PARK WATCH Article September 2023 |

VNPA staff and supporters were shocked and saddened by the unexpected death of Phil Ingamells, our long-time Parks Protection Advocate, friend, mentor and ally. Phil died suddenly at home on 25 August.

Phil was a legend in conservation circles and a tireless campaigner for parks and nature. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for his work. Nature in Victoria is better for his efforts, and we are all the wiser.

A thoughtful, persuasive writer and eloquent speaker, Phil played a critical role in protecting Victoria’s natural places and national parks. With his rare skill for clearly explaining complicated (and often dry) policy conundrums, his pieces in Park Watch transported us to the heart of Victoria’s natural places.

He was a warm friend and colleague, a lover of robust conversation and argument – a talent that was not lost on ministers and officials alike. With expansive skills and knowledge honed over the past two decades at VNPA and beyond, Phil played a key role in numerous park management plans.

He filled his hours advocating for action to protect the incredible wildlife and places he spent so much time hiking, photographing and surveying.

Some of the memorable highlights of his time with VNPA include the long-and-hard-fought campaign to remove cattle grazing from the Alpine National Park, not once but twice. He pushed back against the seemingly endless development proposals in our national parks’ estate and always promoted why these places are so special.

Phil’s special love of Wilsons Prom compelled him to fend off development proposals in the 1990s and again in 2013. More recently, he pushed the government to control the feral animals destroying the Alpine landscapes that bewitched him so. He also tackled the extremely difficult issue of fire management in his usual evidence-based way.

He never played favourites, in Phil’s mind all of our protected areas are important, the corner stone of our efforts to protect nature for all people to respectfully enjoy.

Technically retiring as a paid staff member in late 2021, Phil remained active on our various committees, was a frequent visitor to the office and a prolific contributor to Park Watch.

While Phil certainly didn’t get enough time to enjoy his hard-earned retirement, he always had time for nature. His wisdom, dedication and tenacity will be sorely missed.

I would like to give Phil the last word, which is what he would expect:

It’s been a huge privilege to spend time as a spokesperson for the VNPA, and I’ll remain forever grateful for that opportunity. I’ve been able to engage with so many interesting people, tasked in so many ways with the protection of Victoria’s great natural heritage.

I’ve had remarkable access to the expertise of ecologists and other researchers who have been happy to entrust their knowledge to the VNPA. And similarly, I’ve had access to the formidable understanding of so many of Victoria’s amateur naturalists. And though it’s not always easy to find yourself trying to enlighten people who see the natural world as a resource, an opportunity for exploitation or simply a troublesome in-the-way bit of bush, knowing that I was backed by the strength and passion of our members and supporters has made it all seem possible.

Thank you, and I hope to see you somewhere along the track.

Matt Ruchel, Executive Director