National Library of Australia
The bulk of the collection comprises papers relating to Sinclair's involvement in the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) and the campaign to stop sand mining on Fraser Island. The FIDO papers include corporate records; correspondence with supporters, politicians and the media; papers relating to legal cases; scrapbooks; newspaper clippings and subject files. The papers also relate to Sinclair's interest in a number of other conservation organisations including the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNNR). Other conservation projects represented in the papers are the National Conservation Strategy for Australia and the Working Group on Rainforest Conservation. There are also papers relating to Sinclair's employment in adult education and Technical and Further Education in Queensland, his involvement in defamation cases and a small quantity of personal papers.
The collection is available for reference.
Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.
Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of John Sinclair, National Library of Australia, MS 8374, [series and/or file number]'.
The collection was donated to the Library by Sinclair in 1995 and 2000.
When the papers were received by the Library, they were in a state of great disorder. In the first consignment, most cartons had been labelled, and these categories were used as the basis for the series structure. For the second instalment, the arrangement was determined by Library staff. While much of the collection was filed, the files had been kept in little discernable order. The arrangement of the contents of files has not been altered. Some files were water damaged and a small number of files were discarded due to their poor condition. A series of papers relating to the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry containing records of proceedings and evidence was discarded, as it duplicated material held by the National Archives of Australia (series A3913 and A3911).
A 1996 interview with John Sinclair by Gregg Borschmann is held in the Oral History Collection at ORAL TRC 3399. Records of the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry (CA 2431) are held by the National Archives of Australia.
John Sinclair was born on 13 July 1939 in Maryborough, Queensland and educated at Maryborough Boys' State High School. After leaving school in 1955, Sinclair worked in the family's service station business and as a farm hand before studying for a Diploma of Agriculture at Queensland Agricultural College, near Toowoomba (1957-1959). In 1960 Sinclair was offered a job by Jack Pizzey working in the Rural Youth Program in the Department of Education. While working for the Department, Sinclair completed his adult matriculation by correspondence. In 1967 Sinclair took a job with the Adult Education office in Maryborough. He enrolled in correspondence courses towards a Bachelor of Economics degree at the University of Queensland, which he finished in 1974. In 1980, Sinclair was awarded a Diploma in Continuing Education from the University of New England.
In 1967, Bart Cavanagh and Sinclair established the Maryborough Field Naturalists' Club. This group later became a branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland. Sinclair continued as the Honorary Secretary of the Branch and editor of its newsletter Wambaliman until 1978. Sinclair was also involved in the formation of the Gympie Field Naturalists' Club and the Bundaberg Branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society. In 1969 Sinclair became aware of the struggle to save Cooloola, a 28,000 hectare sandmass on the mainland of southern Queensland adjacent to Fraser Island, from sandmining. Dr Arthur Harrold, a medical practitioner from Noosa, led the campaign. The success of this campaign provided valuable lessons for Sinclair as well as alerting him to the possible threat to Fraser Island.
In January 1971, Murphyores Incorporated applied for two mining leases on Fraser Island. The Fraser Island Defence Organisation (FIDO) was formed in 1971 in response to the threat to Fraser Island, with Sinclair as President. In 1976, when the organisation became an incorporated body, its initials stood for the Fraser Island Defenders' Organisation. On 5 May 1975, the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry opened. The commissioners made a seven-day inspection of the island. Hearings were held in Maryborough and Brisbane until October. On 26 October 1976, the Report of the Environmental Inquiry was published. The report recommended that the export of Fraser Island minerals be prohibited and that the whole of Fraser Island be recorded as part of the National Estate. The Fraser Government introduced export bans from 31 December 1976.
Sinclair experienced intense harassment in his hometown of Maryborough and by the State Government following the decision over Fraser Island. In 1976 Sinclair was declared The Australian newspaper's Australian of the Year. In 1977 he sued Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen for defamation over questioning his ability to perform his job in adult education while being so heavily involved in the conservation struggle. After the writ was served in 1977, Sinclair's position as an adult education officer was abolished. After appealing to the Public Service Board, Sinclair was transferred to Ipswich College of TAFE where he was in charge of Extension Programs.
