Australian National  Hunting Archive

The Australian National Hunting Archive was established by Field and Game Australia in an effort to address the silence surrounding Australia’s history as a nation that has relied on hunting and the harvest of game birds, mammals and fish for the benefit of all communities. In 2014 the Australian Deer Association joined Field and Game as a financial contributor to the archive.

The Archive

The Australian National Hunting Archive has been established in suburban Boronia, not far from where Max lives and he continues to work tirelessly to build and expand upon the collection. It is a Research Archive that records and tells the story of how Australian society has relied upon and managed hunting over more than two centuries.

The Max Downes Collection

In 1957 Victoria appointed its first Game Manager, and the process of developing a structured and sustainable basis for hunting in the state commenced. Max Downes took up the role with little direction and fewer resources. The following year Victoria’s hunters began their campaign to introduce game licenses, establish State Game reserves and protect wetlands being decimated through agricultural development and urban expansion.

Max has maintained a passion for the way in which hunting has been a part of the Australian social fabric. His collection consists of more than 4500 books, 20,000 documents and a database record of 20 years cataloguing and referencing materials in libraries and archives across the nation.

In 2011 Max made his collection available to the FGA Wetlands Environmental Taskforce (WET) Trust for the purposes of establishing an Australian National Hunting Archive.

Our archive is now Australia’s most comprehensive and valuable collection of works on the social history of hunting in any one place throughout the nation. “A study of the history of the social interaction of mankind with wildlife is important for understanding the ecology of both man and wildlife. The objective of the Australian Hunting Archives is to collect the hunting literature from Australia’s past. This will allow the public to better understand the ecological and social role that hunting wildlife had in the history of this country” – Max Downes 2010.

The Otto Ruf Collection

In 2012 the archive received Otto Ruf’s collection of deer heads and hunting records. Otto’s wife Kath requested that the archive hold and preserve the collection her husband built over decades of hunting in Australia and overseas.

Otto was a former ADA State President, Hunting Advisory Committee members and one of Australia’s finest taxidermists. His collection, numbering more than 30 heads, is magnificent.

The Opportunity

The Australian National Hunting Archive is a project for all Australians who believe hunting has been and remains an important part of our nation’s social and traditional heritage.

The archive will continue to grow as documents and records from as yet untapped sources become available. This includes the contribution made by ADA and FGA members and branches over more than 54 years. We will be seeking to obtain recognition for the archive as a Collection of National Significance. Guidelines and tips will be available to assist members and branches to prepare documents and records for inclusion in the archive. FGA and ADA members and others with an interest in the archive’s development and contents are invited to contribute through the gathering and preparation of
materials and contribution to the cost of maintaining this vital asset. Historians, academics and researchers will be invited to make use of the archive and appreciate the enormous contribution hunting and hunters have made to Australian society over the past 225 years.

In identifying Australian society as 225 years of development the Archive does not exclude the thousands of years of hunting prior to European settlement. The archive contains a considerable amount of research and reflection on Aboriginal hunting practices. The archive is however a social record of hunting within the Australian community. Aboriginal hunting
practices and the scientific aspects of wildlife biology are very well represented in State and National Libraries and the collections of Australian tertiary institutions. The Australian National Hunting Archive seeks to draw together the threads of a history that is either absent or significantly under-developed in other collections.