in the nature

King’s Birthday honours celebrate the Corbetts, two great conservationists

Everyone at the TLC congratulates Sib and Keith Corbett on receiving Medals of the Order of Australia for their service to conservation and the environment in this year’s King’s Birthday Honours.

Sib and Keith are very special to the TLC. They have been tireless, dedicated supporters of the organisation since it was established in 2001.

Sib, a retired threatened species botanist and native vegetation surveyor, and Keith, a former geologist with decades of experience with the Tasmanian State Government, were instrumental in the protection of the Vale of Belvoir Reserve. This is a place that is incredibly dear to them personally and now synonymous with them among fellow TLC staff and supporters.

Read Keith and Sib’s 2022 paper on the geology, geomorphology, vegetation and human history of the Vale of Belvoir

Sib and Keith at the Vale of Belvoir Reserve open day in 2012, discussing the property’s botany and geology. Photo: Matt Newton.

The Corbetts are both former presidents of the Australian Plants Society Tasmania, and during her 40-year career working for the Parks and Wildlife Service, Sib did the initial vegetation mapping of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Sib told The Mercury, ‘This South-West mapping was my greatest challenge and greatest pleasure. I was able to go into some of the wildest and most remote parts of the state to look at the vegetation and the landscapes, sometimes with an assistant and sometimes on my own. It was a glorious time.’

During that career, Sib was noted for walking to work in town every day from her home in Fern Tree, a significant hike.

Celebrating the Vale of Belvoir Reserve’s tenth birthday

Sib and Keith also played a critical role in the protection of Recherche Bay Reserve, featuring prominently in our conservation campaign and sharing their deep geological and botanical knowledge.

In the video below you can hear Keith discussing the fossilised trees found on one of the reserve’s beaches. These trees are more than 200 million years old – perhaps something like today’s celery pines – and the largest of them would have been around 8 metres long. In the Triassic era they would have washed onto the sand flats, where they would have been slowly covered and fossilised. More recently, the action of the waves has broken them into fragments, now strewn across the beach. In these, you can still see the ancient trees’ fibres and growth rings. It is perhaps the best example of fossilised wood in Tasmania.

Experts – including Keith and Sib Corbett – explain why Recherche Bay Reserve is such an important part of Tasmania’s heritage

Meanwhile, Sib discusses the reserve’s astonishing botany. Recherche Bay Reserve retains forests from the 19th century, unlike the rest of the Southport Peninsula. A French expedition visited the area in the 1790s and botanist Jacques de Labillardiere catalogued almost 5,000 specimens including the blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), which later became Tasmania’s floral emblem. The 190 flowering species seen by Labillardiere are all still found on the reserve.

Insights like this into the detail of what makes a place special, are instrumental in us explaining to the wider community why land needs to be protected for nature.

Keith and Sib on a bequesters’ trip to Recherche Bay Reserve, which they were instrumental in establishing. Photo: Phillip Laroche

Sib and Keith have been expert presenters on numerous TLC Discovery Days and other supporter trips. They possess a great passion and skill for generously sharing their tremendous wealth of natural knowledge and their strong sense of place with others.Sib and Keith have prepared numerous floristic and geological surveys of TLC reserves and have provided expert scientific advice and guidance to the TLC’s staff and volunteers. Sib and Keith have been at the heart of so many of our campaigns and projects over the years, including connecting so many people to our reserves through their willingness to always share their knowledge, expertise and deep passion for all things Tasmania.

They have also been generous donors and together volunteered over 50 days of their time between 2011 and 2019.

‘It’s been a rich and rewarding life for us centred around our love for the natural world in Tasmania,’ Keith told The Mercury, ‘and the pleasures we have had in passing that on to others.’

Congratulations, Keith and Sib, for your dedication to knowledge and conservation.

Author Profile
James Hattam
Chief Executive Officer

James is a conservation ecologist with a passion for connecting people to the natural world through shared experiences, storytelling and community involvement. He has been working with government and not-for-profits in Victoria and Tasmania for more than 15 years, with experience in conservation covenants, philanthropic programs, marketing, communications, community engagement and not-for-profit governance.