Sinclair initially won $500 damages plus costs for his defamation action in 1981. However, on appeal to the Full Court, the decision was overturned and Sinclair was ordered to pay Bjelke-Petersen's costs. Sinclair resigned his presidency of FIDO in favour of his son John, who remained president for the next 8 years. After receiving publicity, Sinclair received substantial donations from the public that he used to settle the debt and form the John Sinclair Trust for Fraser Island.
In 1982 Sinclair moved to Brisbane, where he worked as a research officer with the Curriculum Branch of the Division of TAFE until 1986. In 1986 Sinclair resigned from the Queensland Education Department. He and his wife Helen divorced in April 1986 and Sinclair moved to Sydney where he worked as a consultant and principal of Parramatta Evening College. In 1988 he established and operated GoBush Safaris. He married Sharan Daly in October 1988.
In 1992 Sinclair was appointed to a special committee to advise the Queensland Government on the management of Fraser Island and the Great Sandy Bay Region. In 1993 he was awarded the $60,000 Goldman Environmental Foundation prize in recognition of 20 years work to save Fraser Island.
Sinclair was the author of several books including Discovering Fraser Island (Peakhurst, N.S.W.: Pacific Maps, 1977), Discovering Cooloola (Peakhurst, N.S.W.: Pacific Maps, 1978) and his autobiography Fighting for Fraser Island: a man and an island.
John Sinclair (with Peter Corris). Fighting for Fraser Island: a man and an island. Alexandria, N.S.W.: Kerr Publishing, 1994.
The series contains personal, family and general correspondence of John and Helen Sinclair. A letterbook containing carbon copies of letters sent to family members and others (1968-1969) is included, as well as a small quantity of correspondence from Sinclair's parents. The correspondence relates to job applications, Sinclair's business GoBush Safaris, invitations to speak, Sinclair's non-conservation lobbying activities and other subjects. There are also testimonials and letters of congratulations on becoming Australian of the Year and on the success of the Fraser Island Campaign.
Correspondence relating to the Fraser Island Defenders' Organisation is in .
Travel books, an autobiography, lectures, articles, a consultancy report for the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Environment and other writings by Sinclair are included in this series. The publications include Discovering Fraser Island (Pacific Maps, 1977), Discovering Cooloola (Pacific Maps, 1978), Fraser Island and Cooloola (Weldon, 1990), Discovering Fraser Island and Cooloola (Australian Environmental Publications, 1997), and Fighting for Fraser Island: a man and an island, co-written with Peter Corris (Kerr Publishing, 1994).
The papers include manuscript and typescript drafts, correspondence with publishers, research materials including tourist information on Fraser Island, and a publishing agreement.
Other writings by Sinclair on behalf of FIDO, such as submissions to inquiries, are included in .
Sinclair's first job after obtaining his Diploma of Agriculture at Queensland Agricultural College in 1959 was with the Department of Education where he worked with Junior Farmers Clubs and the Rural Youth Program. In 1967 Sinclair took a job with the Adult Education office in Maryborough. Sinclair's employment as a public servant was used against him in his fight for conservation.
When the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry opened in 1975, Sinclair was subpoenaed to appear before the inquiry, allowing him to continue attending after his application for long service leave with the Adult Education Office was refused. Sinclair experienced intense harassment in his hometown of Maryborough and by the State Government following the decision over Fraser Island. In 1977 he sued Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen for defamation over questioning his ability to perform his job in adult education while involved in the conservation struggle. After the writ was served in 1977, Sinclair's position as an adult education officer was abolished. After appealing to the Public Service Board, Sinclair was transferred to Ipswich College of Technical and Further Education where he was in charge of extension programs. In 1977 he was forced to defend his reputation when the Maryborough Chronicle accused him of simultaneously receiving money from the Federal Government as a paid witness to the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry while earning a salary as a public servant.
