Harry Butler

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Harry Butler

William Henry Butler

(1930-03-25)25 March 1930
Died11 December 2015(2015-12-11) (aged 85)
Perth, Western Australia
Alma materClaremont Teachers College
Western State College
OccupationEnvironmental consultant
television presenter
Known forEnvironmentalism, songwriting
TelevisionIn the WildABC Television

William Henry "Harry" Butler AO CBE (25 March 1930 – 11 December 2015) was an Australian naturalist and environmental consultant, best known as the presenter of the popular ABC television series In the Wild from 1976 to 1981.


Butler was born on 25 March 1930 in Perth, Western Australia.[1] He attended Claremont Teachers College in Western Australia and later the Western State College in the United States.[2]

He co-wrote "Sun Arise" with fellow Western Australian Rolf Harris, which reached the Top 10 in the UK in 1962.[3]

Butler was a populariser of science and natural history for both child and adult audiences, especially through the ABC television series In the Wild, which led to him being named Australian of the Year in 1979. He also authored the books In The Wild, In the Wild (Part II) and Looking at the Wild.

As conservation consultant to the Barrow Island oilfield and many other projects, Butler played a major role in environmental conservation and restoration in Australia. In 1968, he participated in the fifth of the Harold Hall Australian ornithological collecting expeditions. He lectured, and was honoured, at museums in Western Australia, Canada, and the United States. Butler was a supporter of development projects such as mining, working with corporations and state governments as an environmental consultant.

Butler lost some popularity with his support of the construction of the Franklin River Dam in the early 1980s.[4]

Butler caused some controversy in 1989, when he told a West Australian land rights enquiry that Aboriginal people should conform to Australian laws, and that claims from Aboriginal groups over land should not be prioritised over opportunities to develop that land.[citation needed]

He died of cancer, aged 85, at a hospital in Perth on 11 December 2015.[5]


In 1970, Butler was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.[6] In 1980 this was upgraded to Commander level (CBE).[7]

In 1979, Butler was named the Australian of the Year,[8] jointly with Neville Bonner.

In 1993, he was awarded a cash prize for his 30 years of work with the petroleum industry.

On 4 March 2012, he was added to the National Trust of Australia's National Living Treasures list.[9][10][11]

On 11 June 2012, he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to the community through the promotion of public understanding of natural history and wildlife conservation, to the development of collaborative environmental partnerships with industry, and to the community."[12]

A species of mulga snake, Pseudechis butleri,[13] and a spider, Synothele butleri, are named for Butler.[14][15]

Three species of Australian lizards are named for Butler: Delma butleri, Morethia butleri, and Notoscincus butleri.[13] Two species of Australian lizards are named for Butler and his wife, Margaret Butler: Ctenophorus butlerorum and Eremiascincus butlerorum.[13]

On 17 April, 2016, the new Western Australian Museum research facility and storage centre in Welshpool was named in his honour.[16]


  1. ^ Australian of the Year Awards: Harry Butler CBE, 1979 Archived 12 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine (2006). Retrieved on 4 December 2007.
  2. ^ "Butler, William Henry (1930 – )". Encyclopedia of Australian Science. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
  3. ^ Morgan, Joyce (29 September 2003). "Chairman of the wobble board". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  4. ^ In the Wild with Harry Butler (1976 - 1981), Australian Screen Online
  5. ^ "Harry Butler: Conservationist dies of cancer in Perth aged 85". ABC News. 12 December 2015. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  6. ^ It's an Honour: OBE
  7. ^ It's an Honour: CBE
  8. ^ Lewis, Wendy (2010). Australians of the Year. Pier 9 Press. ISBN 978-1-74196-809-5.
  9. ^ "Seven added to national living treasure list". Dr Butler said it was a shame thousands of his colleagues were not joining him on the list. Fairfax Media. SMH. 5 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Australian National Living Treasure". ALLdownunder.com.au. Retrieved 5 April 2017.
  12. ^ "Officer (AO) in the General Division of the Order of Australia – The Queen's Birthday 2012 Honours Lists" (PDF). Official Secretary to the Governor-General of Australia. 11 June 2012. p. 5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2012.
  13. ^ a b c Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Butler, W.H.", p. 44; "Margaret B.", p. 168).
  14. ^ Raven, Robert; Marshall, Tracey. "A spider honours list?". Staff publications. University of Queensland. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
  15. ^ "Pseudechis ". kingsnake.com. 1998. Archived from the original on 24 September 2003. Retrieved 28 February 2009.
  16. ^ "New museum centre honours legendary naturalist Harry Butler". 17 April 2016.
  • McCarthy, G.J (4 December 2006). "Butler, William Henry (1930 – )". Bright Sparcs Biographical entry. The University of Melbourne eScholarship Research Centre (Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre). Retrieved 4 December 2007. Butler was an honorary associate of the Western Australian Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.
  • Robyn Williams (presenter) (27 July 2006). "Harry Butler". In Conversation. ABC – Radio National. Retrieved 4 December 2007.
Preceded by Australian of the Year Award
Served alongside: Senator Neville Bonner
Succeeded by

External links[edit]