1969 was a very exciting and eventful year in Victoria, Australia. A number of ideas and events came together to create something very significant.

In this four-part podcast series we’ll unpack the history of the political dispute that led to the permanent protection of the Little Desert and its diverse and beautiful flora and fauna.

But the Little Desert dispute also resulted in many other nature conservation outcomes. It changed the Victorian political landscape by putting nature conservation and community consultation on the party-political agenda.

More information on the Little Desert National Park’s history: www.vnpa.org.au/lessons-little-desert

Listen below, or on your favourite podcast app:


Episode 1: Historical background of the 1969 Little Desert dispute

The campaign to protect the Little Desert in the late 60’s contributed dramatically to the changing of the political landscape in Victoria. The campaign became a key part of Victoria’s environmental history. In this episode we unpack the historical context of the campaign that led to the substantial extension of the Little Desert National Park and how it contributed to the changes in Victorian political processes. We hear about the ideas and events that became a part of this historic campaign.


  • Malcolm Calder, retired botanist (University of Melbourne) and member of the Save our Bushlands Action Committee

Episode 2. Historical background of the 1969 Little Desert dispute – continued.

Explore the rise of environmental consciousness in Australia and relationship between urban and regional groups. Hear from environmental historian Don Garden and gain a deeper understanding of the broader social context of the campaign. Local resident Whimpey Reichelt shares his personal experience of the campaign.


  • Don Garden, environmental historian (University of Melbourne)
  • Raymond ‘Whimpey’ Reichelt, Wimmera local and founder of the Little Desert Nature Lodge

Episode 3: The Little Desert today

Although it is now protected as a national park, time does not stand still in the Little Desert. Even to this day the region remains a hotbed for social and environmental innovations in Victoria. In this episode we will look beyond the Desert’s dramatic history that led to the 1969 conservation controversy, and turn to some recent highlights. We will be hearing from Brett Harrison, who is the Executive Officer of the Barengi Gadjin Land Council. They achieved the first successful case of Native Title Consent Determination in Victoria. Together with the retired farmers and naturalists couple Maree and Graham Goods we will do a little inventory of the diverse and beautiful flora and fauna that still lives today in the Little Desert, and hear about the changes in local agriculture. We will also be talking about one of the latest innovations in nature conservation called “rewilding” — with Ben Holmes from Conservation Volunteers Australia.


  • Brett Harrison, CEO of Barengi Gadjin Land Council
  • Maree and Graham Goods, authors of the photographic guide book: Birds and plants of the Little Desert.
  • Ben Holmes, Conversation Volunteers Australia

Episode 4: Nature conservation and environmental policy making in Victoria today – the legacy of the 1969 Little Desert dispute

In this episode we will talk about the implications of the Little Desert Dispute for us in Victoria today. We will hear from Matt Ruchel, Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA). The VNPA, which was heavily involved in the 1969 campaign for the Little Desert, is still today one of the leading voices for nature conservation movement in Victoria. We will also hear from Joan Philips, who is the Executive Director of the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC). VEAC is the successor organisation of the Land Conservation Council, which was a direct outcome from the Little Desert dispute. And we will talk to Zoe Wilkinson via telephone, who is the Parks Victoria Area Chief Ranger for the Wimmera. Zoe is overseeing the nature conservation work that is happening on-the-ground at the Little Desert national park today.


  • Matt Ruchel, CEO Victorian National Parks Association
  • Joan Phillips, Executive Officer, Victorian Environmental Assessment Council
  • Zoe Wilkinson, Area-chief ranger for the Wimmera, Parks Victoria

Production credits

  • Produced by Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier, RMIT University
  • Project management: Caitlin Griffith, Victorian National Parks Association
  • Podcast narrators: Bethany Atkinson-Quinton and Jessica Hamilton
  • Research and script development: Jan Hendrik Brueggemeier and Tom Bristow
  • Additional project support: Michael Howes


This project was funded by Parks Victoria.

We acknowledge that the Little Desert lies within the traditional lands of the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagalk peoples, and we pay respect to their Elders, both past and present.

Keep listening

If you enjoyed our Little Desert podcast, perhaps you would also like to listen to our other podcast on Marine National Parks.