What do we do?
The Friends of Cradle Valley
participate in various activities such as workshops, seminars and
slide nights. As key stakeholders in the Cradle Mountain - Lake St
Clair National Park, they also provide input and advice to a range
of Local, State and Federal Government agencies that are involved
in managing the Park's assets as well as its surrounding areas.
What you can do?
Around April each year is a great
time to visit Cradle Valley because the beautiful deciduous beech (Nothofagus)
which grows on the slopes of the hills around Cradle Valley changes
colour. This provides a spectacular sight, one that's become
popular with bushwalkers and photographers alike.
Every year on New Years Day, the Weindorfer Memorial Committee holds a
service of commemoration at Waldheim, Gustav Weindorfer's old home in the Cradle Valley.
Everyone is invited to
attend this memorial service.
In 2009, it was 100 years since Gustav Weindorfer arrived in
Cradle Valley. When this adventurer first climbed to the top of
Cradle Mountain, he said: "This must be a national park for all
Memorial Service Photos can be found
THE STORY OF GUSTAV
WEINDORFER & WALDHEIM
Gustav Weindorfer was born on
23 February 1874 at Spittal an der Drau, Carinthia, Austria,which is an alpine province
of Austria. His father was a senior civil servant before becoming
involved in the management of large agricultural estates in African
colonies. Gustav was well educated, training at an agricultural
college with the aim of following his father's footsteps into
agricultural management. He had formal botany training in Austria,
before deciding to emigrate to the Antipodes.
He arrived in Melbourne on 13 June 1900, where he obtained a
clerical position with the Austrian Lloyd Steamship Company.
However, a desk job never fully satisfied Gustav. In 1901, his
social standing was somewhat elevated when he became Honorary
Chancellor of the Austro-Hungarian Consulate. During that year and
the next, almost every weekend, he would stroll through the
Melbourne Botanical Gardens, or go walking in the nearby bushland
On 9 September 1901, Gustav went to a meeting of the Victorian
Field Naturalists Club, and immediately became an enthusiastic
member. On one Club outing, he discovered a new pea plant, now
named after him, Pultenaea weindorferi. On another Club outing, he
met Kate Cowle. Kate had recently moved to Melbourne from
North-West Tasmania, where her family had a farm at Kindred, near
Devonport. Their shared enthusiasm for botany led to marriage. The
wedding was conducted in Stowport, near Burnie on 1 February 1906,
and a large part of their honeymoon was spent camped on Mt. Roland
with the aim of making an extensive botany collection. This was the
first time that Gustav had a clear view of Cradle Mountain.
Weindorfer's first trip to Cradle Mountain was in January 1909.
Leaving the farm that he and Kate bought at Kindred, he travelled
into the hinterland with his friend, botanist Dr.Sutton and a local
guide. They took with them six plant presses, and there were no
formed roads to follow, just tracks through the bush. For two days,
they explored the Cradle area, even making an attempt on the summit
of the mountain before before thick fogs enveloped them and made
progress impossible. Much of their time was used up in plant
collecting, and when they returned to Kindred, Gustav enthused
about the Valley, describing it as a "veritable Eldorado for the
botanist" and likening it to his Carinthian homeland.
In 1910, he returned to Cradle Mountain with his wife Kate, and
Ronny (late Major) Smith. On 4 January 1910, the party members were
graced with fine weather for their climb of the mountain. It was
here that Smith later quoted Weindorfer as saying: "This must be a
National Park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and
people must know it and enjoy it."
While in the valley, Kate and Gustav selected a site for them to
build a chalet that would allow tourists to stay in comfort in the
valley. A few hundred acres were purchased, and in March 1912,
Gustav commenced work on the building he was to call Waldheim, or
"home in the forest". The chalet was built of King Billy pine,
harvested from the adjacent forests. By Christmas 1912, it was
ready enough for its first visitors, with a living room and dining
room, and two bedrooms.
Despite early visitors having to walk up to 8 miles to reach
Waldheim from the Middlesex Plains and Daisy Dell homesteads, the
new chalet was a success. Eventually a rough track allowed a horse
and cart to reach the valley near Pencil Pine falls.
However, 1916 was a year of disaster for Gustav. His mother died in
January, and Kate, who had been ill for some time, died in April.
One of his brothers died in June, and his father died in October.
Gustav sold his farm at Kindred and became a full-time resident at
Waldheim. His unhappiness and isolation were heightened because of
the prejudice against Germanic people during the Great War.
Although he had willingly become an Australian citizen before his
marriage in 1906, some of the residents on the North-West Coast
cruelly ostracized him, foolishly spreading rumours that he was an
In 1921, Weindorfer set out on a tour of Tasmania to promote
Waldheim, as well as the concept of a National Park for Cradle
Mountain. The following year, a scenic reserve and wildlife
sanctuary were declared, stretching from Cradle Mountain to Lake
St.Clair. His reputation as a great host spread, but visitors came
mainly in summer. 'Dorfer', as he became known, enjoyed company. So
in the many quiet times at Cradle Valley, he felt great loneliness.
During the early part of the Great Depression, as the national
economic situation deteriorated, there was a drop in visitor
numbers and Gustav had to sell timber and furs to make ends meet.
Dorfer mostly cared for his visitors single-handedly. All of this
effort as well as the bitterly cold winters strained his health.
His heart had shown a weakness in the early 1920s, and towards the
end of the decade, he wrote in his diary: "Strange experience. My
heart acted strangely. Had to lie down in bed. I do not smoke
anymore. I have to give up tea ..."
In April 1931, he bought a motor cycle to make travel out of the
valley easier, but on 5 May 1932, while trying to start his motor
cycle, his heart gave out. He was found dead the next day near the
present Ronny Creek car park. Gustav Weindorfer had died within
sight of his beloved mountain. Following his wishes, he was buried
in the valley on 10 May 1932.
In November 1932, Gustav's sister sent a bunch of everlasting
flowers and four candles, asking that they be placed on his grave
on New Year's Day, as was the custom in Carinthia. This simple
ceremony continued until the outbreak of World War II and it was
subsequently revived in 1954. The current format of a memorial
service along with the placing of the flowers and lighting of the
candles was instituted by the North-West Walking Club in the early
1970s. It has been necessary to use local flowers, but candles are
still sent from Austria.
This text courtesy of the Weindorfer Memorial Service
Available for download
Programme from the 2009 WEINDORFER MEMORIAL SERVICE