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Finding knowledge in the stories of our timber

Finding knowledge in the stories of our timber

by Kate Sutton

10 months ago

On National Tree Day, we find ourselves thinking about the stories of our trees and timber.

Speaking with Ben from Wood4Good, he spent his gap years in Europe and Northern Germany. He relates the story of how once a year people converge in one place and inspect the logs that will go to auction, but its more than just this pure transactional approach, it’s also a social gathering.

They auction the logs one by one and then that night they eat and drink together. The following day buyers organise travel and freight home of their newly bought log. There is value in this exchange, a respect for the fibre but also the cultural traditions, this happens year after year.

a picture of a winky sign deep in a wooded forest. the left sign says Berkholz and the other sign says Weggun Pernicksee

These are forests that have been managed by humans for hundreds of years and are a place of recreation, hunting and foraging, they are part of the local culture and lore and their stories ground them to place. 

During the lockdown years, CERES ran an online gathering led by Sieta Beckwith our Narrative Director who spoke with Tyson Yunkaporta. Tyson says you can’t have a story without it being anchored in place. This really stuck with me and got me thinking of all the great stories I love and our stories of timber.

It made me realise that the forests of Germany and Ben’s story have this. They are living memories for the people that frequent them anchored in place.

In Australia, we do things differently. There is illegal logging taking place. There are certifications and schemes that are meant to protect our forests, plantations and other sources of wood, but these are often good on paper, but not so good in practice. Under dubious forest practices, we export truckloads of our precious hardwood as woodchips for pulp destined for predominantly cardboard (thanks to international 24-hour shipping windows).

Then we do something even more remarkable, we import millions of dollars of timber, such as old-growth native Baltic pine and south-east Asian rainforest timbers, to build our houses and our furniture. It’s at best a bit topsy turvy, at worst a broken system!

Our added deep-running disconnection we have in so called Australia to identity has thrived off of the nameless and faceless trade of buying and selling ‘sticks’ of timber with no anchor to place and an attitude of 'don’t ask, don’t tell'.

But people are tuning in to being more sustainable in their day-to-day lives, you simply can’t ignore it any longer, the urgency is palpable. 

CERES Fair Wood exists to change the way we connect with our timber supply, we are here to celebrate the story of our timber and encourage responsible material selection. We support small-scale farm forestry and the people who champion a better way. We are also always on the look out to extend this network.

In our transparency we are celebrating the story of our timber and of our shared past, to celebrate and take gratitude to the land. We drive that value by stopping and saying, what’s the story here, scaffolding our future timber supply by anchoring it in place and time. Stories can’t exist without place Tyson argues.

Through doing this work, by connecting the dots, people start creating their own connection to place, to the story, to our timber. Where their timber comes from may be a place they will never visit, but bringing the story of that place to them, gives them an opportunity to connect. We begin to understand ourselves within the sense of this living ecosystem. In doing so, we start creating mutual stories of care and respect. 


We encourage you to get in touch with us to have a chat about where our timber comes from. 

Happy National Tree Day!