The history of WWF-Australia | wwf

The history of WWF-Australia

WWF Globally

WWF was founded on 29 April 1961 in the small, picturesque Swiss town of Morges, with the basic aim of preserving life on Earth. It was a unique partnership of scientists, business and government leaders, with the support and guidance of HRH Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

Over the past 50 years, WWF has grown into the largest and most influential independent conservation organisation in the world. We have close to five million supporters and our global network encompasses more than 100 countries.


The Australian office of WWF was established on 29 June 1978, with a staff of just three working out of an old factory in Sydney. The conservation budget for our first year of operation was around $80,000.

Some of WWF-Australia’s earliest projects included research to save endangered species like the bilby, as well as forest and plant conservation.

Today we are proudly the largest conservation organisation in Australia, with more than 80,000 financial supporters and projects underway throughout Australia and the Oceania region.

For a living planet

WWF has grown from modest beginnings into a truly global conservation organisation that has been instrumental in elevating the importance of environmental matters internationally. In addition to funding and managing countless conservation projects throughout the world, WWF continues to:
  • lobby governments and policy-makers;
  • conduct research;
  • influence education systems; and
  • work with business and industry to address global threats to the planet by seeking long-term solutions.
Launch of Australia Wildlife Club in 1980 . Glenda Neal, Adrian Stark and Janet Saxton (Secretary). 
	© WWF-Aus / Patrick J. Crowe
Launch of Australia Wildlife Club in 1980 . Glenda Neal, Adrian Stark and Janet Saxton (Secretary).
© WWF-Aus / Patrick J. Crowe
Launch of Australia Wildlife Club in 1980 .Hazel Hawke (Wife of PM Bob Hawke) and Adrian Stark. 
	© WWF-Aus / Patrick J. Crowe
Launch of Australia Wildlife Club in 1980 .Hazel Hawke (Wife of PM Bob Hawke) and Adrian Stark.
© WWF-Aus / Patrick J. Crowe
WWF Timeline

1961 – WWF (World Wildlife Fund) was born and registered as a charity in the UK. Peter Scott, WWF’s first chairman, designed the famous panda logo inspired by Chi-Chi, a panda adopted by London Zoo.

1961 – First national appeals launched in the United Kingdom, followed by the United States and Switzerland a few days later.

1964 – After HRH Prince Phillip recommended its formation in 1963, the Australian Conservation Foundation emerged.

1978 – WWF-Australia was successfully incorporated, with a $50,000 grant from the Commonwealth Government and $20,500 in corporate donations.

1979 – the first annual general meeting of trustees was held at the reception hall of the Sydney Opera House.

– WWF collaborated with the IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the publication of a joint World Conservation Strategy. Endorsed by the United Nations Secretary-General, the strategy was launched simultaneously in 34 world capitals.

1983 – The Conservation Stamp Collection was launched, featuring endangered species. To this day, it has raised $13 million (US) dollars.

– WWF needed a new name to recognise the scope of its work. World Wildlife fund was changed to World Wide Fund for Nature (except USA and Canada).

1987 – WWF-Australia spearheaded a successful advocacy campaign that eventually led to the development of the first national threatened species legislation and a national threatened species program.

1987 – TRAFFIC Oceania, the wildlife monitoring program of WWF and the IUCN, was established to assist agencies in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific to curb the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.

1990 – WWF-Australia’s proposal for a national endangered species program was adopted by the Australian Government, leading to the formation of the Threatened Species Network, which still operates today under the management of WWF-Australia.

1991 – WWF-Australia and its partners achieved a 50-year moratorium on mining in Antarctica – one of the most significant conservation outcomes for preserving this pristine environment.

– Claude Martin took over as Director General of WWF-International, replacing Charles de Haes, who had served in that position for 18 years. The organisation also completed a two-year, network-wide evaluation of its conservation work, resolving to focus its activities on three key areas: forests, freshwater ecosystems, and oceans and coasts.

– WWF worked to fund 10 years of consultation and field work to protect the pristine rainforest, freshwater and marine resources of Papua New Guinea. By 2007, 80,000 hectares of new wildlife management areas had been declared.

1997 – WWF’s Africa Rhino Programme (ARP) was unveiled, when black rhino populations had been reduced to less than 3,000 in just a fraction of their original range. The IUCN now calculates that populations of both black and white rhinos are growing and the ARP is looking to re-introduce rhinos to more of the areas from which they disappeared.

– The first WWF Living Planet Report (LPR) was published, containing estimates of the changing populations of vertebrate animals. It also contained an estimate of human pressures on the planet.

– WWF launched the largest frog conservation program in Australian history. It used good science and community involvement to protect some of our rarest amphibians across the country.

