When I was notified that Elery had over the weekend past away, I was sitting outside a cabin on Rottnest Island (Western Australia) looking over the ocean but more particularly sitting atop a limestone system. Three of Elery’s passions…karst systems, people and parks. A setting very appropriate to reflect on the impact Elery had on myself and parks.
I first really got to know Elery in the early 1990’s, when a colleague of mine, Brett Cheatley engaged Elery as part of a team to undertake a review of urban parks and their visitors but also to explore the concepts of “benchmarks”. That initial interaction lead to a wise counsel relationship that guided much of my thinking around parks and people. When I was floundering to find a topic for my Master’s Thesis, my supervisor Bill Russell (Monash University) suggested I seek Elery out. Meeting in the front room in his house, Elery, in a very typical Elery fashion – that look and stare of intense interest..questioned me about how society was changing, how parks were changing and thus “what was management”. This was the mid 1990’s and thus led to a thesis around “managerialism in parks” and many endless discussions on parks, people and the future.
That experience shaped my thoughts on so many topics ranging from:
- A whole of system approach to park management that resulted in the establishment of Parks a Victoria
- The interconnection of people and the environment that resulted in the Healthy Parks Healthy People
- Learning and innovation that has resulted in me revisiting the “design” of parks through the concept of legacy
- Management and leadership that resulted in the Parks Forum and the recently established World Urban Parks
But more than that, he encouraged thinking, a lost art. He also encouraged a holistic and humanistic approach. He engaged with all and was very forgiving.
A short Biography
Elery Hamilton-Smith (born 28 December 1929) is a retired Australian interdisciplinary scholar and academic, latterly adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at Charles Stuart University.
Elery grew up in rural South Australia. He did not have conventional academic training, and graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Diploma in Social Sciences in 1956
Elery worked in teaching and community services (1949-68) social policy & Planning Consultant (1969-77). He developed a plan for education of recreation and leisure workers and helped establish courses in 6 universities (1974). He was appointed lecturer and continued as Professor and Head of School in Social Policy and Community Services (1969-95). His career over this period included wide-ranging research and consultation often centred upon leisure policies and programs. He undertook various national policy development studies, visiting professorships, Educational Fellowship with Government of Canada, work with UNESCO, WLRA Centre of Excellence (Wageningen), and Benefits of Leisure studies with the US Forest Service.
In the 1990s Elery moved progressively from his interest in outdoor recreation into examining issues of sustainability and environmental studies; accepted a chair in environmental studies and worked as an advisor with both IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and the UNESCO World Heritage Bureau.
Elery had wide interests and he had worked on:
- social policy development and programmes dealing with youth issues.
- development of leisure and outdoor recreation activities
- Conservation, particularly tourism and visitor appreciation of wilderness and National Parks
- Cave and karst management
- sustainability and environmental studies.
Elery had published over 2,000 books, reports and papers and worked in 50 countries.
Elery’s contribution to Australian society was recognised in 2001 when he was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in Australia Day Honours. Elery was also recognised by his park peers when the Parks Forum in 2010:
“formally recognised the life-time commitment of Elery Hamilton-Smith AM for his work for parks around the world, starting with his advocacy work in the 1960s. Elery has held many professorial appointments and undertaken various roles with UNESCO and the United Nations development program. He also has many years of working in various IUCN programs, as a volunteer.”
Reflections for the Park
From Brett Cheatley (Cheatley Consulting)
“Elery was one of those people who knew the world of urban parks better than anyone in those days and kept up this interest until his final days. He was a great research mentor especially in the area of park visitor research and visitor services. He was one of the early adopters of the need to evaluate the benefits provided by an effective urban park system. His advocacy preceded Healthy Parks Healthy People and in many ways his support and intellect took many on the journey toward the same outcome of measurement; ie. that urban parks and open space equate to a healthier and happier society. Elery was comforted in the fact that his research had shown that urban parks had been an important element of city design throughout history and yet he had become a tad disillusioned by the lack of understanding of their role and effective management. He was a strong believer that eventually communities across the world would understand both the intrinsic and extrinsic value of urban parks and that this alone would drive their protection and sustainability. Always the academic researcher and publisher; he though that research into their visitation and use, and its subsequent publication, was the key.”
From David Clarke (Former CEO Parks Forum)
“In my early time at Parks Forum, as a person with more naiveté than knowledge about parks, I found Trustee Elery incredibly generous and patient with his time. From my perspective, he contained in his life experience an exceptional body of knowledge, and the sharp mind to make use of it. Along with Peter Bridgewater, Elery taught me a lot about the international context for the work of Parks Forum, and despite many other ongoing interests, he remained committed and passionate in his views about parks and their administration. He stayed connected. He provided regular feedback on the work we were doing. On a number of occasions during my role, Elery hosted me at his home with a cup of tea and strong advice on our international relations, in an office of old-school academic style and achievement – smelling of books and leather and crammed with the paperwork that reflected his continuing interests. His great mind, his achievements and life commitment to parks demand the highest respect, and that is how I will remember him. With the greatest respect.”