Vale Des Ritchie-a true Green Legend


Des Ritchie OAM



Desmond Maurice Ritchie was born in 1931 in Ballnamallard, Northern Ireland, and spent his childhood years on family farms there and in Enniskillen. He attended college in Dublin and worked in the early days of computers in London, Ireland, Canada and then Australia, but was drawn back to the farming lifein Torbanlea, Queensland.

Des arrived on the Sunshine Coast in 1979 and explored living in a community called Shalom in the Obi Obi Valley. He joined Move for Peace which he represented at a SCEC meeting run by Mark Ricketts and Elaine Green at Mudjimba. This was the catalyst for Des to join SCEC. The hot issue at the time was an outrageous development proposal to build a chairlift up the ancient face of Mt Coolum and desecrate it with restaurants and viewing platforms. Des was soon inveigled into becoming SCEC’s Treasurer, then Coordinator from 1989 to 1991 and President from 1991 to 1993.

Des describes these times as “the most satisfying and productive part of my life – doing something to preserve life in its many forms on this planet”.

He became aware that environmental studies were unheard of in schools and so he visited schools two or three times a week – and was always invited back. Des enticed Beryl Muspratt (a retired school principal) to organise a team of environmental educators who tackled the Education Department. When Joe Ruiz-Avila became President in 1993, Des and Joe embarked on a series of talks to various community gatherings and not only did they raise awareness about environmental issues, but they also increased the number of groups affiliated with SCEC to fifty.

Des was manager at The Meeting Place in Nambour for several years in the 1980s and through this centre he met Bill Hauritz, co-ordinator of the Maleny Folk Festival. Irish music notwithstanding, Des claims that it was environmental education he had in mind when he joined Bill’s team. In 1992 the first GREENhouse venue commenced at the festival (now at Woodford) and it has been operating ever since for more than 20 years.

For 20 years Des was President of Queensland Folk Federation (now Woodfordia Inc) producers of the Woodford Folk Festival. He has been a catalyst for this festival’s major environmental initiatives – including the planting of 100,000 trees.
His dedication and passion have motivated and changed the lives of many. Des is one of those people whose personal and community actions reflect the true meaning of sustainability – that we humans must live within, protect and enhance the bounty that nature has provided us with, for if we don’t, we are robbing from future generations.

His environmental interests were broad – he was a Maroochy Waterwatch volunteer water quality tester, Manager of the Sunshine Coast Landcare Environment Action Program (LEAP), represented SCEC on the South East Queensland 2020 Planning Program and the 2003 Community Visioning Project. He was a member of the Ethics Committee, University Sunshine Coast for many years.

After turning 80 in 2011, a highlight was achieved in 2012 when Des was awarded an Order of Australia medal for services to conservation, the environment and the arts.

Celebrations for Des’ 90 th birthday were postponed due to COVID in 2021 and restrictions around visits to his nursing home. Des spent the last years of his life in Sundale at Palmwoods where his lovely nature endeared him to others. His lovely Irish lilt and sense of humour will live long in the minds of all who knew him.

To farewell the inspirational and true legend Des Ritchie OAM 5 July 1931 – 2 June 2023 there will be a shindig at Woodfordia to celebrate Des’s life from 3pm Saturday 8th July including a ceremony, dinner and music, by the fire and under the stars.
All who loved Des are welcome.
Please RSVP by following this link
Sláinte Dessie. Fly free in the wild places.