Tributes are pouring in for former ACF director Phillip Toyne, hailed as an inspirational leader in the environment movement, a champion of land rights and an unassuming but highly effective political strategist who could unite opposing forces.
Mr Toyne died on Saturday, aged 67, after a long illness from cancer.
He was ACF executive director from 1986 to 1992.
“With Phillip Toyne’s passing Australia has lost a man who contributed hugely to conservation and Indigenous rights,” chief executive Kelly O’Shanassy said.
“Phillip Toyne played a key role in having the Daintree Rainforest included on the World Heritage list and in securing proper protection for Kakadu and theTasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Areas.”
Mr Toyne was instrumental in the handover of Uluru to its Traditional Owners in 1985 and ensured all ACF’s conservation work in northern Australia was done in collaboration with Indigenous groups, Ms O’Shanassy said.
He also co-founded of Landcare with National Farmers Federation, Rick Farley, a movement that is now widely supported 6000 groups around the country.
Greens leader Bob Brown told Guardian Australia, Mr Toyne was central to many environmental achievements and was especially effective in the working relationships he achieved with government, that was “unprecedented” for an environmentalist.
Fairfax Media said Mr Toyne was “a shy giant of the environment movement and champion for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders” and quoted a number of leading figures.
According to former environment minister Peter Garrett Mr Toyne was “a true groundbreaker” who convinced him to move from music to politics and was “smart, politically savvy and highly principled – a rare combination in politics, whether you are inside or outside the tent.”
Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson said he modelled his own public advocacy on Mr Toyne.
Former Judge of the Supreme Court of NSW and deputy president of the Native Title Tribunal Hal Wootten said: “What distinguished Mr Toyne’s achievements were the repeatedly ground-breaking ways in which he addressed national issues, a unique capacity to make those with diverse interests agree on a vision, and an ability to persuade governments to act.
“It was part of the charm of Phillip that he remained an unpretentious, direct spoken man at home with people of all races and classes, who never sought wealth or any of the trappings of self-importance.”
A memorial service will be held in Canberra next month.