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Australia needed a national conservation body. In the mid-1960s the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) was founded; the commitment to achieve a healthy environment for all Australians had begun.
In 1963, distinguished entomologist Francis Ratcliffe was inspired by a memo from the Duke of Edinburgh. He consulted with his CSIRO colleagues and alongside conservationists and community leaders, worked to establish a national conservation body.
The memo was actually a request for help to start a World Wildlife Fund branch in Australia, but instead led to the accidental start of the Australian Conservation Foundation
And so, at a conference of 44 delegates in Canberra in 1964, the organisation that was to become the Australian Conservation Foundation was born. A Commonwealth grant of £1000 helped with establishment costs.
ACF's founders were drawn from Australia's scientific, public service, business and political decision makers
Sir Garfield Barwick, Chief Justice of the High Court, was appointed president and Francis Ratcliffe was honorary director.
The first meeting of the Council took place in 1965 and a draft Constitution was approved. The Great Barrier Reef, the Mallee, rainforests and central Australia were identified as the four areas most needing coordinated national attention and action.
Francis Ratcliffe had a vision of building a large body of members to support ACF financially and assist with community education
During the 1960s, ACF developed most of the campaign methods it used for the following 25 years. These included research, policy development, education and advocacy work. ACF gave support to other conservation organisations and established local branches.
Early successes included:
However, the young organisation had limited resources and the urgency of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef meant that by the end of the decade ACF was focused on protecting the Reef from mining and oil drilling. In 1968, a symposium in Sydney held by ACF on the Reef's future saw over 500 attending. In 1969, a joint Royal Commission on the Great Barrier Reef was appointed.
After a brief stint in Sydney, ACF moved to Melbourne in 1969 from headquarters in Canberra. As the sixties drew to a close the wave of public support for conservation escalated. People were on the move and demanding change.