GUIDE: Bill doing what he did best, showing people the wonders of nature.
GUIDE: Bill doing what he did best, showing people the wonders of nature. Contributed

Bill Goebel: Girraween has lost its greatest guardian

ON December 2, 2015, Girraween National Park lost its most dedicated guardian.

More than 80 years ago a young William (Bill) Goebel was introduced to a land abound in nature's beauty.

It was a land of mountains of granite, underground streams and mysterious caves, clothed in delicate wildflowers and woodlands.

It was abundant in brilliantly coloured birdlife, striking reptiles and Mother Nature's most amazing wildlife gifts, including platypus, quolls, wombats and the superb lyrebird.

During the 1930s, Dr Spencer Roberts may have had the vision to protect this special place, but it was honorary ranger Bill who took government representatives under his wing, introducing them to the landscape and allowing its magical beauty and tranquility to do the rest. His efforts were rewarded when in the 1960s the area was gazetted as a national park and given the name Girraween National Park.

Bill, his brother Hock and the park overseer Tom Ryan, transformed orchards and farming land into a place for people to explore and appreciate Girraween's natural splendour.

TREASURED PHOTO: Bill (leaning against stump) is surrounded by those who shared a similar passion.
TREASURED PHOTO: Bill (leaning against stump) is surrounded by those who shared a similar passion. Contributed

Without the more efficient equipment of today's era, walking tracks, day use and camping areas equipped with toilet and shower facilities, were constructed by these three men.

For more than two decades, until 1986 when Bill retired, this dedicated, naturally shy, humble - sometimes a bit of a larrikin - gentleman continued to help manage the sensitive areas of Girraween National Park and raise awareness about its unique cultural and natural values.

Even after Bill retired, he still went to work each day conducting slideshows and guided walks, cleaning toilets, tree planting or maintaining and building infrastructure.

In fact Bill continued to help protect Girraween's special features until the age of 89.

Bill is a well-known character with many of Girraween's visitors sharing fond memories of his guided walks and memorable slideshows.

His earlier walks in the 1940s were leading bushwalking clubs and the National Parks Association Queensland and later it was Girraween visitors, scientists and even the Queensland Governor Sir Henry Abel Smith.

Legend, mentor, hero, the chief are just some of the names Girraween rangers have used to describe Bill.

More than 50 rangers have worked with him, captivated by his passion, intuition, intelligence and enthusiasm, encouraging them to connect with and appreciate Girraween as he did.

Whether it be plumbing, construction or the whereabouts of particular plants and animals, Bill was always happy to share his wisdom or advice.

While preferring old- fashioned methods, Bill took a leap into the technology era, purchasing a laptop computer in his 80s. Together with a scanner, DVD burner and printer, he scanned his extensive slide collection (containing over 5000 slides), sending copies to the relevant state and national archives.

He also replaced his cumbersome lyrebird recording equipment with infrared remote sensor video cameras to assist with superb lyrebird and common wombat surveys.

Bill Goebel spent his lifetime exploring the nooks and crannies of Girraween looking for new discoveries and adding to his unofficial research of Girraween's ecology.

Without his intimate knowledge of the area many locations of rare and endangered species would remain unknown.

During Bill's career, both in a paid and voluntary capacity, the huge influence he has had on Girraween's employees and visitors' perception, appreciation and education of the national park has been crucial in ensuring the successful management of this special area.

It is only fitting that Bill's last wish to remain with the love of his life, Girraween National Park, be granted.

On Friday, December 11, 2015, Bill returned home to Girraween to forever be embraced in the loving granite strewn landscape complimented by wild woodlands and dotted with wattles and delicate orchids below.

With the melodies of his much loved superb lyrebirds singing from his favourite rock loaming close by, he will remain not only an integral part of Girraween history's, but forever part of this magical landscape.

Fifty years ago a land ranger agreed with Bill that this special place should be a national park and as he was departing said: "Bill, I'll leave it with you". Bill was left wondering: "Me? Why me?"

I can answer that because Bill Goebel was our dear colleague, who was instrumental in the acquisition, development and delicate environmental management of one of Queensland's treasured national parks, and earned the title of Girraween National Park's greatest guardian.

AT HOME: Bill in his natural setting - the bush.

