The early 1970's saw a rapid growth in community awareness of the value of Victoria's natural bushland - particularly the Alpine Region, for recreation and corresponding recognition of the need to conserve our public land for both now and for the future.
Regrettably this influx of visitors to more remote areas lead to conflict between individuals whose enjoyment of the bush environment took different forms, conflicts caused largely by a lack of tolerance and understanding.
It was against this background that the Four Wheel Drive Club members initiated actions to maintain their access to public land.
On March 20th 1972, the first meeting was held between the then Minister for Lands, Mr Bill Borthwick and representatives of the Cross Country Jeep Club (CCJC) and the Land Rover Owners Club of Victoria (LROC) to discuss the growing problem of track closures. Four Wheel Drive (4WD) delegates to the meeting were Mike McCormick (CCJC), Bevan Fenner (LROC/CCJC), Alex Flack (LROC/CCJC).
By the middle of 1973, many "NO VEHICLES" signs began to appear on bush tracks. Other Jeep Club members began discussions with groups including Australian Motorcycle Trail Riders Association (AMTRA), Victorian Buggy Association, Federation of Off Road Motor Sports (FORMS) which resulted in the formation of the Federation of Off Road Vehicles (FORV).
In October 1973, David Eastaugh of CCJC suggested a 4WD rally be held in February 1974 to unite all 4WD Clubs. A sub-committee of the Jeep Club had by now been formed to co-ordinate this and related activities - FORMS had by now ceased to be involved. By the end of 1973, FORV emerged to represent "motorised" recreational clubs.
An "Interclub Rally" held at Valley Farm, Narbethong on the 2nd and 3rd of February 1974, attracted 5 clubs, Cross Country Jeep Club, Land Rover Owners Club, Gippsland Four Wheel Drive Club, Toyota Landcruiser Club and Geelong Four Wheel Drive Club.
A public meeting to launch FORV was held at the Malvern Town Hall on 27th February 1974, about 400 people attended. The objectives of FORV stated: "The promotion, defence and support of all owners of Off Road type recreational vehicles, in the common interest and enjoyment gained from their operation in all areas".
Although started with a united group, FORV failed due to the lack of unity between various modes of recreation, ie Motor Cycle and Buggy activities were seen to have little in common with four wheel drive touring.
On the 8th and 9th February 1975, a meeting of delegates from four wheel drive clubs initiated the formation of the Victoria Association of Four Wheel Drive Clubs (VAFWDC) now known as Four Wheel Drive Victoria. By July 1975, the first President, Vic Cattapan was elected and the memorandum and Articles of Association had been produced and adopted.
Founding members of the Association were: Cross Country Jeep Club, Dandenong Ranges Four Wheel Drive Club, Geelong Four Wheel Drive Club, Gippsland Four Wheel Drive Club, Haflinger Club, Toyota Landcruiser Club, Victorian Four Wheel Drive Club, Victorian Military Vehicle Corps
The lines of communication with Government Authorities, groups and bodies concerned or associated with bush-based recreation and conservation recognised that it was necessary to distinguish club members environmentally responsible use of their vehicles with other kinds of vehicular recreation. The Association produced stickers, which recognised the need for environmental responsibility of 4WD operators, ie "Keep the Green Scene Clean", "Don't Bugger the Bush - be Environmentally Conscious".
Since these humble beginnings the VAFWDC has achieved recognition as a responsible body representing a legitimate form of recreation. The Association has demonstrated a rational and non-emotional approach to liaison with Government and semi-government bodies and through its member clubs a responsible approach to 4WD touring.
To counter the practice of government bodies closing track access to the public the association negotiated the creation of restricted temporary road and track closures, rather than the permanent closures. This was a major break through with the then Forest Commission and saw a compromise solution, which still exists today in seasonal road closures.
The association has experienced continued growth since those early days with growth in both clubs and individual 4WD owners. At the turn of the century the association changed its trading name to Four Wheel Drive Victoria to help portray a more modern image.
Four Wheel Drive Victoria is now a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and managers a comprehensive training program for clubs, the public and corporations and many of the affiliated clubs are running 4WD training courses for their members as part of joining a club. We run booth accredited and non accredited training courses - Registered Training Organisation (RTO 21605)
We now have a consultative committee called The Ministerial Four Wheel Drive Advisory Committee which sees representatives of Parks Victoria, DELWP and Four Wheel Drive Victoria meet on a regular basis to discuss four wheel drive issues, track access, track maintenance and the seasonal closures.
Four Wheel Drive Victoria continues to develop strong relationships with the government and its land managers and has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state government, Parks Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) to ensure effective consultation and involvement in track access and maintenance issues. This has created a much stronger working relationship with land managers and rangers.
Clubs are active in the community with projects that benefit the whole community being undertaken on a voluntary basis. These projects include Clean up the Bush, Camp Host, track maintenance, cemetery clean ups, transportation for the disadvantaged, Murray River Marathon assistance, Red Cross Bikethon, Peninsula Rescue to name a few.
With a policy of communicating 4WD club members as responsible bush users and spreading the word about caring for the environment this has created a more positive and caring image of the typical 4WD user that continues today.