Peter Cundall

Peter Cundall (Friday Only)

Bloomin' Marvellous!

We are delighted that ABC Organic Gardener's Peter Cundall will be officially opening the inaugural Horticultural & Gardening Festival on 9th October 2015. He will also speak on stage, meet-and-greet, and present an outdoor demonstration of a rotation garden bed system. Be sure not to miss out on seeing this gardening legend as he's here for one day only!

Peter Cundall was born in Manchester UK in 1927. His family at that time were homeless. He grew up during the Great Depression, starting work as an 11 year old, leaving school to work full time a year later after a relatively brief, intermittent primary school education.

However as a child he learned pruning techniques, propagation, and planting and heated greenhouse management and when he was not involved in reading and educating himself, his spare time was spent caring for his highly-productive vegetable garden to help feed his family during the Great Depression.

Peter first experienced the horrors of war as a 14 year old special Air Raid Precaution Messenger during the Blitz in World War 2.

Later he joined the British Parachute Regiment, serving in France, Austria (guarding war criminals awaiting trial) Germany and Italy. He was in regular contact with recently-liberated concentration camp survivors. He has never forgotten the brutal cruelty and conditions they were forced to endure in the camps.

In August 1946, Peter found himself a prisoner in Yugoslavia to become one of the first casualties of the Cold War. This occurred after accidentally straying across an unmarked Austrian frontier and into Slovenia (Yugoslavia).

He was immediately captured by Marshal Tito's partisans and a few days later charged with espionage and sentenced, without trial, to four years imprisonment.

Peter spent almost six months solitary confinement in almost complete darkness. The tiny cell in a Ljubljana prison, swarmed with lice, crab-lice, bedbugs and fleas. Finally as a result of British Government intervention, he was taken to the Italian border and released near Trieste and re-joined his unit in Austria.

Shortly afterwards he was again posted overseas, first to Egypt and Eritrea and then in 1947 to Gaza and other parts of Palestine where another war was taking place. This was the Palestine War (1946-48), a difficult but small war during which 233 British soldiers were killed and many more wounded. He was eventually demobilised in Britain in 1948.

Having been involved in two wars, he determined to get as far away from conflict as possible by migrating to Australia. However by 1950 there were long waiting lists for passages so as a means of speeding up the process decided to enlist in the Australian army in London.

As a fully-trained infantry soldier he was immediately accepted and posted, first to Melbourne and a week later to Sydney, arriving there in February 1951.

Shortly afterwards, Peter was again posted overseas, this time to another war. He was sent to join the Royal Australian Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, then engaged at the front line action during the Korean War.

By this stage the war being waged had become a form of static, trench warfare similar to that in France during WW1. He served in the Line for 15 months, broken by a 3 month period in hospital. While with the 3rd Battalion Peter served mainly as a machine gunner, taking part on all major operations and battles between June 1951 and September 1952. During these actions he was promoted in the Field to machine gun section commander.

Later in Japan he took great interest in the design and construction of many historic, traditional gardens, including those at the Imperial Palace. He regularly visited the city of Hiroshima, still in ruins after its destruction by an atomic bomb, which further strengthened his anti-war feelings.

After leaving the Australian military forces in 1956 he began his own landscaping business in Tasmania, working full time designing and constructing gardens.

During this period he specialised in designing and constructing major landscaping projects including schools, hospitals, universities, factories, hotels, shopping centres and private gardens in Tasmania, Victoria and other places.

He began radio broadcasting in 1967, hosting the world's first radio gardening talkback program and has continued to do so with hardly a break since. Peter also began writing columns and supplying photographs for various newspapers and magazines on gardening and for many years was an Adult Education tutor.

Resulting from his experiences as an infantry soldier in 3 wars, Peter became active involved in peace movements after leaving the army in 1956. Beginning with campaigns against the testing of nuclear weapons he later organised demonstrations and street marches against the Vietnam War and has never stopped protesting against all wars.

Organic Background

In 1969 Peter also began making a weekly in-studio television program called ‘IT'S GROWING' for ABC television, providing practical gardening demonstrations. His weekly program – black and white television - was expanded to 20 minutes in 1972 to become ‘LANDSCAPE’ which utilised suburban gardens throughout Tasmania. The series was the first television program in the world to feature the complete design and construction of new gardens around typical suburban homes, always starting from scratch to the completed garden.

In 1974 Peter Cundall was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship. This enabled him to travel through the United States, Britain and Africa to study organic gardening, landscaping methods, children's playground design and the presentation of television gardening programs in colour, then just beginning in Australia. With WGBH Boston and the BBC in Britain he was able to study the layout of food and ornamental gardens, specially-designed for the production of television gardening programs.

During 1972 he also played a major role in helping create the Organic Gardening and Farming Society and personally organised 20 new branches in different parts of Tasmania over a two-year period.

In 1977 he was the first and sole delegate representing Australia at the Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) in Switzerland.

From the early 1980’s Peter also became more deeply involved with the environmental protection movement, especially in the battle to save the wild Franklin River from being destroyed by a hydro dam. He was also active in organising mass street demonstrations opposing environmentally intrusive or dangerous industries and any activities that could threaten or destroy wilderness areas and public parks.

Media background & publications

In late 1990 and early 1991 the ABC created the program ‘Gardening Australia’ for national television. In 1995 he designed and planted the year round organic fruit and vegetable garden at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Peter remained the program’s host until late 2008 when he resigned to further other activities, particularly organic growing techniques, environmental protection and anti-war activities.

Peter continues to present a State-wide talkback on ABC Radio giving gardening advice every Saturday. He also continues to write columns and supply photographs for the ABC's ‘ORGANIC GARDENER’ magazine plus weekly columns for ‘THE WEEKLY TIMES’ and ‘SUNDAY TASMANIAN’.

Books and publications written by Peter include ‘YEAR ROUND GARDENING’ a non-paper gardening book printed on washable plastic for outdoor use, ‘SEASONAL TASKS FOR THE PRACTICAL AUSTRALIAN GARDENER’ and ‘PETER CUNDALL'S GUIDE TO ORGANIC GROWING’. He is now completing a series of memoirs consisting of anecdotes of parts of his life story blended with detailed advice on healthy eating and economic survival by means of home-grown organic vegetables and fruit.

Family

Peter Cundall is the father of six sons (4 from a previous marriage) and a stepson. He lives with his wife Tina on a 3 hectare property in Tasmania's Tamar Valley. It has a large ornamental garden and highly productive, experimental organic vegetable and fruit gardens, including several hundred fruit trees, vines and berry plants.

War Veteran Support

Peter’s experiences an infantry soldier during three wars have made him a passionate, anti-war activist.

However he has always been a strong supporter of war veterans, especially those suffering psychological problems as a result of their experiences on active service.

Over the last 3 years has been conducting totally free, therapeutic gardening workshops for all returned veterans and their families while assisting in the development of veteran’s community food gardens.

Campaigns

Peter Cundall has now become deeply involved in the most urgent and critically-important campaigns of all, for urgent population control and to prevent the delicate balance of the earth’s climate from being permanently disrupted due to the uncontrolled release of human-caused greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Honours

Among honours and awards he has received the following are included:

  • Appointed Envoy to the Save the Children Fund in 1994
  • Appointed Member of the Order of Australia (AM) 2007
  • Senior Australian of the Year (Tasmania) 2005
  • Australian Humanitarian Award 2005
  • Older People Speak Out (People’s Choice) Media Award 2006
  • Australian Humanist of the Year 2006.
  • Australian of the Year (Tasmania) 2009
 

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