MANY people spend their entire lives searching for that one thing that lights a fire inside them and Bill Goebel was one of the lucky ones who knew exactly what stoked the flame in him.

A love for the bush and all things wildlife was something Bill discovered at an early age.

Bill was born in Lyra on July 19, 1922. He was the patriarch of his siblings being the eldest of three brothers and 10 sisters.

In 1931, aged 9, he moved to Wyberba when his parents began a fruit and vegetable farm at the foot of the Slip Rock, alongside Mill Creek. The family lived in Wyberba until 1944 when grandma and the girls moved to Eukey, closer to the local school.

Bill remained in Wyberba and when not farming, worked various jobs including carting cordwood from Palingyard to Wallangarra. He developed skills as a bush mechanic and bush carpenter and would eventually come to build his own house.

These skills were put to good use in many Southeast Queensland National Parks.

His love of the bush developed from his early surroundings and he described local creeks, Slip Rock and the Pyramids as his playgrounds.

His knowledge of the area would come in handy as he transported and guided young people of the area on bushwalking trips. He also met and guided groups from further afield, ranging from school groups to members of the National Parks Association of Queensland and Brisbane Bushwalkers.

His passion would eventually turn to a push for conservation.

After assisting researchers studying wombats, lyrebirds and flora, Bill furthered his own knowledge.

Over 40 years, he purchased and became proficient in the use of firstly reel-to-reel, then cassette and finally digital recording devices.

Today his collection of more than 40 years of lyre birds song recordings are held in the Australian National Wildlife Collection (Natural Sounds) CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems.

They are available for use by any not for profit group or individual, including students and fellow researchers. Once digitized, they will be available on the web.

In the words of the curator: "Because Bill kept good records of time, location, etc, these recordings are an invaluable asset to the ANWC sound collection".

Another passion would stem from his work in the bush. Before he graduated to the intricacies of recording lyrebird songs, Bill developed a passion for photography.

His skills with the camera would progress to the point where he entered slides in photographic competitions and regularly contributed to the Stanthorpe Photographic and Stanthorpe Naturalists Clubs.

Over many years, visitors to Girraween looked forward to his evening slide shows.

He would show slides of the many places he worked in his many trips around the country.

As early as the 1950s he visited central Australia, Ayers Rock, as it was known then, Northern Territory, Western Australia, Kings Canyon and Standley Chasm.

By 1965, Bald Rock and Castle Rock National Parks were joined with the purchase of Gunn's orchard and the areas for day use and camping areas were developed.

At this time, and throughout the 1960s and 70s, he worked on many contracts in Carnarvon Gorge, Cunningham's Gap, Queen Mary Falls, Bunya Mountains and Girraween. In 1975 he began permanent employment at Girraween. It would mark the beginning of a special connection for Bill and the association continued until his retirement in 1986.

However retirement wasn't the end of Bill's work as he began a long period of volunteer service dedicated to the conservation of the area that had been his home since 1931.

He adapted to technological advances and purchased and learnt to use a computer, digitalized his large slide collection and formatted lyrebird recordings.

He also made significant donations of equipment to the National Park, including an infrared remote sensor video camera for surveying lyrebirds and rare bare nosed wombats.

Together with Mervyn Fletcher, he also spent many hours surveying the Queensland, New South Wales border.

In a superb achievement their research and onsite investigations led to the creation of the precise navigational details of Alan Cunningham's expedition of 1827.

Cunningham attempted to traverse the current area of Girraween but was halted when "large detached masses of granite of every shape towering above each other, and in many instances standing in almost tottering positions, constituted a barrier before us".

 

Bill's volunteer service continued relentlessly for 25 years.

In 2011, he left his home in Girraween for the Blue Care facility in Stanthorpe.

His contributions to conservation led to more than a few accolades.

In 1995 the road bridge over Bald Rock Creek was named in his honour.

In 2001 he received an Australia day medallion, in 2007 he received an Environment Protection Agency Excellence award and in 2009 he received a Premiers Award.

The planet has been left in a better shape because of Bill's passion, commitment and love. We would all be better off if there were a few more like him.

Bill passed away peacefully on Wednesday, December 2, 2015, at the age of 93.

Stanthorpe Border Post


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