Today I pay tribute to shooter, hunting guide, bushman, family man extraordinaire and mate, Dudley Nichol, of Canberra. Dudley died suddenly a couple of weeks ago. The shooting and hunting fraternity has lost a great colleague and friend. I am proud to have called him a friend and I hope tonight to pay fitting tribute to him. Dudley was a man who always pushed himself to be the best person he could be. From an early age he had a work ethic; he was pumping petrol at a service station by the time he was a young teenager. He was a swimmer and marathon kayaker, pushing himself to elite competitive levels in both sports. He eventually bought and ran the Deakin indoor pool in Canberra.
In his early days Dudley became a public servant and worked in the Foreign Minister’s office. He was duly posted to Malaysia, where he took up boxing—successfully. It was in Malaysia that he met his wife, Margaret. They were married for close to 40 years. Along with his sports, Dudley was a keen hunter and, through his public service work, he developed an interest in politics, working behind the scenes on legislative matters to do with firearms ownership and hunting. He was a member’s delegate on the Council of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, ACT branch. Eventually he threatened the public service that if he was not promoted and paid properly for the work he was doing he would leave. Someone apparently did not take that threat seriously and, when the next Tuesday came around and there was no extra money, he left.
Dudley became self-employed in the building industry and began his pursuit and interest as a hunting guide. It has been said—and I have no doubt about it—that Dudley was the best and most successful Sambar deer hunting guide we have ever seen. He had a key role in setting up the Australian Capital Territory and Southern Highlands branch of the Australian Deer Association and took on the role of president for a number of years. Dudley knew that such branches depended on renewing and expanding membership bases and he was very energetic in making sure that the branch was viable. He set the ethical standards for members and educated them in deer matters. He also encouraged them to enjoy spending time in the natural environment, getting to know more about all animals, vegetation and the seasons of the year.
Dudley was deeply concerned about conservation of the natural environment. Hunting and conservation concerns can and do go hand in hand. Dudley was proof of that fact. He was horrified by the use of poisons such as 1080 in our national parks. He was of a mind, like many hunters, that poisons that could not be made humane and absolutely species specific had no place in conservation areas. From all the years he spent in the bush observing animals and the environment, Dudley was disturbed by what he saw as the disastrous management of national parks over the last 20 years or so. He saw that neglect as the cause of major bushfires which ravaged national parks when most of the community had expectations that the authorities would be conserving them through proper management.
Indeed, the big fire of 2003, which destroyed most of the vegetation and animal populations over an area of four million acres in the high country of southern New South Wales that he doted on, highlighted his fears. Since that fire, soil erosion has taken hold in many areas as the roots of the Mountain Ash and other dead vegetation rot. Dudley believed that, once started, that process would be almost impossible to stop. It is worth noting his observation, backed by years of experience in all sorts of bushland environments, that authorities within NSW Forests were much better at conservation of national environments than national parks administration people would ever be. Dudley leaves behind his wife and family, and many friends and colleagues who will miss him for many different reasons. The common bond for most will be hunting and the outdoors. At Dudley’s funeral last week a tribute was made through a reading of The Highland Welcome, written by Robbie Burns:
When death’s dark stream I ferry o’er,
A time that surely shall come;
In Heaven itself I’ll ask no more
Than just a Highland welcome.
I expect that is exactly what has happened to Dudley. Vale, Dudley.
Robert Borsak MLC
This tribute was delivered in the NSW Parliament on 12 September 2012. It has also been published on the Shooters and Fishers Party website.