We thank FoCV member Melva Truchanas for taking time out from helping to prepare the exceptional Into the Wild: Wilderness photography in Tasmania exhibition in the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at its newly renovated Royal Park annex, Launceston to gather together the children of the late Pat Wessing AM so as to present them with a 2012 Kate and Gustav Weindorfer Honours List award, in memory of their esteemed mother. “Not an easy feat in itself”, according to Melva.
Pat Wessing was a well-loved teacher and head of the Hobart College’s geography department for 20 years. She was a regular visitor to our valley from the 1950s until her death in 2004. She was a friend of Major Ronny Smith on whose land the Blandfordia Lodge was built. As a foundation member of the Blandfordia Alpine Club, she spent many weeks with her children Charles, Nell (Helen) and Ann, and with other foundation members, building the Lodge during her holidays and at weekends in the early 1960s, travelling up from Hobart to do so. Pat was “a tireless worker” who dedicated more than 50 years to protecting Tasmania’s natural environment. She was a key figure in setting up the ‘Chauncy Vale Sanctuary’ in 1946, and she campaigned against the transfer of 15,000 Ha of old growth forests from Mt Field National Park in the 1940s, and against the slaughter of seals on Macquarie Island during the 1950s. She was a foundation member of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust (established in 1968) and a key supporter of the establishment of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. She was awarded an AM for her services to conservation and education.
One of the interesting stories about Pat that I came across during my research was of how she and celebrated Tasmanian children’s writer Nan Chauncey stumbled across an old thylacine resting in tussocks of button-grass in 1947, some 14 years after the last known tiger died in captivity in Hobart’s Domain Zoo. They kept their sighting secret for many years out of respect to the animal, and because they strongly disapproved of the callous and short-sighted attitude of the then Tasmanian Government, which, had it known about it, would have set about capturing it, so as to sell it abroad to the highest bidder.
The Kate and Gustav Weindorfer Honours List award is further recognition, long over-due, this time from her friends in the Cradle Valley community.
Written by John Wilson, Nov 2012 & Apr 2013