North Queensland Naturalist 52: 49-68

Abstract

The North Queensland Naturalists Club was formed in Cairns in 1932, with noted radiologist Dr Hugo Flecker as founding President and Joseph (Joe) Wyer, an executive in the powerful Harbour Board, as Secretary. It aimed to “preserve the natural beauties of the district for all time” and inform residents and authorities about the region’s natural history features, which were not well-known or protected. From 1932–1950 there were almost 400 members in Far North Queensland (north of Cardwell, (18deg16’S) from a wide range of occupations. About half the members joined in their 30s or 40s and a third were female. The club developed close networks in the region through cross-memberships of committee and ordinary members with local councils, businesses, the press and numerous other community associations. Through these networks and its expert and energetic leadership the club achieved a prominent profile in the region. It raised public awareness of the north’s special natural attributes locally, nationally and to an extent internationally, through lectures, excursions, nature shows, a popular newspaper column, a quarterly journal (the North Queensland Naturalist) and the creation of a significant herbarium of northern plants. Cooperation between the Club and other regional organisations on conservation and tourism may represent one of Australia’s earliest eco-tourism partnerships. We focus on the club’s membership, achievements and conservation initiatives in three periods: the formative years (1932–1939) during the Great Depression; WWII (1939–1945), when despite many challenges the club engaged with military naturalists; and post-war (1946–1950), with new members adding different areas of expertise to the club’s activities.