Max Downes, 21 August 2013.

“Game management as a professional activity is an essential part of environmental conservation. The study of human relations with wildlife is an important part of the history of the Australian environment.”

The professional game manager's responsibility is two-fold. As well as applying the findings of research on wildlife ecology, the game manager employed by government should implement the intentions of the community.

The game manager must recognise the community's varied relationships and attitudes to wildlife. The manager should determine how the social customs and ecological systems have evolved over time, and adopt measures accepted by the public. If this is not done, the program will be rejected by the community, and wildlife probably decrease or disappear.

Game Management in Australia over the Centuries

Hunting game has always been important in Australia. It was part of a much wider community relationship with wildlife, a natural resource heavily utilized for food-supply, pest-control, and, particularly, for personal enjoyment of the Australian bush.

Study in the Archive has already revealed several distinct cultural groups and changing periods in Australia’s history, with different effects on the wildlife and its habitat. For example:-

a). Aboriginal communities maintained many habitats for game management purposes;

b). Colonization - European settlers, gold-digger, etc. greatly altered habitats and methods of hunting;

c). The industrialisation of society accelerated major changes to landscape – e.g., applied forestry, agriculture, etc.

d). The urbanisation of human society has made it increasingly difficult for us to appreciate the very different ecological and social world inhabited by wildlife. Each period was characterised by changes in technology affecting the wildlife, hunting practices, and condition of the habitat - e.g., fire regimes, improved firearms, farming practices and timber production.

If Australian hunters wish to secure an accepted role in our rapidly changing social community, they must be aware of the heritage of hunting in Australia - its social origins, the changes over the decades, and how it derived from the traditions of the diverse cultural groups which make up the Australian community.

Knowledge of the hunter’s role in advocating strong game laws and habitat preservation will put the past into perspective. Misinformation about hunting in the past increases the anti-hunting attitude.

Objectives of the Hunting Archive:

An essential tool in the game manager's equipment is an organised method of finding historical records containing the community's attitudes to game.

The purpose of the Australian National Hunting Archive is to examine the history of game management, as practised by the many communities who have lived in Australia over the past two centuries, and earlier. The aim is to concentrate attention on the social history of the utilization of wildlife. This will provide essential knowledge for management of game in the future.

More specifically, the Archive will study the measures used by the community to control the wide-spread and varied usages of wildlife - including recreational hunting, marketing of game, wild pest control, and even the community attitudes to the heart-felt enjoyment of wildlife as an essential component of the human environment. The work of the Archive will be different from and complement the research into game species undertaken by existing institutions. The Archive will concentrate on the success and failures of how the community implemented the results of research - in addition to the call for more wildlife research. In considering ecological changes, the manager must know what has happened to the wildlife in the past. A major difficulty for game management has been the absence of scholarly research on hunting, and an extremely scattered literature. No-where in Australia has the history of hunting been gathered together in one place.

In summary: – The Archive is a facility for the study of the ways in which the many diverse Australian communities have dealt with wildlife, in different places and different times over the centuries. This is an essential component in the study of Australian environmental history.

Our collection

In 2011, Max Downes - Victoria's first Game Manager - made his collection available to the WET Trust for the purposes of establishing an Australian National Hunting Archive.

To this day, Max's passion for hunting has continued and his collection now consists of more than 4500 books, 20,000 documents and a database record of 20 years cataloguing and referencing materials in libraries and archives across the nation. The archive is now Australia's most comprehensive and valuable collection of works on the social history of hunting in any one place throughout the nation.

The Australian National Hunting Archive has been established in suburban Boronia in Victoria, not far from where Max lives, and he continues to work tirelessly to build and expand upon the collection. It is a Research Archive that records and tells the story of how Australian society has relied upon and managed hunting over more than two centuries. The archive will continue to grow as documents and records from as yet untapped sources become available. This includes the contribution made by FGA members and branches over more than 54 years.

Historians, academics and researchers will be invited to make use of the archive and appreciate the enormous contribution hunting and hunters have made to Australian society over the past 225 years.

The archive is the single largest collection of hunting related material in Australia and is the only collection that focuses upon the social and sustainable use aspects of hunting in Australia's history.

"A study of the history of the social interaction of mankind with wildlife is important for understanding the ecology of both man and wildlife. The objective of the Australian Hunting Archive is to collect the hunting literature from Australia's past. This will allow the public to better understand the ecological and social role that hunting wildlife had in the history of this country" – Max Downes

Themes: Shaping cultural and creative life, Building community life