Vale Phillip Toyne

Melbourne Law School alumnus and Landcare Australia co-founder Phillip Toyne is being remembered as a passionate and pragmatic environmentalist after he passed away earlier this month aged 67.

Vale Phillip Toyne

The late Phillip Toyne (LLB 1974). Photo courtesy of Bush Heritage Australia.

Mr Toyne (LLB 1974) was head of the Australian Conservation Foundation when the nationwide environmental initiative was established, and he also played a significant role in the handover of Uluru to its traditional owners in 1985.

Merrilyn Julian worked under Mr Toyne's leadership at the ACF in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Now acting Head of Bequests for University of Melbourne's Advancement Office, Ms Julian reflected on her time at the ACF, saying it was a period of unprecedented public and political support for the conservation movement.

"Phillip was a passionately engaged and committed person, boldly imaginative and audacious in his vision for Australia's natural environment, and the rights of Aboriginal people, yet politically savvy and strategic, and an astute judge of character and situation," Ms Julian says.

"He was a natural leader, and an eloquent and persuasive speaker, yet unpretentious. He always brought optimism and humour to the table. He met the challenge of his long illness with characteristic courage, candour and dignity, continuing to inspire those who knew him until the end."

Mr Toyne's legacy is reflected in the global impact the Landcare program has had, with more than 6000 groups nationwide and the model copied in countries across the world, as well as the World Heritage Listing for the Wet Tropics and expansion of the Tasmanian and Kakadu World Heritage Areas, in which he was heavily involved in.

He was also a staunch advocate for the Pitjantjatjara people, using his legal training to assist them in their claim for native title rights.

Later in life, Mr Toyne served as president of Bush Heritage Australia, which uses private donations to purchase land with high conservation values.

"Phillip was driven by his love of the natural world and passionate commitment to environmental protection, and to securing the rights of Indigenous Australians, especially with respect to their land," Ms Julian says.

"He had very high expectations of himself, and of others, yet he was always accessible when it mattered. He kept his door open."

Dean of Melbourne Law School Professor Carolyn Evans acknowledged the considerable contribution Mr Toyne made to conservation efforts in Australia.

"The Melbourne Law School community has been saddened to hear of the loss Phillip Toyne, a gentleman and a fine example of acting for the greater good of the environment. His extraordinary support for environmental causes will leave a long-lasting legacy," she says.

A memorial service for Mr Toyne, who is survived by his wife, Molly, and three sons, Jamie, Atticus and Aaron, will be held in Canberra next month.

By Andy Walsh