In 1982 Sinclair was again transferred to Brisbane, where he worked as a research officer with the Curriculum Branch of the Division of TAFE until 1986. In 1986 Sinclair resigned from the Queensland Education Department and moved to Sydney.
This series contains papers relating to Sinclair's successive employment in the Queensland Government in the areas of adult education and Technical and Further Education. The papers contain statements and letters of evidence concerning his treatment in the public service as well as papers relating to leave and job applications. Other papers are concerned with adult education subjects including adult education classes, the Queensland Adult Education Staff Association, the Queensland Board of Adult Education and the Australian Association for Adult Education Conference.
The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland was established in 1962 to preserve the fauna and flora of Queensland and to educate the community on the preservation of the natural environment. Sinclair was Honorary Secretary of the Maryborough Moonaboola Branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland from its formation in 1967 until 1978, and was editor of the Branch newsletter Wambaliman. In 1977, he was co-opted to the State Council of the Society in Brisbane and served as President in 1980-1985. In 1986 he was Senior Vice President of the Society.
The series comprises a combination of files and loose papers, arranged roughly chronologically. The bulk of the files relate to Sinclair's position as President of the Society and include correspondence, minutes, director's reports, policy papers, memoranda, leaflets, reports, ministerial press statements, cuttings, newsletters, the WPSQ constitution (1981), and notes by Sinclair on strategies for the Society and changes to its administration.
Some of the papers in this series have been water damaged and affected by mould.
Sinclair's involvement in Fraser Island began with visits to the Island in his youth. In 1968 his parents were employed as assistant managers at the Orchard Beach Resort on the eastern side of the Island. His sister Margaret later worked as the resort's resident nursing sister. Sinclair organised safaris to Fraser Island for the members of the Maryborough and Bundaberg Wildlife Preservation Societies in the late 1960s.
The campaign against sand mining on Fraser Island commenced in January 1971 when Murphyores Incorporated applied for two mining leases on Fraser Island. The Fraser Island Defence Organisation (FIDO) was formed in January 1971 with Sinclair as President. In 1976 when the organisation became an incorporated body, its initials stood for the Fraser Island Defenders' Organisation.
Activities of FIDO included running Fraser Island safaris as a means of raising funds and increasing awareness of the island. FIDO also published a newsletter Moonbi, (a Batjala word for the central part of the Island) and a booklet, Fraser Island past, present and future (1971). In July 1975, FIDO had 546 financial members and was affiliated with 30 conservation groups.
In July 1975 the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry was established by the Acting Minister for the Environment, E.G. Whitlam to inquire into the environmental aspects of the exportation of minerals from Fraser Island. The commissioners made a seven-day inspection of the island. Hearings were held in Maryborough and Brisbane between 5 August and 3 October 1975. Sinclair was subpoenaed by the inquiry, allowing him to continue attending after his leave with the Adult Education Office had expired.
On 26 October 1976, the Report of the Environmental Inquiry was published. The report recommended interalia that the export of Fraser Island minerals be prohibited (except for minerals extracted from the high-water mark on the eastern beach south of Indian Head) and that the whole of Fraser Island be recorded as part of the National Estate. As a result of the recommendations, the Fraser Government introduced export bans from 31 December 1976.
After 1976, FIDO continued to be active in management issues including logging activities on the Island, the provision of proper camp sites and protecting heavily used places such as Eli Creek. In 1977, Sinclair toured the United States, Canada and Europe to study the voluntary conservation movement. Fraser Island received World Heritage listing in 1992. Sinclair served as President of FIDO from 1971 until 1983 when he relinquished the position to his son John. After this time, Sinclair continued to act as Honorary Project Officer.
The papers comprise numerous files maintained by Sinclair relating to the formation and activities of FIDO including corporate records, correspondence with supporters, politicians and the media, papers relating to legal cases, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and subject files.
