Victorian Bush Fire Tragedy

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 ·

Helping to protect the environment and the wildlife that inhabited it was what drove Jenny and John Barnett. Both were researchers for environmental organizations and devoted their lives to the cause. Friends and colleagues yesterday said the pair loved going to their holiday house in Steels Creeks every weekend to be "refreshed" and have some peace and tranquility. The couple was at their weekend retreat on Saturday night when the fire swept through the community, taking at least 13 lives. They did not survive. Ms Barnett, a researcher with the Victorian National Parks Association, completed work on mammal counts, endangered species and fuel-reduction burning, which she supported in the state's national parks. She was also a voice for the environment, tirelessly campaigning on wildlife issues in the media. Mr Barnett had worked at the Department of Primary Industries to help prevent animal cruelty, before moving to the University of Melbourne 12 months ago to take up a role as an associate professor at the department of agriculture and food systems.

Friends described Mr Barnett as a brilliant researcher who was passionate about the protection of animals. "He was a meticulous scientist and was very driven," said his boss -- and friend -- Frank Dunshea. Professor Dunshea said Mr Barnett worked on improving the code of practice on how animals were housed, as well as looking at animal behavior. He said his department was still in shock over his death in the bush fire tragedy. "Jenny and John loved their weekend retreat in Steels Creek. They spent every weekend there and he always returned on Monday morning refreshed and relaxed," he said. Colleagues and friends at the VNPA are coming to terms with losing Ms Barnett. "Jenny was a conservationist, she was a tireless researcher and respected for her reports and contributions," said Phil Ingamells, who worked with Ms Barnett. "She was also a delight to be around the place."

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