Jessie Luckman – a sleeping bag made from rabbit fur

Jessie Luckman (1910 – ) is a musician who was an early member of the Hobart Walking Club, joining in 1936.  She spent many days in some of the most remote areas of Tasmanian wilderness at a time when actually getting to the beginning of the expedition took as much time as the expedition itself.  Once there, bushwalking was a far greater challenge than it is today.

Even with today’s tracks, this rugged landscape can be a challenge for bushwalkers. Imagine what it was like then with heavy canvas packs, cotton tents and having to carry food such as potatoes and eggs. “My mother made me a sleeping bag of white angora fur she’d clipped from our own rabbits, attached to thin muslin and encased in japara,” Jessie recalls. [It’s in the National Museum in Canberra.]

She carried her gear in a canvas-box pack and had a groundsheet. No sleeping mats, just cushions of ferns or other shrubbery cut from surrounding vegetation. Cooking was done on the fire, which the men lit while Jessie fetched water and helped to collect wood.

In 1943, she heard (at a cocktail party) that the state government was considering giving a part of the Mount Field national park to ANM for sawmilling.  Jessie swung into action, and had a letter published in the local paper calling on the government to ‘come clean’ about its intentions.  A large public outcry gave Jessie and others who wanted to protect the forests the impetus to begin Tasmania’s first environmental campaign.  An action committee was formed which then became the Tasmanian Flora and Fauna Conservation Committee, which was the first Tasmanian environmental organisation.

The main strategies used by these amateur activists (which included Jessie’s husband Leo) were lobbying of politicians and other decision makers in government.  They took politicians on bushwalks into areas under threat (strategies used by successive generations of bushwalker activists, including Bob Brown (who introduced Graham Richardson to the environment) and Milo Dunphy (who seduced Bob Carr to the green side), and they tried to understand and use parliamentary process.  Their first campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, in part due to the rampant corruption and development-at–all-costs ethos that seems to have characterized Tasmanian governments for many years.

Jessie was later part of a successful 1950s campaign to prevent the hunting of seals on Macquarie Island and she was also active as a shareholder in resource development companies, applying pressure to them on environmental issues.  In the late 1960s, Jessie was part of the Lake Pedder campaign, and in the 1980s Franklin River campaign


[1] Geoff Law. “Jessie Luckman: Wilderness Pioneer.” Leatherwood Online 4(June/July 2007). Accessed 22 January 2011

[2] Greg Buckman. 2008. Tasmania’s Wilderness Battles. St Leonards NSW: Allen & Unwin/Jacana Books, p 73-74

About Jane Elix

I don't have enough bandwidth to deal with this
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