State Library of South Australia

What's new in archives : Papers of Warren Bonython

Date: 27 February 2014

The late Warren Bonython AO was to become the most renowned walker and modern-day explorer South Australia has known. The son of Sir John Lavington Bonython and Lady Jean Bonython, he graduated from Adelaide University and worked in the chemical industry with ICI Australia for more than two decades, including as manager of the salt fields at Dry Creek in Adelaide's northern suburbs.

Wilpena Pound circa 1930 catalogue reference B22397
Wilpena Pound, circa. 1930 (B22397)
'It is hard to say when my bushwalking started, but summer holidays in the early 1920's spent at Mt Lofty undoubtedly put me on the right track. I did not meet the Outback until much later.

I became spiritually attracted to the Flinders Ranges before I ever saw them. It was during a 6 years spell in Melbourne in the war years that I read about in a current magazine and became fascinated by a Hans Heysen painting called 'Land of the Oratunga-actually a view of Mt Patawerta, North of Blinman.

I could not fulfill my burning desire to walk the Flinders until 1945, when the War had ended and I was already 29.'

~ My Walking Life, C.W. Bonython

In 1973 Bonython and his friend Charles McCubbin walked 463 kilometres north-south across the Simpson Desert, pulling a 250-kilogram loaded trailer dubbed 'the Comalco Camel', with the trek lasting 32 days. He and his colleague Terry Kreig were the first white men to walk right around Lake Eyre in 1982, with Terry describing Warren as 'the toughest person I've ever met.' Indeed, Warren climbed Kilimanjaro at the age of 75.

With his dedication to bushwalking, he soon became involved with the major conservation and heritage bodies of the country. He was the South Australian president of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, a Foundation Committee Member of the Australian Solar Energy Society, President of the Conservation Council of South Australia and the National Trust. It was the combined efforts of Warren Bonython and Terry Lavender that saw the Heysen Trail conceived and created. The trail now crosses about 1,200 kilometres of South Australia from the coast to the northern Flinders Ranges in the outback.

His publications Walking the Simpson Desert and Walking the Flinders Ranges inspired many people's interest in bushwalking and in 1980 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition of his service to conservation.

Warren's beloved wife Bunty was happy to support Warren in his adventurous life.

The State Library was pleased to receive the manuscripts, walking diaries, and photographs relating to Warren's interests in bushwalking and conservation. We thank the Bonython family for their generous donation of this significant collection.


Story by: Sue Ward

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