Australia Day: Roger Underwood honoured for lifetime of bushfire management

Roger Underwood.
Roger Underwood.

HISTORIAN and author Roger Underwood has been recognised for decades of service to forestry and bushfire management in WA.

On Friday the Palmyra local was appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia.

He said the honour was something he had gained thanks as much to the work of those around him as it was for his own efforts managing and caring for forests.

“It just so happens I’ve been more in the public eye,” he said.

“But that’s me as a representative of other good people who have devoted their lives to this sort of thing.”

Mr Underwood’s first job after leaving high school was with a forestry fire gang in Dwellingup in the summer of 1958-59.

On his second day he was deployed to a bushfire sparked by a steam locomotive hauling logs.

It would be the first of hundreds of nights where he returned home late smelling of smoke.

In 1963 he was employed as a forester where he helped develop aerial controlled burning and oversaw the introduction of aircraft fire spotting.

He was general manager of Conservation and Land Management between 1985 and 1994 where he spent most of his time overseeing regional operations and bushfire management.

In 1994 he left that job to take a role at a forestry and bushfire management consultancy firm.

Nine years later he co-founded volunteer group The Bushfire Front in response to what he said were declining standards of bushfire management in WA.

In between, he has written numerous papers, articles and books on forestry and bushfire history, with more on the way.

“Our job was to conserve and protect,” Mr Underwood said.

“That was what I was brought up to do and I devoted my whole life to conserving and protecting WA forests.”

Other local winners:

Medal (OAM) Order of Australia in the General Division.
Mrs Wenda Packard (Ardross): For service to aged welfare.

Service includes: Founding vice president, chief instructor and principal examiner of Prime Movers, a not-for-profit organisation which provides physical and cognitive exercises, as well as social interaction, for seniors.

Member (AM) in the General Division of the Order of Australia.
Commander Philip Orchard, Royal Australian Navy (Ardross): For significant service to veterans and their families in Western Australia through administrative roles.

Service includes: Western Australia state branch of The Returned and Services League of Australia – chief executive (2011- 2016), board member and former state secretary.