Myles Dunphy - TAFE teacher and conservationist

Janine Kitson

Myles Dunphy Colong Foundation

With the severe attacks on TAFE it is timely to remind politicians that this magnificent institution has not only provided education and career opportunities for generations of students but that many of its teachers have made outstanding contributions to society.

One TAFE teacher, Myles Dunphy (1891–1996), is the reason why Sydney and NSW enjoys, to this day, many outstanding national parks and places of beauty.

Myles Dunphy, a resident of Oatley, made a lifetime contribution to protecting the environment — something that current governments are hell-bent on destroying.

Only recently, the Abbott Government announced it was determined to weaken national environment laws as a move against the small Mackay Conservation Group which successfully used its democratic right to overturn an approval for the Carmichael coalmine in Central Queensland.

Myles Dunphy was a marathon bushwalker and galvanised the bushwalking conservation movement into articulating a vision for legislative protection of the environment. He spent a lifetime walking, mapping and calling for national parks to be established.

His passion for the Blue Mountains led to the creation of the Blue Mountains National Park in 1959. In 2000, the Greater Blue Mountains National Park became a World Heritage Area.

Dunphy was appointed a full-time teacher for architectural engineering and later architectural history at Sydney Technical College in 1922. Later, this section of TAFE would become part of the University of NSW. For his work in architecture Myles was awarded Life Fellowship of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects in 1970.

Dunphy mobilised the “bushwalking conservation” movement that rose to prominence in the 1930s during the Depression with the popularity of bushwalking as an inexpensive sport.

It was Dunphy and his bushwalking colleagues who in fact coined the word “bushwalking” when they formed the club, The Sydney Bush Walkers.

Myles believed the preservation of nature was crucial for the wellbeing of modern society. He recognised how dangerous big business could be for the environment in its pursuit of profits. He opposed the privatisation and commercialisation of scenic, majestic and beautiful natural places.

Myles believed that pristine natural landscapes were too important to the nation to develop, log or mine. He believed they belonged not only to his generation but for future generations. People needed wild, beautiful places to maintain their mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Myles Dunphy’s brilliance was that he was able to articulate and promulgate an alternative vision for the land. Instead of “conquering”, “exploiting” and “clearing land for improvement” he and his strong network of bushwalkers wanted national parks and wild places conserved, appreciated and walked. That is why many came to call him the “father of the conservation movement”.

Myles Dunphy was also active in war historian Charles Bean’s post-World War I Parks and Playground Movement that demanded governments put aside the protection of open space, playground and sporting areas. At the moment, all this work is under threat with the review of Crown Lands that proposes to “divest” of public lands and “assets”. Many local communities are fighting to hold onto their public spaces as local government seeks to sell them off.

Myles Dunphy — a great TAFE teacher!

Janine Kitson is a casual teacher.