the Victorian National Parks Association’s NatureWatch program established. This community volunteer-based biodiversity monitoring program is now a core element of the associations’ work, bringing together scientists, land managers and community groups to design and carry out monitoring projects.

Bernie was always deeply generous in sharing his wisdom and knowledge with everyone. In recent years he focused on inspiring the next generation, supporting families and children to get involved and to become active members of their local Friends group.

His campaign work resulted in permanent protection for several important areas of land across the state, which will allow future generations to benefit and to enjoy the beauty and values of these areas.

Before he passed away Bernie was living with his wife Sue Hayman-Fox at their bush property in the Wimmera, where the two were actively restoring the land’s natural vegetation and monitoring its wildlife.

The property is now a dedicated wildlife sanctuary and Sue is determined to continue with the work she started with Bernie, ensuring his legacy lives on.

About the awards

Held every second year by Parks Victoria, the Kookaburra Awards seek to:

  • Recognise and honour individuals and groups who have made an outstanding voluntary contribution to the Victorian park system.
  • Raise awareness of the extent and importance of community involvement in the Parks Victoria estate.
  • Encourage community involvement in the future development and conservation and use of the park system.