Australian Orchid Foundation

In memory of


1947 ~ 07-02-2009

Jenny Barnett (nèe Forse) was born in England in 1947 and came to Australia with her parents in 1950. She joined the Hawthorn Junior Field Naturalists Club in 1964, her primary interest at that time being entomology and she became an expert on Victorian butterflies. She joined the Council of the Hawthorn Juniors in 1965 and played an important role in the annual Nature Show in the Lower Melbourne Town Hall, putting on demonstrations of great interest.

She qualified BSc from Monash University in 1969 and went on to complete her Masters Degree with a study of the biology of bull ants. She was a founding member of the Mammal Survey Group of Victoria and played a significant role in the recovery program of the New Holland Mouse. She and her husband, John, a fellow student whom she met at Monash University, attended many nights and weekends with the Mammal Survey Group.

Jenny was fully committed to conservation and environmental planning. She worked part time with the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) on a range of planning issues and appeared for the VNPA on many Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) hearings. She was well known and highly respected by both the wider conservation movement and government organisations. She was a force to be reckoned with when dealing with VCAT. Together with former Councillor Veronica Holland, she wrote a short guide, “Fighting for your Environment” to help community groups understand the powers of the community on planning issues.

Jenny and John had a property in Old Kinglake Road, Steels Creek, bordering Kinglake National Park, and they spent most weekends there. Jenny walked every track within a 10 km radius of her house and knew the bush like the back of her hand. Each November she would lead an “orchid walk” with the Steels Creek Scramblers Group. She had a profound knowledge of her natural environment and was willing to share it with all. Every second year Jenny and John organised a major family expedition of several weeks to wild Australia. They drove to all States and all environments, a program of journeys that gave them both a great understanding of the environments of Australia.

In 1983, Jenny applied to the Australian Orchid Foundation for a grant to study the effects of fire on orchids in a stringybark-box forest. The area to be studied was near their Steels Creek property, on the eastern edge of Kinglake National Park and abutting private land that had been burnt in 1983.

She subsequently published a paper in Victorian Naturalist. Jenny was invited to become a member of the AOF at that time and remained so until her death in 2009.

Jenny also commenced a survey of Victorian Native Orchids in 1983, to collect data on their distribution and to determine some of the ecological factors influencing their distribution. She modelled it on methods successfully used by mammalian surveys and bird observer groups, where information is gathered by interested amateurs and collated centrally. Thousands of records were processed and subsequently lodged at the National Herbarium, Victoria, substantially adding to their distribution data.

Jenny and John tragically perished in the fires that engulfed their Steels Creek property on Black Saturday, 7th February, 2009.

Tribute by Malcolm Calder and Helen Richards

A donation has been made to the Australian Orchid Trust Fund by the Directors of The Australian Orchid Foundation.

AOTF: 3647