– WWF-Australia played a major role in creating the world’s most far-reaching biodiversity conservation laws - the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act of June 1999.

– The joint Endangered Seas Campaign, a WWF-Oceania (including WWF-Australia) project focused on the development of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

2000 – WWF-Australia initiated Woodland Watch, which protected more than 1,000 hectares of bush containing high priority woodlands in the Northern Agricultural Region of Western Australia between 2000 and 2008.

2000 – The marine debris program was established to identify and combat the harm fishing and pollution do to Australia’s marine life.

2000-2006 – WWF-Australia engaged with several successful campaigns to protect the biodiversity values and better manage Ningaloo Reef and Cape Range Karst.

– WWF initiated a consortium of partners to develop a plan to protect and manage the biodiversity of the entire region of Southwest Australia, which is home to almost 7,000 species of plants, almost half of those occurring nowhere else. The plan particularly addressed the threats posed by climate change, dryland salinity and Phytophthora dieback disease.

– The 6.5 million hectare Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve was established as part of WWF’s Southern Ocean and Antarctic Campaign.

2003/2004 –Following public campaigning and pressure from WWF, the Australian Government committed to raise protection of the Great Barrier Reef from 4.6 per cent to 33 per cent, offering relief from coral bleaching, sea floor trawling, overfishing and pollution.

– WWF commissioned a scientific analysis of the biodiversity impacts of clearing in Queensland. The findings led the Queensland Parliament to pass legislation that phased out broad-scale clearing and set a new benchmark for Australian land management.

2004 – WWF convened the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists to advise the Australian Government on best-practice water management for the next 100 years, resulting in the National Water Initiative (NWI).

– WWF-Australia initiated the wetland conservation project Wetland Watch. Along the Swan Coastal Plain in WA, it has advised and assisted more than 120 landholders to better manage and protect high conservation value wetlands.

2004 – A survey counted 1,600 pandas, some 40% more than were thought to exist in the 1980s.

2005 – After an 18 month campaign by WWF-Australia, the Australian Government announced that more than 80% of Tasmania’s Tarkine region would be protected. This effectively halted State Government plans announced two years earlier to log the 20,000-hectare Tarkine Rainforest Corridor at the heart of the wilderness area.

2005 – WWF established the Australia Forest and Trade Network (AFTN), which is the national arm of Global Forest and Trade Network, as part of a partnership with Integrated Tree Cropping (ITC). The Global Forest and Trade Network is an alliance of national networks working to promote the responsible purchasing of timber products, and to create market incentives for forest managers to improve their forestry practices.

2005 – The WWF-supported Ningaloo Turtle Program won the 2005 Australian Government Coastcare Community Award for Western Australia for its work to reduce threats to marine turtles in the Ningaloo region.

– Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments reached agreement to fully fund a $24.6 million plan to eradicate rabbits, rats and mice from World Heritage-listed Macquarie Island. Supporters helped WWF to leverage funding to save the endangered grey-headed albatross from extinction.

2007 – Earth Hour was born in Sydney, Australia. Almost 2.2 million Sydneysiders turned their lights off for one hour, taking a stand against climate change.

2007 – Peregrine Adventures, Australia’s largest Antarctic expedition cruise operator, joined WWF in the campaign for the eradication of rabbits and rodents on Macquarie Island.

2007/2008 – WWF and the Threatened Species Network secured funding for a large project to be conducted with Indigenous people in the Kimberley to monitor Gouldian finches, sponsored by the Save the Gouldian Fund ($360,000 over three years). It aimed to reduce the key threat of altered fire regimes on the finches, a flagship species for healthy tropical savannah ecosystems in the East Kimberley region.

– WWF led the campaign to secure $180 million in Federal Government funding to expand the National Reserve System, Australia’s network of parks, reserves and other protected areas.

2008 – WWF led the campaign that secured $223 million in Federal Government investment to protect the Great Barrier Reef through changing farming practices and reducing farm pollution. The Reef Rescue Plan protects the entire reef catchment from the threats posed by excessive nutrients, pesticides and run-off sediments that degrade inshore reefs, making the system more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

2008 – After years of lobbying by WWF and other environment groups, the Queensland Government agreed to spend an additional $50 million to protect the Great Barrier Reef from agricultural pollution.

2008 – Over 50 million people across 35 countries took part in Earth Hour, a fast-growing global sustainability movement.

2009 – Earth Hour involved hundreds of millions of people in 4,000 cities and 88 countries. Famous landmarks, including Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), the Statue of Liberty (New York) and The Opera House (Sydney), supported the cause.

2009 –The 180,000 square kilometre Prince Edward Islands Marine Protected Areas was established, following a campaign to protect the Southern Ocean.

2010 – Earth Hour continued to grow, involving 128 countries and territories.