Marie gained her love of bushwalking from her parents. Her father was employed in the State Railways which meant they enjoyed free train travel within the state. The family made good use of this privilege to engage in bushwalking activities and her father took her on her first overnight walk in the Blue Mountains in 1918.
Marie gathered a like-minded group of fellow female students at Sydney University where she was studying law. They set off on many expeditions exploring national parks around Sydney. She joined the Sydney Bushwalking Club, which formed in 1927, engaging in numerous walks and overnight trips into wild bush places. She wrote numerous newspaper articles to promote the health benefits and the beauty of bushwalking.
Marie loved mountain climbing and undertook expeditions to Europe, Canada and New Zealand.
Marie could see the Bouddi area of the Central Coast from her home in Palm Beach. She determined to campaign for preservation of the natural environment. She had graduated with a law degree in 1924, battling the prejudice of the male dominated professional to become the first female solicitor in NSW. She used her legal expertise to serve as honorary solicitor for women’s groups seeking equal opportunity. It is said she was Australia’s first environmental lawyer.
Now Marie was also able to assist the newly formed Federation of Bushwalking Clubs of NSW (Bushwalking NSW) with their campaign to save Bouddi. She wrote the submission to the Lands Department which resulted in the declaration of Bouddi National Park in 1936. Marie became one of its trustees, organising working bees to clear tracks. Mare Byles Lookout is named in her honour.
For more information on Marie Byles see:
Her obituary in the Autumn 2016 edition of The Bushwalker
The Summit of her Ambition; the spirited life of Marie Byles, by Anne McLeod, paperback, publisher Anne McLeod, 2016 (available on Amazon)