Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Jocelyn Henderson (1905–1972)

by Jan McDonald

This article was published:

Jocelyn Henderson (1905-1972), conservationist, was born on 11 February 1905 at Albury, New South Wales, third daughter of native-born parents Walter George Henderson, solicitor, and his wife Charlotte Gertrude, née Fleming. Walter wrote short stories with a country setting; his affection for the bush influenced Jocelyn. Nicknamed 'Daph', she was educated at Albury Grammar School and in 1920-21 at the Church of England Girls' Grammar School (The Hermitage), Geelong, Victoria. Unlike her sisters, she was shy and retiring, and returned to work at home. When the family moved in 1931 to Upper Wantagong, a grazing property near Holbrook, she was able to indulge her passions for orchid collecting, bird-watching and studying trees.

In early 1943 Miss Henderson began a crusade to promote reafforestation and soil conservation. She organized thoroughly, read widely, gained the support of numerous bureaucrats and community leaders, and spoke to a range of organizations. She wrote extensively for newspapers, journals and radio, and published Fire—or Water? (Sydney, 1947), a book on reafforestation and fire control. Her campaign received a mixed reception. Senior Federal and State public servants were largely supportive, for her views coincided with those which they were trying to persuade their governments to adopt. The contrast between administrative enthusiasm and political indifference was most marked in Victoria. In New South Wales there was bipartisan political support for conservation issues, but she encountered scepticism from E. H. F. Swain, chairman of the Forestry Commission.

None the less, she secured several major successes. Many farmers were persuaded to take action on soil conservation and reafforestation, and the State government passed legislation allowing local councils to plant community forests for beautification, soil conservation and as a valuable future crop. She received the most hostile reception close to home. Albury Municipal and Holbrook Shire councils condemned her recommendations as impractical and wasteful. She was subjected to harassment by some aggrieved pastoralists who depended on the summer grazing in the Snowy Mountains that she wished to see abolished to protect the catchments of the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.

Henderson maintained her passionate concern for reafforestation, but after 1950 her active involvement declined. She was a founder of the Men of the Land Society (later the Conservation Society of New South Wales). In 1960 she made a world tour to study community and private forestry, and advised the Federal government on legislation to promote forestry schemes. H. A. Lindsay based the character Alison Reeford in The Red Bull (London, 1959) on Henderson and her work.

In 1950 Wantagong had been sold, apparently with some family acrimony, and she moved with her parents to Glencraig, a dairy farm near Robertson. She married Clifford Woodman Squire, a local share-farmer, on 7 January 1961 at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Camperdown, Victoria. They bought a property, Green Meadows, near Bundanoon, New South Wales. Short and slightly built, Jocelyn feared cameras, and appeared severe and intense in photographs. In 1967 the Squires retired to Bowral where she died of cancer on 9 November 1972 and was cremated with Anglican rites; her husband survived her. She is remembered by her nieces and nephews, not least for introducing them to the Australian bush.

Select Bibliography

  • H. A. Lindsay, Notes on Jocelyn Henderson (Oct 1968, held at ADB)
  • Conservation Society of New South Wales, Death of Noted Conservationist (press release, 20 Nov 1972)
  • Henderson papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

Jan McDonald, 'Henderson, Jocelyn (1905–1972)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 24 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Squire, Jocelyn

11 February, 1905
Albury, New South Wales, Australia


9 November, 1972 (aged 67)
Bowral, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.