29 Apr 2020


By Andrew McPhee

“This story is, I suppose, about Dad’s love of nature and his influence on the next generation's attitude towards the environment.”

Andrew writes to us about how growing up with an environmentalist father like Nathan impacted his own passion for nature. Nathan was also moved to conserve the environment through a gift in his Will to WWF. Learn more about the impact a bequest can have on our work by visiting our Gifts in Wills page.  

Nathan McPhee and his family
© Andrew McPhee

A photo of Dad (far right) as I like to remember him - with mum, me and my family taken in 2012. 

"Back in 1974, when he was President of the Lions Club in Broken Hill, he wrote me a letter and placed it in a time capsule project he led. 

On opening it on the 1 January 2000, I read an amazing letter of Dad's thoughts and observations of how the world was going at that time, and what he thought it would look like by the time I received the letter 26 years later.

The world then was in the grip of the Global Oil Crisis. Dad was speculating about the future and the need to transition to cleaner renewable energy, the effect humans were having on climate change, and the demise of the Amazon Jungle and its animals, as well as Australia's poor record of species protection. " 

“Nathan McPhee – my dad was a passionate environmentalist for as long as I can remember.”  

This passion inspired Andrew’s own dedication to the environment, and led Nathan to include a Legacy to the next generation in his Will, having a long-term impact on the environment he cared for so much. 

"His passion for our environment grew on me as I got older. 

I spent my early working life as a tradesman in industry. In the mid 90’s, my wife and I moved to Arnhem Land in the NT. 

While working in an Indigenous community with the local Yolngu people, my passion for the environment, and in particular the benefits of good fire management in savannah landscapes, led me to enrol at Charles Darwin University to learn more about environmental management. 

These photos are of a day trip I did with Dad, taking him out into the Arnhem Land environment"

Andrew McPhee and his dad Nathan McPhee in Arnhem Land
© Andrew McPhee

"In one photo, Dad’s leaning up against the iconic stringy bark gum (Eucalyptus tetrodonta) with a tree piping termite mound in the foreground. I’d been telling Dad about all the Indigenous uses of the stringy bark, including peeling the bark off to make a canoe.

In the other photo, Dad and I are metres away from the Glyde River in Northern Territory. It is one of the two rivers that drains the Arafura Swamp, about 30km to the east of Ramingining (an Indigenous community of mainly Yolngu people). In the background there are some of the rare and endemic Arafura palms found only in that area. About 10 metres from where we were standing lived a resident five metre saltwater crocodile. Dad's expression in this photo I think was a mixture of joy, being with his son, and discomfort at the fact that a big croc was nearby.

For me these photos show Dad's love of the bush, and the influence he had on my future and me.

In 2006, much to Dad's delight and support, I became a Park Ranger with Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. I held this post for two years, before returning to the Northern Territory, where I’m currently the Senior District Ranger for Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). Along with other environmental and tourism projects, I lead the park in a fire management project that has positive environmental impact.

Here’s a recent photo of me as I am now, an NT Park Ranger out in my favourite part of the world… the bush!"

Andrew McPhee as a NT park ranger
© Andrew McPhee

"Dad left a gift in his Will to WWF, and I’m so glad. I’m happy to do this one last thing for Dad – ensuring his final gift creates a better world for people and nature."

Andrew hopes that by sharing his father’s story he can inspire others to make an impact through their own legacies. Please consider leaving a gift in your Will to nature like Nathan did to have a long-lasting impact on the planet.