The Australian Numismatic Society


Gould League Badges  by  Tony Hoare

The Gould League is an independent Australian organization founded in 1909 to encourage the love and protection of
Australian native birds.The name Gould League honours the work of an English couple John and Elizabeth Gould.

John Gould was an artist and naturalist and his wife was also an artist. They were married in Jan. 1829, left England in
May 1838 for Australia where they spent 2 years of intensive study of Australian birds and animals.

John encouraged Elizabeth to learn lithography and she was taught by his collaborator Edward Lear.  She became
proficient with the art  form  and went on to use it to create illustrations from John’s drawings, producing over 600
illustrations for many publications.

The initial stimulus to form the Gould League was a letter from a school teacher, Jessie McMichael to John Albert
Leach, supervisor of nature study in Victorian state schools and later Chief Inspector of Schools in Victoria. 
She suggested the formation of groups of school students devoted to studying and protecting birds. 
Jessie McMichael also helped with the founding of the League by making some generous donations.

When formally established in 1909, the Gould league of Bird Lovers, as it was then called, was devoted to bird
protection, especially the prevention of bird egg theft, the promotion of interest in and knowledge of birds and to
campaign for the formation of bird sanctuaries. Members would take a pledge to protect Australian birdlife and not to
collect their eggs.  In those days it was normal, and completely acceptable, for school children to have their own bird
egg collections, and many classrooms were decorated with strings of blown eggshells hanging around the walls.

In 1910,  news of this league reached Mr. Walter Finigan, nature study teacher at Wellington N.S.W. Mr . Finigan was
so enthusiastic about the idea that, in the school grounds he discussed with headmaster Mr. Edward Webster the
possibility of forming a similar league in N.S.W..

On Sat 22nd October 1910, at a meeting of the Wellington Branch of the Public School Teacher's Association, it was
decided to form The New South Wales Gould League of Bird Lovers.  Mr. Webster was made temporary President
and Mr. Finigan was made secretary.  Later that year the Chief Inspector of schools, Mr. J. Dawson was visiting
Wellington, and undertook the position of permanent President.

In Dec. 1910 at a meeting held in Sydney, in the presence of noted ornithologists and teachers, the league was launched
as a state wide organization. The N.S.W. membership cards featured the Gould League Pledge  “ I hereby promise to
protect all birds except those that are noxious, and to refrain from unnecessary collection of wild birds eggs ” and this
became the focus of Gould League activities .

From 1910 to 1930  certificates  and various badges were issued to new members as  they joined the league.  From 1931
to 1967, postcard size certificates and annual badges were produced and issued to members . In 1967 the league
amalgamated with The Junior Tree Wardens and the words “Bird lovers ” dropped from the title.
Badges were  issued until 1978 when most of the activities were transferred to Victoria.

1928 saw the first of a long series of annual membership badges, made of solid metal and hand coloured in enamel, that
have now become  collector’s  items. Priced at one shilling and originally intended for adult members, the badges
became very popular with children. The first badge showed a Willie Wagtail, and subsequent badges featured a different
bird each year until 1967.

During this period the League also produced four other enameled metal badges, permanent in the sense that they were
undated, and not changed from one year to the next.
The adult Life Member’s  badge, with a Magpie facing a Kookaburra on a blue background, cost one pound.

The Honorary Life Member’s badge, awarded for long and distinguished service,  bore the same image but was made in gold.
Many hundreds of an enameled badge showing a Grey Thrush perched on a human  hand, with a white background, inscribed “Merit Badge “ were awarded after 1929. This was to encourage children to induce a wild bird to land on them.

Membership badges produced 1931 to 1942 were enameled, the remaining badges 1943 to 1967 were hand painted.  An
exception was made in 1946 when along with the hand painted Eastern Shrike Tit an enameled badge was also produced.

In 1965 an enameled badge was produced showing a kookaburra on a white background with an inscription "Senior Member".

After amalgamation with the Junior Tree Wardens, badges were produced from 1968 to 1978, made of aluminum or plastic,
and inscribed "Gould League of N.S.W.".

Badges made of acrylic were issued from Victoria as Gould League Australia, up until 2003 ... and possibly beyond.

The Victorian Gould League has produced, to the best of my knowledge, 3 Kookaburra badges and 3 Robin Redbreast badges. 
They appear to be enamel or acrylic.

The Gould League in W.A. has produced tin badges depicting Australian fauna, quantity unknown, but I know of a collection of 15.

I know of 1 Tasmanian badge, but details of other States are not known.

Today the Gould League delivers innovative environmental sustainability teaching and learning programs to children and their families. 
Their vision for the future is to be recognised as one of the world's leading environmental educational organizations.

They are still very active in Viuctoria, W.A. and S.A.

Gould Leagues of N.S.W., Quensland and Tasmania have now ceased.


The Gould League in N.S.W. by Peter Roberts and David Tribe
Collectors Guide by Barry L. Rolls
Australian Museum
Chris Meallin of  Downies

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6th June 2012