GJ Skillman's letter
Mr Skillman of Ulladulla, New South Wales, wrote to the National Museum in 1992:
Being a veterinary officer within the State Department of Agriculture for 35 years I had the privilege of working in my early career with some of the old Stock Inspectors attached to the Pastures Protection Boards and heard many stories of the hordes of rabbits that were seen in the early part of this century. Heavy infestations in the late 40s & early 50s were “light” in comparison according to the Stock Inspectors.
Sincere good wishes,
GJ Skillman BVSc
Pastures Protection Act 1902
The New South Wales Pastures Protection Act of 1902 required property owners and occupiers to be assessed for the payment of rates for – among other things – the construction of rabbit-proof fences and ‘machinery, plant or substances for the destruction of rabbits’.
Landowners were required to maintain rabbit-proof fencing on their lands and ‘... to suppress and destroy, by all lawful means, at his own cost, and to the satisfaction of the [Pastures Protection] board, all rabbits and noxious animals which may from time to time be upon such land … ’. In 1906 the Act was amended to ‘make further provision for the encouragement of the erection of rabbit-proof fencing … ’.
At that time, the need to actively control the spread of rabbits was considered imperative, and those proven to have neglected or shirked their responsibilities were liable to receive a significant fine which increased with subsequent violations.
In the Museum's collection
The National Museum’s collection contains a letter written in 1910 to George Faithfull by the Pastures Protection Office reminding him of his duty to manage fences to protect against rabbits entering his property, Springfield, near Goulburn, New South Wales.
Letter to George Faithfull
JJ Roberts of the Pastures Protection Office, Goulburn, New South Wales, wrote to G. E. Faithfull Esqr in 1910:
Pastures Protection Office,
Goulburn, May 19, 1910
G. E. Faithfull Esqr
I am instructed to write stating, that the Stock Inspector reports, that the fence around your property is not rabbit proof. He says the rabbits are getting into your land at Inveralochy Bridge – The act clearly states that you must keep the fences rabbit proof, otherwise you are not entitled to any reduction in the amount of assessment.
 Pastures Protection Act, 1902, section 49 on the Australasian Legal Information Institute website (PDF), accessed 17 November 2014
Do you have a story to tell about rabbits? Let us know your rabbit memories through the fields below, or follow our People & Environment blog to join our conversation about Australians' relationships with rabbits and other animals in Australia.