The Australian Wildlife Sanctuary
State Heritage Listed Property
The sanctuary is a heritage-listed fauna sanctuary, native plant nursery, education centre and flora sanctuary located off the Hume Highway at 3105 Remembrance Drive, in outer south-western Sydney in the settlement of Bargo in the Wollondilly Shire local government area of New South Wales, Australia.
Land on which the sanctuary is situated was acquired in a number of ways. In 1962, a Sydney accountant, Carmen Coleman, discovered this interesting area of remnant bush where Europeans at Bargo made the first sightings of koala and lyrebird. The sanctuary was established in 1963 by Thistle Harris to perpetuate the memory of David George Stead who was a pioneer of nature conservation in Australia.
The sanctuary is an intact remnant example of Bargo Bush, which once covered an extensive area south of Sydney.
The Sanctuary contains rich and diverse plantings of native plants in formalised gardens, which were developed to provide areas of representative native plans for education and research purposes. Within the 43 established gardens, there are over 1800 native plants representing a resource base for the study of native flora.
The Field Studies Centre was once the most popular part of the Sanctuary and is recognised as a leading institution in environmental education, both locally and overseas.
The sanctuary covers an area of about 95 hectares (230 acres). Located about halfway between the Bargo River Crossing and the village of Bargo on the Hume Highway, approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi) south of Sydney. The sanctuary preserves a part of the original "Bargo Brush" which was of considerable historical importance in the problems which faced the settlement of the Argyle or Southern Tablelands during the early half of the 1800s.
Dr Thistle Stead [Harris] 1902-1990
Conservationist and Founder of the Sanctuary
Thistle often expressed the view that 'education of people was the most important pursuit in society' and in all her activities throughout her long professional and post-professional career, education in one form or another was integral with her endeavours.
Dr Stead was a prolific author and published twelve books - the first of which was "Wildflowers of Australia" published in 1938. This publication did perhaps more than any other of its kind to popularise the recognition and appreciation of Australian native plants. It set in motion a chain of events which has established an international appreciation of Australia's flora.
Thistle Stead left a great and enduring legacy which will continue to provide enlightenment and pleasure to present and future generations. She will be remembered by all who knew her and knew of her work with great respect for the inspiration that her work provided.
“The conservationist is one of the most important people living because civilised living is not civilised, properly speaking, without the natural environment of which man himself is apart. Unless we have habitat preservation in which people can see the natural bush, can learn to appreciate that this is the home of interesting and loveable animals, there is no culture in life” (Thistle Harris)
David George Stead 1877-1957
Conservationist and Educator
The Sanctuary stands as a memorial to the work of David George Stead.
David George Stead was a dedicated naturalist and member of many scientific and natural history societies of which he was often an office bearer.
As an enthusiastic geographer, oceanographer and aquarist he made great collections of Australian and Malayan fishes which are now preserved in the Australian Museum.
David George Stead was a popular lecturer, often travelling great distances willingly to give a talk with one of the best collection of slides on natural topics. He was never in doubt of his perspective. The cause of conservation was uppermost in his mind and he was one of the people whose work in the area of conservation influenced later generations of the rightness of the conservation cause.
No one fought harder than he for the preservation of Australian wildlife; from his work has arisen an awakening that has meant a fuller appreciation of the value of our native plants and animals and our scenic gems; from his efforts, often initiated alone and against considerable opposition, has arisen the wider groups of people that are pressing for recognition for the cultural, scientific, and economic value of the natural environments of our land.