First Ranger: A Memoir

“Perhaps I was a dreamer, but my years spent living and working in the mountains of New Zealand’s
South Island provided me with an ideal. Here was spectacular beauty to rival Yosemite, where the
national park ideal was conceived. My mind became focused on the need to protect and preserve
natural landscapes for future generations. Pat Comben, the minister responsible for national parks
in the Goss government in Queensland, termed this a sacred trust’.

“I was happy to encourage and advise visitors to enjoy these jewels in the crown. I saw myself
as today’s custodian of the nation’s treasures who was holding the line until better educated and
resourced staff came along. However, I did not last the distance. Years later, I found I was ill-prepared
to deal with employees working within the system who did not share those ideals.

“In the early years, my role as District Ranger in Queensland was actually a lonely one. There
were few departmental mentors with whom I could confide in or reflect ideas or ideals, or discuss
issues. At one stage, I was the only District Ranger in Queensland.

“Across the years many people have suggested I should write of my life working in national parks.
More recently, I came to realise today’s front line staff are not aware of events as recently as even
twenty years ago. I believe it important to have part of the early history of QNPWS documented”
in particular that of Cooloola NP” as seen from the perspective of a field worker.”

In First Ranger: A Memoir, Ron records the difficulties of confronting the inevitable resistance to changes in land use, especially in the Cooloola, Fraser Island and Noosa National Parks. Taking control was slow and often hindered by indifferent visitors and unhelpful councils, but Ron made an enthusiastic effort to involve the community and establish a positive image for the QNPWS.

Ron was part of the exciting early years of this new government department, which operated with limited finance and few field staff, but was led by supportive officers, who encouraged staff to use their own initiative. As time passed, he witnessed the introduction of a top-heavy, bureaucratic administration, and in some quarters the absence of basic environmental ethics.



Geographic Coverage

Queensland, Victoria


This self-published and readable memoir of some 166 pages has been written by a rare individual – a literate and thoughtful commentator, but with a largely operational and outdoors background. It is particularly valuable for its insight into the difficulties and complexities of outdoor park operations as well as for its chronicle of variously support, indifference and hostility from individuals within the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service over a period of great change in Australian public administration. It will be particularly valuable for historians of the Cooloola area; for policy officers and managers responsible for outdoor operations but without in-depth field experience; and for those studying the era of public sector reform dating from the election of the Goss government in Queensland in December 1989.


Available under Creative Commons licence Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)


Turner, Ron (Author)


Ron Turner: 2021