Bill Middleton – Wail Nursery.

In the 1930s, the Forests Commission took a leading role in stabilising soils in the desert country of northwest Victoria ravaged by drought and excessive clearing of Mallee woodlands for farming.

Revegetation works by the Commission using Cypress Pine were carried out in the dry Hattah – Kulkyne forests in 1937-38 but it was severely hampered by large rabbit populations and the vagaries of the weather.

It wasn’t until November 1940 that an Act of Parliament created the Soil Conservation Board that eventually became the Soil Conservation Authority (SCA).

In 1946 the Commission established the Wail Nursery near Horsham with noble goals of improving forests, protecting them from bushfire and growing trees to restore farmland. The nursery focused on propagation of species suitable for the drier areas of the State.

One of the many quiet achievers was Bill Middleton, the District Forester at Wail between 1959 and 1976.

Behind the scenes, Bill quietly influenced the State Government’s change of mind over its controversial proposal to clear the Little Desert for agriculture in the late 1960s.

From the mid-1970s Bill was instrumental, along with the Institute of Foresters (IFA) and the Forests Commission, in tackling rural tree decline and helped initiate the successful “trees on farms” program. This became the precursor to Landcare which was announced in 1986 by then Victorian Minister for Conservation, Joan Kirner. But that’s another story.

Bill also worked for many years, largely through the Trust for Nature and the Potter Foundation, for the preservation of native vegetation and bird habitat.

Bill broadcast regularly on ABC Wimmera Radio about gardens, birds and natural history as well as did television appearances. He was awarded an OAM in 1999 for service to conservation, the environment and land management.

A rationalisation by the Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands (CFL) of all its nurseries in the 1990s led to Wail being privatised and sold. From 2017 it has operated as the Dalki Garringa Native Nursery.

Five Chain Road west of the Dimboola-Rainbow Road about 8 kilometres north of Dimboola.

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