29-08-1936 ~ 27-05-2011
Donald (Don) Robert Voigt, the sixth of thirteen children to Oscar Frederick Voigt and Julia Elizabeth Porter, was born on 29th August, 1936 in Ouyen Victoria.
Don’s family moved a number of times while he was young and he attended schools at Woorinen North, Woorinen South, Creswick and Spring Mount before leaving at the age of 15 and working at a sawmill in Creswick for one and a half years. Over the next 16 years Don worked and travelled extensively throughout Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia until meeting Janice (Jan) Claire Lavender at Kununurra in 1967. Don and Jan married in February 1968 and lived in Kununurra until 1969 when they moved to Esperance. Don worked in various positions in the Esperance Region until his retirement in 2003.
Their first child, Carolyn Michelle Voigt, was born in September 1969 and Nigel Robert Voigt, was born in 1971.
Don had many interests over the years but had a particular passion for the Western Australian native orchids. He pressed and catalogued many species he found in the Esperance Region and was recognised as an authority on the orchids of the area. It was during his years in Salmon Gums that he made the newspaper with his rediscovery of what was thought at that time to be the long lost crested spider orchid (Caladenia cristata), which had not been seen since its description in 1923.
Funding was granted from The Australian Orchid Foundation (AOF) to aid its protection, and Don arranged with the farmer on whose property the orchid was discovered, for the area to be fenced and protected from grazing. The area was subsequently named “Cristata Compound”. The orchid was later found to be a related but undescribed species, formally named Caladenia voigtii in 2001 in Don’s honour.
In 1975 Don published a booklet titled “Orchids of the Mallee” which contained a wealth of information on the orchids found within a 64 km radius of his home at Salmon Gums. This booklet is still a very valuable reference to the orchids of that area.
Don was one of the first Western Australian members of the AOF. In August 1980 was an integral part of the AOF funded expedition to Western Australia to collect and catalogue the orchids found between Salmon Gums and Mount Ragged. Don and his brother Wally knew this area well and over the two week trip were able to lead the expedition into some of the most interesting and orchid rich areas found in the region. Collections of these orchids are housed at the Western Australian Herbarium and the Australian National Herbarium at Canberra.
During a major taxonomic study of the Western Australian orchids carried out in the 1980s and 1990s, Don was instrumental in highlighting and showing Stephen Hopper and Andrew Brown a number of poorly known or undescribed orchid taxa in the Esperance Region.
Don’s contribution to the knowledge of the orchids of the Esperance Region is highlighted by over 200 of his orchid collections now housed at the Western Australian Herbarium. Many of these collections were of poorly known, either undescribed species or were new records for the area. Most of these have now been formally described.
In honour of Don’s enormous contribution to the knowledge of the Western Australian orchids he was made a life member of Western Australian Native Orchid Study and Conservation Group (WANOSCG).
Don was very interested in photography and photographed many of his native orchid finds. To further his knowledge of photography, Don joined the Esperance Photography Club and even converted a room at home into a dark room.
Don started to experiment with re-photographing and improving old photos. It was perhaps from his passion for old photographs and history that led him to publishing a book in 1996 titled “Old Esperance”.
Not long after this his beloved Jan became ill. Although Jan recovered for a few years she had a terminal illness and Don nursed her at their home until her death in 2004.
Don’s interest in history, facts, names and dates went into overdrive after Jan’s death.
He volunteered most mornings at the Esperance Museum as well as having many of his own research projects on-going at home. Brother Wally and Don often went bush to GPS historic buildings, gravesite and important historic sites.
Tribute by Carolyn Voigt (in remembrance of her father) and Andrew Brown
A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by Andrew Brown, Western Australia.