Constitution, minutes, certificates of incorporation, financial papers, membership records, reports of office holders and other corporate records.
Incoming and copies of out-going correspondence relating to Fraser Island and FIDO. Includes letters from students asking for project material, queries concerning travel on Fraser Island and FIDO publications, and letters of support and congratulation for FIDO's conservation efforts (including donations). The out-letters include letters to parliamentarians, the media, potential witnesses for court cases and others concerning the conservation and management of Fraser Island.
This subseries comprises three sequences of files which relate to FIDO's campaign to secure political support for the conservation of Fraser Island. The first sequence (files 1-11) comprises an incomplete set of numbered files relating to correspondence with the Whitlam Government while the second sequence (files 12-17) comprises six files relating to the Fraser Government. The third sequence (files 18-43) consists of other political files, arranged chronologically by Library staff. Other loose political correspondence can be found in the general correspondence in .
Files relating to FIDO's involvement with the media including press releases, letters to the editor and other correspondence.
Sinclair was involved in a number of legal cases in his capacity as President of FIDO. This subseries contains papers relating to the applications for sand mining leases on Fraser Island by Dillingham-Murphyores that resulted in the formation of FIDO. There are papers relating to the Mining Warden's Court hearing in 1971 (which was won by the miners) as well as the further mining lease applications made by Queensland Titanium Mines (QTM) and Murphyores which were approved by the Mining Warden's Court in Maryborough in 1973. FIDO's appeal against these applications was upheld in the High Court.
There are also papers assembled by Sinclair in defending the defamation action brought against Sinclair and Hervey Bay Publishing by Murphyores for statements Sinclair had made in Moonbi issue 25.
Finally, there are a large number of files relating to the North White Cliffs resort proposal on Fraser Island and the case brought by FIDO against Maryborough City Council and Fiduciary Nominees Pty Ltd.
The files contain correspondence with solicitors and others, newspaper cuttings, statements, records of proceedings, notes and other legal papers.
Papers concerning Sinclair's personal legal matters, including the defamation actions Sinclair brought against Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen and the Maryborough Chronicle in 1977, are held in .
This series comprises papers relating to safaris to Fraser Island and elsewhere run by Sinclair for FIDO.
The subseries contains issues of Moonbi, supplements, correspondence, press releases and manuscript and typescript drafts.
Sinclair kept a large series of scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings on Fraser Island. The scrapbooks are dated and identified with an alphabetical and/or numerical character by Sinclair. Scrapbooks N to S have been affected by water and are stuck together. The scrapbook for the period June and July 1976 was not received by the Library. Loose newspaper clippings are in files 34-41.
This subseries contains files assembled by Sinclair on a variety of topics and relating to the activities or interests of FIDO. The files have been arranged into alphabetical order by Library staff.
Other papers relating to Fraser Island including submissions, reports and other writings by Sinclair and others, tourist information and ephemera. The series also includes papers of Rollo Petrie, who grew up on Fraser Island between 1913 and 1922. The papers include correspondence, manuscript and typescript drafts of his memoirs and papers on the attempts to prepare the memoirs for publication.
The Australian Conservation Foundation was constituted in 1965. Sinclair was a member of the Council of the Australian Conservation Foundation in 1975-1989 and served as Vice-President (1977-1985), a member of the Executive, Convenor of the Publications Committee, and Chairman of the Wilderness Committee and the Natural Environment and Wildlife Committee.
The papers include correspondence, meeting papers, constitutions, policy statements, articles, an organisational review report (1984), standing orders, notes, and printed material.
The papers are arranged with Sinclair's files of Executive and committee papers first (files 1-24), followed by a chronological sequence containing both subject files and loose papers (files 25-101). Some committee papers are also included among the loose papers.
Papers collected by Sinclair as a member and Vice-President of the Wide Bay Burnett Conservation Council. The papers include correspondence, minutes, monthly reports, and cuttings. Correspondents include Fay Smith (Secretary) and Doris Dove (Project Officer). The files are arranged chronologically.
