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Jones, Richard (Dick) (1936–1986)

by Peter Hay

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Richard (Dick) Jones (1936-1986), conservationist, was born on 19 September 1936 at Sarina, Queensland, eldest of three sons of George Jones, an English-born tobacco-farmer, and his wife Isabella Mary, née Arbuthnot, from North Queensland. Dux of Mackay State High School in 1954, next year Richard trained as a primary school teacher at Queensland Teachers’ Training College, Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, and in 1956-57 taught in the Mackay district.

In 1958 Jones enrolled at the University of Queensland (B.Sc., 1961; M.Sc., 1963), and subsequently majored in botany. For his master’s thesis he investigated the mountain mallee heath of the McPherson Ranges. He was president of the metropolitan section of the Australian Country Party, Queensland branch. On 25 May 1963 at Scots Memorial Church, Clayfield, Brisbane, he married with Presbyterian forms Patricia Campbell Cribb, a schoolteacher. In 1963 he lectured at the University College of Townsville; next year he commenced doctoral studies at the University of Melbourne (Ph.D., 1967). His thesis, supervised by Raymond Specht, was on `Productivity and Water Use Efficiency of a Victorian Heathland’. He joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Division of Plant Industry in 1967. Based at its Riverina Laboratory, Deniliquin, New South Wales, as a dry-land ecologist, he researched saltbush as a food source for sheep.

A senior lecturer in botany at the University of Tasmania from 1970, `Dick’ Jones became the dominant early figure in the environment movement that soon emerged in Tasmania. He was founding chairman of the Lake Pedder Action Committee (1971), which fought unsuccessfully to save the lake from inundation, and of the United Tasmania Group (1972-79), the world’s first `green’ political party. As co-manager of the group’s campaign for the Tasmanian House of Assembly 1972 elections, he produced a pamphlet, A New Ethic. Inaugural director (1974-86) of the university’s Centre for Environmental Studies, he edited publications on a range of contentious Tasmanian conservation issues, including logging of rainforests, wood-chip production, endangered wildlife, and the activities of the Hydro-Electric Commission. He helped to establish the Tasmanian Environment Centre, opened in Hobart in 1973, and served on its board, and was a councillor (1973-82), vice-president (1973-81) and life member (1982) of the Australian Conservation Foundation. In 1974 and 1975 he contested Senate elections as a UTG candidate.

Although (Senator) Robert (Bob) Brown became the public face of Tasmanian environmental politics after the Lake Pedder campaign, Jones continued to be a dauntless and formidable activist. He supported the Tas­manian Wilderness Society’s crusade against both options for future dam sites presented to voters in a State referendum in 1981; as a result 33 per cent wrote `no dams’ on their ballot papers. In 1985 he was appointed to the Tasmanian World Heritage Area Council’s consultative committee. Survived by his wife and their daughter and son, he died on 19 March 1986 in Hobart, after a fall from a ladder at his Sandy Bay home, and was cremated with Anglican rites. He left behind him Australia’s most tactically adept and politically prominent regional environment movement.

Select Bibliography

  • D. Johnson, Lake Pedder (1972)
  • P. Hay et al (eds), Environmental Politics in Australia and New Zealand (1989)
  • M. Mulligan and S. Hill, Ecological Pioneers (2001)
  • Public Administration (Sydney), vol 31, no 1, 1972, p 21
  • Togatus, Apr 1986, p 8
  • P. Walker, The United Tasmania Group (BA Hons thesis, University of Tasmania, 1987)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Hay, 'Jones, Richard (Dick) (1936–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/jones-richard-dick-12706/text22909, published in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 31 August 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

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