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Margaret Thorsbourne

In memory of a remarkable woman, conservationist, activist, artist, poet and friend.

The Wet Tropics Rainforest, World Heritage Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park were given these protections by her tireless efforts of raising awareness and campaigning and fostering relationships.

Margaret's goodbye service on October 25, 2018 was attended by over 300 people whose lives have been enriched and environmental appreciation deepened by knowing this wonderful woman.

Steven Nowakowski pays this tribute to Margaret:

I do not know where to start, and in some ways words cannot articulate my respect and love for Margaret. However, some of my most memorable times was with her quietly sitting in her humble rainforest sanctuary home listening to her stories about how large swathes of Australian landscapes 'used to be'.

One vivid story was when she spoke about her father and his love for the rainforest that backed along the beach foreshore on what is now the Gold Coast. Her father used to say it, 'really was a Surfers Paradise with the most gorgeous rainforest clothing Greenmount Hill', near where they used to live.

Greenmount Hill was a place of peace and reflection, diverse and rich.

Upon her father's return from the Great War he returned to Greenmount Hill to find someone had cleared the entire hill with not a tree standing. He never understood how this could happen and never returned to Greenmount Hill ever again. He was so saddened by this act of vandalism, and, I suppose this care for place carried through with Margaret.

Another vivid story is when Margaret explained how beautiful and vast the lowland rainforests of the Murray Valley would have been, just up the road from here. It was only during the 1960's that most of the valley, tens of thousands of hectares were sold for a pittance to a U.S. cattle rancher by the Bjelke Petersen Govt. In one foul sweep The Murray Valley was cleared of all its lowland rainforest. If only the bulldozers were kept at bay for another decade, the vast Murray Valley may have survived from conservationists' efforts. If so it would have been an area larger than the Daintree and just as wonderful. Conserving a treasure trove of diversity as well as providing economic opportunities for tourism for perpetuity.

There are so many ways we can reflect on Margaret's life, by looking above and watching the incoming migrating Nutmeg Pigeons, walking along the seashore of Edmund Kennedy National Park, visiting the ancient forests of the Daintree or camping under the giant arching limbs of a Beach Callophyllum tree on Hinchinbrook Island. All of which she had a hand to play in protecting for us and our fellow wildlife on planet earth. 

Her favourite saying was, 'sometimes there is no need for us to visit wild places, just knowing they exist is all that matters'.

Margaret made us all slow down and reflect on the simple things. It is these things that bring true happiness.

The Coming of the White Birds

'The Coming of the White Birds ‒ Fifty years counting Torres Strait Pigeons' is a 25-minute video produced by Bryony Barnett and Sarah Scragg with funds going to the Thorsbourne Trust. In January 1965 wildlife activists Arthur and Margaret Thorsborne had their first encounter with Torres Strait Pigeons on North Brook Island, North Queensland, during a Christmas visit from their distant home in Southport, south-east Queensland.

Margaret recalls this as a life-changing experience, which prompted the start of a regular monitoring program, counting the big white birds as they return daily from mainland feeding sites to their island nests. In 1967 they were instrumental in stopping destructive pigeon shooting practices, which saw the pigeon count numbers plummet to 1451 in December 1968.

This video honours the roles of the late Arthur Thorsborne, Margaret Thorsborne and Dave Green and the wonderful group of supporters who have kept the program ‒ and the Torres Strait Pigeons ‒ very much alive on North Brook Island. The film cam be purchased for $17.50 from


Published in Chain Reaction #134, December 2018. National magazine of Friends of the Earth Australia.

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