Home' SA 50s Lifestyle : SA 50s Winter 11 Contents 7
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Where are they now?
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Barbara continues to ‘save the world’
A visit to her seaside home and
she is proud to show you the vegie
patch, compost pile, solar panels
and collection of rainwater tanks that
make her landholding sustainable.
Nothing is wasted and she is doing
her bit to conserve the earth’s
For more than 30 years she has
worked tirelessly to put conservation
issues on the map in South Australia
and tell people what they can do to
look after their environment.
In 1981, Barbara was one of the
initial founders of the National Parks
Foundation of SA, joining forces
with Warren Bonython AO, Dr Mark
Bonnin and David Cleland to raise
funds to help conserve the State’s
precious natural resources. Later
this year the organisation, now
known as Nature Foundation SA, will
celebrate its 30th anniversary, with
many achievements to its credit.
Back in the early days, Barbara
recalls she was involved in a very
“hands on” role, helping to draft
and send out appeal letters in a
bid to raise funds. After two years
the Foundation was well and truly
established and today it employs five
staff and has an office in Hindmarsh.
Money raised is used to purchase
areas of significant bushland and to
help restore its original biodiversity.
The Foundation’s current project
is the Witchelina Reserve, in the
north east of the State not far from
Lake Torrens. Some of the work to
date has included getting rid of feral
animals such as goats and rabbits
and eradicating pest plants.
At 84, Barbara is understandably
proud of what the Foundation has
achieved, but says there is still
more to be done. Educating the
community remains the key.
“Educating people about the
importance of the natural
environment and natural resources
is still the biggest issue. Some
people believe the economy is the
most important thing, but the health
of the economy really depends on
natural resource conservation.”
Over the years she has witnessed
a gradual change in public opinion
and believes people now have a
“much more positive attitude”
towards conservation issues.
She says the older generation
is particularly supportive, giving
donations and bequests and
volunteering their time.
“Often it is the older people who are
helping out, as young people just
do not have the time to devote to it
(conservation) at that stage of their
For Barbara, her love for the
environment was ignited back in
the 1960s, when she took her two
youngest sons on a camping trip to
the Flinders Ranges.
“We loaded up Tom’s (her husband)
station wagon and spent 10 days in
Wilpena Pound and it was fantastic.”
They did a lot of hiking and Barbara
found herself particularly interested
in the different rocks they came
across. Many camping trips
followed and her interest grew. She
had completed a Science degree
(majoring in chemistry) at the
University of Adelaide in 1947 and in
1974 she went back to study Earth
Sciences, which included geology, at
For five years she undertook part-
time classes and eventually reached
Honours level of post-graduate study.
However, her studies coincided with
her beloved Tom’s fight with prostate
cancer and when he passed away
in 1980, a heartbroken Barbara
decided to channel her energy into
“saving the world”.
“The Earth is a finite resource and
more and more of us are living on it.
We really need to look after it much
better”, she said.
Her drive and knowledge saw her
become a respected authority on
conservation issues in the State,
with her main areas of interest
being ecologically sustainable
valuation, renewable energy
production and use, and in business
and industrial matters that affect the
environment within which we all live.
The state of her office is testament
to the many hours she puts into the
conservation cause. The desk and
shelves are stacked high with piles
of paper relating to her volunteer
work – with her current project
involving writing the history of Nature
Foundation SA Inc.
Besides the environment, Barbara
hopes that young South Australians
will share her passion for science.
She says her Year 10 chemistry
teacher was the one responsible for
opening her eyes to the wonders of
“She was German and could barely
speak English but she was just so
excited about chemistry that it really
inspired my love of science,” she
Barbara was one of the driving
forces in the establishment of the
Investigator Science and Technology
Centre, which brought the world
of science alive to school students
and the community through hands-
on, interactive exhibits. When the
centre closed due to rising rents
and insurance levies, the exhibits
became part of a mobile display
known as “SciWorld”, of which she
is the patron.
There have been many awards
presented to Barbara to acknowledge
her role in conservation and the
sciences. In 1987, she was made
an Officer of the General Division
of the Order of Australia (AO), she
received an Advance Australia Award
in 1991, an SA Great Award in 1992,
Institution of Engineers Medal in
1992, ABC Eureka Award for the
Advancement of Science in 1994
and was named South Australian
Citizen of the Year in 1996. She is
now a Companion of the Institution
of Engineers Australia and a Fellow
of the Australian Institute of Energy.
Never one to sit idle for long,
Barbara doesn’t dwell on this
impressive list. She does, however,
still marvel at the beauty of the
Flinders Ranges, the place where it
really all began.
She closes her eyes to relive the
images in her mind.
“The Flinders Ranges are just
so inspirational. When you drive
towards them, and begin to see the
shape of the hills around Wilpena
Pound ... it is almost spiritual.”
And with that her eyes sparkle –
there is still work to be done!
Continuing in our Where Are
They Now? series, LINDY
McNAMARA chats with well-
Dr Barbara Hardy AO, and
discovers that she practises
what she preaches.
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