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Weindorfer, Gustav (1874–1932)

by Raymond F. Tilley

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Gustav Weindorfer (1874-1932), naturalist and conservationist, was born on 23 February 1874 at Spittal an der Drau, Kärnten, Austria, son of Johann Weindorfer, district governor, and his wife Pauline, née Tscheligi. Gustav was educated at Villach and at an agricultural school at Mödling, near Vienna. After compulsory military service, he worked in the wine industry and migrated to Australia in 1900.

Obtaining a clerical position in Melbourne with Pfaff, Pinschof & Co., Weindorfer became honorary chancellor at the Austro-Hungarian consulate in 1901. A mountaineer and an amateur botanist, he joined the Field Naturalists' Club of Victoria that year and the local branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia in 1903; he gave public lectures and published in the Victorian Naturalist, the Leader and the Australasian. Weindorfer sent Australian plants and seeds to the Museum of Natural History, Vienna, and to other collectors, and organized holiday camps in the Victorian Alps for botanists.

Naturalized in 1905, he married fellow club member Kate Julia Cowle with Methodist forms at Stowport, Tasmania, on 1 February 1906. They bought 100 acres (40 ha) in 1910 at Kindred, near Devonport, where Kate's family held land; Weindorfer proved an excellent farmer. Impressed by Cradle Mountain during his first climb in January 1909, he determined to make it a national park: with Kate, Gustav shared his dream of establishing a chalet for bushwalkers and mountaineers in the valley below. He named local features, wrote articles on the project in the Launceston Weekly Courier and in the Victorian Naturalist, and urged the government to build a road to the area.

In 1912 Weindorfer began building Waldheim ('home in the forest'), using King Billy pine from the site. As a horse and cart could approach no closer than 8.7 miles (14 km), 'Dorfer' carried baths and stoves on his back. First opened at Christmas 1912, Waldheim became a popular resort. Its courtly and jovial host often sang to his guests and had a mischievous sense of humour. Carved on the wall of the chalet was the motto: 'This is Waldheim, where there is no time and nothing matters'.

After his wife died in April 1916, Weindorfer experienced isolation. Although he was a justice of the peace and had tried to join the Australian Imperial Force, he became a target for anti-German prejudice; selling his farm at Kindred in 1917, he ran Waldheim single-handed, while acting as ranger. He also travelled, lectured and kept official weather records. Weindorfer died of coronary vascular disease on 5 May 1932 in Cradle Valley and was buried there. His property was eventually added to the adjoining 158,000 acres (63,941 ha) stretching from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair which, as a result of his efforts, had been proclaimed a reserve in 1922. A granite cairn over his grave was unveiled in 1938.

Select Bibliography

  • G. F. J. Bergman, The Hermit of Cradle Mountain (1955?)
  • G. F. J. Bergman, Gustav Weindorfer of Cradle Mountain (Launc, 1959)
  • M. Lake, A Divided Society (Melb, 1975)
  • Walkabout, Apr 1966
  • Examiner (Launceston), 17 Aug 1929, 11 May 1932
  • Weindorfer papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • biography card index (Australian Academy of Science Library).

Citation details

Raymond F. Tilley, 'Weindorfer, Gustav (1874–1932)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/weindorfer-gustav-9038/text15919, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 8 December 2016.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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