Australian Dictionary of Biography

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John Duncan Tipper (1886–1970)

by Richard Gowers

This article was published:

John Duncan Tipper (1886-1970), conservationist and electrical engineer, was born on 4 August 1886 at West Maitland, New South Wales, elder child of Edwin Tipper, an English-born printer and later a journalist, and his native-born second wife Elizabeth, née McInnes. On his retirement, Edwin established apiaries at Willow Tree. John and his sister Elizabeth spent much of their childhood studying birds and animals in the Liverpool Ranges. He developed an appreciation of indigenous culture through his contact with Aborigines near the Barrington River.

Schooled at West Maitland, Tipper joined the electrical tramways branch of the New South Wales Government Railways and Tramways on 13 December 1910 and worked as a tracer. At St James's Church of England, Sydney, on 5 December 1912 he married Florence Wynn Clarke. He studied fitting and turning (1912-13) and electrical engineering (1914-17) part time at Sydney Technical College and qualified as an associate (1920). Promoted to draftsman in 1917, Tipper was an assistant-engineer from 1929 until he retired as engineer (third class) in October 1952. He was an associate-member of the Institution of Engineers, Australia.

Tipper belonged to the Wild Life Preservation Society of Australia. In 1928 he became founding president of the Rangers' League of New South Wales—a volunteer group dedicated to preserving natural bushland and preventing bushfires. In 1932 he helped to found the Australian Bushland Conservation Association, but his preservation ideals were constantly frustrated by continuing damage to Sydney's national parks. His desire for a region protected from fires and illegal trafficking in native flowers led him in 1933 to obtain a lease of some 2000 acres (809 ha) around Muogamarra Ridge (overlooking the Hawkesbury River) from the Department of Lands.

The reserve was established in 1934 and opened to the public in the following year. Called the Muogamarra Sanctuary, its name came from the Awabakal Aboriginal dialect and meant 'preserve for the future'. Tipper worked tirelessly to protect the native flora: he set up a volunteer bush fire brigade and, eventually, an environmental study centre and museum. Public access was limited during the six-week wildflower blooming season from mid-August to the end of September.

In 1953 Tipper surrendered his lease. Supported by the State government, Muogamarra Sanctuary was administered by trustees from 1954, with Tipper their president and resident curator. In 1967 the newly established National Parks and Wildlife Service assumed control of Muogamarra. Tipper grew increasingly angered by its management practices. Disagreements over the level of protection afforded to Aboriginal relics within Muogamarra combined with his own ill health to end his association with the sanctuary in 1968.

'J.D.' (as Tipper was known to his friends) was a passionate naturalist who believed that conservation was a calling 'as exacting, responsible and individualistic as any of the senior professions'. A widower, he married Enid Constance Monaghan at St Margaret's Presbyterian Church, Turramurra, on 22 August 1966. He died on 8 September 1970 at Wahroonga and was cremated with Anglican rites; his wife survived him, as did the son of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • Muogamarra Nature Reserve (New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service leaflet, no date)
  • Rangers' League of New South Wales, Bulletin, no 2, 1930
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 2 Feb, 29 June, 3 Dec 1929, 7 Feb, 5 Nov, 3 Dec 1930, 9 May 1931, 12 July 1932, 7 Dec 1935, 14 Mar 1950, 26 June, 18 July 1953, 1, 22 Feb, 1 Sept 1955
  • Tipper papers (State Library of New South Wales)
  • railway service personal history card: J. D. Tipper (State Records New South Wales).

Citation details

Richard Gowers, 'Tipper, John Duncan (1886–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 19 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (Melbourne University Press), 2002

View the front pages for Volume 16

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


4 August, 1886
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia


8 September, 1970 (aged 84)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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