Australian Natural History Medallion

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Information Guide

Rules Governing the Award

Past Medallion Recipients

The Australian Natural History Medallion is awarded each year to the person judged to have made the most meritorious contribution to the understanding of Australian Natural History.

Such a person may have:

  • assisted notably in the protection and understanding of Australian native flora and/or fauna;
  • discovered and and/or described new Australian species of plants or animals;
  • devoted considerable time and care to the study of any branch of Australian natural history, including palaeontology and geology, and
  • engaged in the dissemination of knowledge through the publication of articles or books or by photography or pictorial art or any other means accepted by the Award Committee.

Nominations for the Award may be submitted by natural history societies. (It is not necessary that the Society be represented on the General Committee.)

The Australian Natural History Medallion is administered by The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria.

A General Committee, composed of representatives from natural history clubs or associations, elects the Award Committee and handles all other business of the Medallion. Any natural history society may apply for membership of this committee.

The Medallion is presented to the successful nominee (or a proxy) preferably at the November General Meeting of The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria in Melbourne.

The History of the Australian Natural History Medallion

On 24th March 1939, J. K. Moir wrote to the Secretary of The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria, suggesting the establishment of an award as recognition and "appreciation of some person's signal service" towards protecting native flora and fauna.

John Kinmont Moir, who was quaintly described as a private member of the FNCV, was also the president and moving spirit of the Bread and Cheese Club, which had been founded the previous year, with the aim of drawing together people who were concerned with fostering knowledge of the Australian arts and cultivating "an Australian sentiment" and assisting them in practical ways to achieve these objectives. Nothing could be more fundamental to the idea of Australianism than the land itself, and Moir referred in his letter to the "crying need there is for recognition that our native flora and fauna is fast disappearing". During his lifetime he provided many prizes and medals for literary efforts, and the establishment of a medallion — "a variation of the Nobel awards" — seemed an appropriate way of enhancing the importance of the study of natural history.

The suggestion was favourably received by the FNCV, and a meeting was held on 1st May 1939, attended by the President (R. H. Croll), Vice-President (AS. Chalk), Secretary (F. S. Colliver) and J.K. Moir, to discuss the details of the proposal. It was agreed that the committee should consist of two representatives from each club or society. J. K. Moir had originally written to several clubs, including the Gould League, the FNCV, the RAOU, the Mitcham Field Naturalists' Club, the Wattle League, the Bread and Cheese Club, and the Bird Observers' Club, though he requested the FNCV to take the initiative in getting the matter going. Letters were sent out to a further ten organisations, the Australian Forest League (Victorian Branch), the Chief Inspector of Fisheries and Game, the Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs, the Entomological Society of Victoria, the Victorian Advisory Council for Fauna and Flora, the Royal Society of Victoria, the Royal Zoological and Acclimatisation Society of Victoria, the McCoy Society, the Microscopical Society of Victoria and the Melbourne Women's Walking Club, and a committee meeting to draw up the rules governing the award was held on 5th June.

Although some modifications and amendments have become necessary since then, the rules drawn up on that occasion remain essentially the same today. Rule 6 read: Any person is eligible for the Award who it can be shown has increased popular or scientific knowledge of Australian Flora and Fauna, including Man, or has assisted notably in the protection or propagation of Flora and Fauna, or has discovered new species of importance, or has devoted much time to the study of the subject, or has done definite service by the publication of articles or books or by photography by pictorial art, or by any other means.

From "The History of the Australian Natural History Medallion" by Sheila Houghton. Field Naturalists Club of Victoria. 1987