Red cedar wood
Australian Aboriginals have a deep connection with forests; for tens of thousands of years forests were managed to provide a fundamental source of food, medicine, materials for shelter, textiles for clothing and art, tools, utensils, canoes and adornments. Aboriginal forest management shaped the Australian landscape and was responsible for the first European impressions of this country in the late 1700s.
When Europeans settled Australia, they brought iron tools that allowed them to harvest and process different types of forest products. While they struggled with the hardness and weight of the eucalypt species, early pioneers soon discovered Red Cedar (also known as Red Gold by early pioneers). Unlike the incredibly hard eucalypts, red cedar was soft and easy to work. It quickly became one of the most important early colonial exports. The discovery and subsequent harvest of red cedar moved from the Hawksbury area in New South Wales, all the way up the eastern coast of Australia, paving the way for pioneer settlements, providing income and a useful building material with which to construct furniture and houses.
As harvesting techniques and tools became more sophisticated, the strong and durable eucalypts were able to be harvested and utilised. Fundamental infrastructure across Australia was built from these early forest products. Such as:
-Telegraph lines (timber poles to carry the wire) for communication;
-Railway lines (timber sleepers to carry the steel) for transport of people and commodities;
-Bridges to connect communities;
-Houses, commercial buildings and factories;
-Wharves to load and unload goods from ships;
-Ships to transport people and goods across the world;
-Firewood; timber was used to fuel steam-driven engines, heat houses etc
Without a reliable source of strong and durable timber, these major undertakings would not have been achievable and the advancement of modern Australia society would have been impossible.
Today, forest products are absolutely everywhere; in your mailbox, your shopping trolley, your clothing, toothpaste and even in your ice cream. Below are just some of the many products we get from forests:
-Toilet paper, newspaper, magazines, office paper, business cards, brochures, books, posters, industrial packaging, cardboard.
-Toothpicks, matches, chopsticks, pencils, clothes pegs,
-Garden mulch, sleepers, potting mix, trellis, fences, cubby houses, outdoor furniture, gazebos, dog kennels, tomato stakes
-House frames, power poles, bridge girders, roof trusses, pilings, underground mines
-Split posts, stays, cattle yards
-Flooring, decking, wall lining, windows, doors, stairs, railings
-Chairs, tables, office furniture, cabinets, fruit bowls, kitchen utensils, cutting boards, beds, shelving,
-Didgeridoos, boomerang, canoe, woven bags,
-Medicinal herbs, fungi, edible fruits and nuts, cosmetics and hair-care products, soap, food, soft-drinks, steering wheels, baskets and jewellery.
-Toys, pianos, clarinets, guitars, violins, chess sets, abacus, dolls house.
The wonderful thing about all of these forest products is that they come from a renewable resource. This means that, unlike metals, fossil fuels, glass and concrete, the trees that produce these products can be managed in a way that helps them to grow again or they can be re-planted, ensuring an endless supply of renewable and sustainable timber.
- Hoop pine seedlings at Imbil in the 1920’s – photo coutesy of J.Huth