Sinclair was a member of the IUCN's Commission for Environmental Planning from 1978 and attended the 15th meeting of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) in Christchurch, NZ in 1981 and the World Parks Conference in Bali in 1982. He was President of the Australian Committee of the IUCN in 1982-1983.
The papers mainly comprise meeting papers of the Australian Committee of the IUCN as well as correspondence, articles, reports and printed material. The papers are arranged chronologically.
The National Conservation Strategy for Australia was based on the World Conservation Strategy, launched in 1980. A discussion paper entitled 'Towards a national conservation strategy' was prepared by the National Conservation Strategy Task Force within the Environment Division of the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs. Over 550 submissions were received after the papers were released for public comment in May 1982. In 1983 a conference was held in Canberra to consider the draft strategy.
Sinclair was one of the four representatives of the conservation movement on a consultative group formed to advise in planning the development of the strategy. Industry representatives were also represented on the consultative group.
The papers include drafts of the Department of Home Affairs and Environment discussion paper, NCSA conference papers, newsletters, correspondence, cuttings and memoranda.
The Working Group on Rainforest Conservation was established in August 1984 following a conference on the conservation of Australia's tropical and sub-tropical rainforests. The conference was convened by Barry Cohen, the Minister for the Commonwealth Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment, in Cairns on 2-3 February 1984.
The Working Group was chaired by Ken Thompson and included representatives of the CSIRO, the timber industry, conservation groups, the Australian Workers' Union and the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments. The Working Group assembled factual material relevant to rainforest conservation and in September 1985 presented a report to Barry Cohen containing a range of actions to improve Australia's performance in rainforest conservation.
The series contains draft reports of the Working Group, cuttings, correspondence, printed material and other papers assembled by John Sinclair as the Australian Conservation Foundation's representative on the Working Group. The papers also include more general material on rainforest issues (files 13-20) including papers relating to the Daintree campaign, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Rainforest Conservation Society of Queensland and the Rainforest Liaison Group.
Includes the September 1985 report of the Working Group
This series comprises files on a variety of conservation issues that either do not relate directly to the conservation papers in series 4-10, or relate to more than one. The papers include correspondence, reports, pamphlets, cuttings, and newsletters of conservation groups as well as submissions by Sinclair to various inquiries.
The files are arranged alphabetically, followed by loose papers, arranged chronologically.
This series contains papers assembled by Sinclair during his involvement in several personal legal cases.
In 1977 Sinclair sued the Maryborough Chronicle for accusing him of simultaneously receiving money from the Federal Government as a paid witness to the Fraser Island Environment Inquiry while earning a salary as a public servant. The matter was settled out of court in 1982. Papers relating to this case are in files 3-7.
The other major case represented in these papers is the defamation action Sinclair brought against Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen in 1977 over comments which questioned his ability to perform his job in adult education while being simultaneously involved in the conservation struggle. Sinclair initially won $500 damages plus costs for his defamation action in 1981. However, on appeal to the Full Court, the decision was overturned and Sinclair was ordered to pay Bjelke-Petersen's costs plus interest ($32,000). After national media coverage, Sinclair received $63,000 in donations from the public in order to cover costs. Papers relating to this case are in files 8 to 9.
The files contain correspondence with solicitors and others, newspaper cuttings, statements, records of proceedings, notes and other legal papers. Some files relate to more general legal matters rather than specific cases. Sinclair's experience with legal matters lead to him being invited to speak on legal issues from the layman's perspective. Some of these addresses are also included in the papers.
Legal papers relating to objections to mining leases and defamation cases brought against FIDO are found in .
This series comprises personal papers including diaries, a high school program and magazine (1956-1959), newspaper cuttings, papers relating to the Murrarundi consultancy (1983), curricula vitae, a consultancy report on wilderness (1987) as well as files relating to Sinclair's study tours of Kansas (1969) and North America (1977).