1 April 1927 |
|Residence||Tamar Valley, Tasmania|
|Known for||Host of Gardening Australia (1989–2008)|
|Awards||Australian Humanist of the Year (2006)
Order of Australia (2007)
Churchill Fellowship (1974)
Peter Cundall, AM (born 1 April 1927) is a horticulturalist, conservationist, author, broadcaster and television personality in Australia. He currently lives in Tasmania's Tamar Valley, and until the age of 81 continued to be a presenter of the ABC TV program Gardening Australia. His last show aired on 26 July 2008. He will continue his radio show from Tasmania, his appearances at the Gardening Australia Expos and continue work on his autobiography. He was awarded a Membership of the Order of Australia in 2007 "For service to the environment, particularly the protection of wilderness areas in Tasmania, and to horticulture as a presenter of gardening programs on television and radio."
Cundall has become a household name to Australian gardeners. The TV show and magazine Gardening Australia Peter represents has a devoted audience of both younger and older gardeners and admirers. At Gardening Australia Live shows (gardening exhibitions in Australian capital cities) Peter Cundall's presentations attract many viewers. In a 2008 issue of Reader's Digest, he came 8th in a poll of the 100 most trusted Australians. He is an environmentalist, pacifist and atheist.
Early life and military service
Peter Cundall was born into an impoverished home, "the poorest of the poor", in Manchester, England on 1 April 1927, as the second of six children. Two of his brothers died when he was young. His father was an alcoholic and battered his mother. This put Cundall off alcohol forever. He was sent to a Catholic school, but never believed the dogma he was taught. His Head Teacher called him a "steady lad who tries hard". He left school at age 12, but straight away had a love for knowledge, books and reading. He worked as a milk boy and a tram conductor. Near the end of World War II, Cundall joined the British Army's Parachute Regiment. He was stationed in various countries in post-war Europe in France, Austria, Germany, Italy and Yugoslavia and the Middle East in Egypt and the British Mandate for Palestine. During these travels he visited many private and public gardens and parks in order to add to his knowledge of plants and landscaping practices covering a wide range of climatic conditions. He was also stationed at a liberated Concentration Camp and has said that the things he saw and heard had a deep impact on him.
In 1946, Cundall was stationed in southeast Austria at Sankt Paul im Lavanttal where he was guarding captured Nazi Waffen-SS troops. He was enticed across the border into Yugoslavia by a beautiful girl named Angela, and was arrested by Marshal Tito's forces after she disappeared. He was sentenced (without trial) to four years imprisonment for espionage, but was released into Trieste, Italy after six months in solitary confinement in a prison in Ljubljana, after pressure from the British government led to his release.
Eager to hasten his emigration to Australia, Cundall enlisted in the Australian Army in 1950, believing that he was enlisting for a non-combat role as a librarian. However, he was immediately posted to Korea with the Australian 3rd Battalion, and once again saw action overseas as a machine gunner during the Korean War. During a year and a half based in Japan he studied Japanese garden design and rock garden construction. He also gained access to many famous gardens and bonsai nurseries and regularly went to observe new gardens being created in Hiroshima, which was being rebuilt after the atomic bombing in 1945.
Political career and activism
Cundall was a Federal Senate candidate for Tasmania for the Communist Party of Australia in the 1961 federal election. He also supports many left wing political and environmental groups by speaking at rallies and events. He is an ardent pacifist and is a keen environmentalist. He was the Chairman of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society during the battle to stop the building of the Franklin Dam. He has been campaigning for three years against the construction of Gunns' pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. In 2003 Cundall also marched, with thousands of other Australians, in protest against Australia's involvement in the Iraq war. On 19 November 2009, Cundall was arrested by police after refusing to obey requests to move from Tasmanian state parliament's front steps. He was protesting against the Gunns' Bell Bay Pulp Mill. On 3 February 2010, he pleaded not guilty to the charge of refusing to obey a police order to move away from Parliament House. After the court session, he accused Gunns and the politicians who approved the pulp mill of corruption. He was found guilty without conviction and was fined about A$47 in court costs on 11 February 2011. Despite the fine, he vowed to "continue to peacefully protest against Gunns' proposed Tasmanian pulp mill".
Cundall is a self-described atheist, stating that God and religion "never made sense. I regarded it as another fairy story". He has also said that all religious experiences are illusions, and if "religion is on the right, and atheism is on the left, I am on the far left."
Gardening and broadcasting
After leaving the Australian Army in 1956, Cundall moved to Tasmania, where he started his own gardening and landscaping business designing and constructing gardens in Tasmania. During this period he specialised in landscaping a large number of schools, hospitals, universities, factories, hotels, shopping centres and private gardens in Tasmania and Victoria. He was also an active founding member of the Organic Gardening and Farming Society. In 1967, he started the world's first gardening talkback program on a Launceston radio station. In 1969, he began presenting a television gardening program for Australia's national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Originally called It's Growing and then Landscape, it was another world-first which concentrated on the design and construction of new gardens in Tasmania. This show became one of the longest running, most iconic shows in Australia – Gardening Australia.
In 1974 he was awarded a 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. With WGBH Boston and the British Broadcasting Corporation he studied the way television gardening programs were made for differing climatic conditions.
In December 2007, Cundall and the ABC announced that the 2008 series would be his last. On 18 June 2008 he filmed his last Gardening Australia episode at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. His last appearance was broadcast on ABC TV on 26 July 2008.
After his regular work on Gardening Australia, Cundall appeared for the "Help Wanted" segment on the ABC's programme Can We Help? on 11 September 2009 to help Adenocarcinoma sufferer Michael Carson and his wife Dympna with rebuilding a vegetable garden in their backyard. About a month after the segment had been filmed, Carson died from his illness.
In 2007, he was awarded a Membership of the Order of Australia in 2007 "For service to the environment, particularly the protection of wilderness areas in Tasmania, and to horticulture as a presenter of gardening programs on television and radio."
Also in 2007, he was awarded Organic Federation of Australia's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
- "It's an Honour: Peter Cundall". Government of Australia. Retrieved 22 October 2011.
- Gadd, Denise (5 July 2008). "An Earthly Delight". The Age. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Australia's Most Trusted People 2008". Reader's Digest. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
- "Life's Big Questions: Peter Cundall". Compass. 16 October 2011. ABC Television.
- "Peter Cundall". Wisdom Interviews. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 August 2004. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- Leu, Andre (27 September 2007). "Peter Cundall receives OFA Lifetime Achievement Award" (PDF). Organic Federation of Australia. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- "Peter Cundall". Talking Heads. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 March 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Peter Cundall". Enough Rope. 13 June 2005. ABC Television.
- Kermond, Clare (15 July 2004). "Seeds of sanity". The Age. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- Schmidt, Lucinda (28 March 2006). "Profile: Peter Cundall". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Peter Cundall arrested at pulp mill protest". ABC News. 19 November 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009.
- "Cundall accuses Gunns of corruption". ABC News. 3 February 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
- "Cundall fined over Parliament Cundall vows to fight on despite court fine". ABC News. 11 February 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
- "Gardening expert Cundall to retire". ABC News. 13 December 2007. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Late bloomer". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 July 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2009.
- "Help Wanted – Episode 31 (2009)". Can We Help?. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 11 September 2009. Retrieved 11 September 2009.
- "Q&A goes to Hobart". Q&A. ABC Television. 25 July 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
- "Australian Humanists of the Year". Humanist Society of Victoria. Retrieved 30 August 2009.