I am a 70 year old activist, feminist and conservationist. My activism has led to much personal development and brought me in touch with people from many backgrounds. It has enriched my life, diversified my understanding of the world and the importance of protecting the planet’s resources. I have brought up two children who are active in their pursuit of a better life on a living planet for all people. This makes me happy.
I have had a good life and a life of my own choosing. It is one of the privileges of having been born in the later part of the 20th century in a relatively wealthy country. Having been given so much I think it’s important to give back.
I grew up in a large catholic family and eventually found I couldn’t resolve the conflict in values between an anachronistic, outdated, hierarchical misogynist church and the ideals being expressed by liberal progressive society in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It took a few years but by 21 I had became a feminist, peace activist, collectivist and joined the ‘back to the land’ movement of the 1980’s. This provoked a search for self sufficiency which was a response to rampant capitalism. During that time I had also completed teaching qualifications and developed as a teacher.
The search for self sufficiency and the ideal of collective living brought me to Jackeys Marsh in my early 30’s. With others I helped establish a commune on 200 acres of land. Although not an active conservationist at this point I had a strong reaction to plans to strip the native vegetation, thousands of hectares of diverse forest, from the face of the valley I had chosen as my home. My energy turned outwards and led to my participation in the development of the Tasmanian Forest Campaign, a campaign to protect all of Tasmania’s high conservation forests. Although the forests of Jackeys Marsh and the Great Western Tiers have now been protected by UNESCO World Heritage listing after a 35 year campaign, many of Tasmania’s unique forests are still under threat.
As an activist, participation in the feminist movement of the 60’s and 70’s was formative. I experienced the power of collective decision making during the campaign to save the Franklin River and the Women’s demonstration at Pine Gap, both in 1983. With great facilitation large groups can actually achieve consensus on difficult activities and actions. I saw and participated in this collective power. Personally I was arrested several times in pursuit of environmental protection for significant natural areas in Tasmania as well as spending time in prison. I’m glad I live in a democracy where the rule of law is valued. I’m not sure I would be so brave otherwise.
My personal input into the protection of Tasmania’s natural environment has had an impact. Independent action is important but collective action brings results. Working with others is rewarding. Working for a higher cause than personal advancement is one of the principles I learnt early in life as a catholic, that carried through to being active in areas that touched me personally. Seeing results is very rewarding. It does come at some personal cost. However now I have a lovely house that I am able to share each year with 100’s of others, in a beautiful place surrounded by magnificent forest where the climate is reasonably resilient. Most recently I have been instrumental in positioning the Great Western Tiers as a premier walking destination in Tasmania and a tourism asset. I feel optimistic for the future.
The idea behind Forest Walks Lodge is the desire to educate and turn people on to nature conservation. As a conservationist I often made the argument that you could achieve economic prosperity without cutting down large swathes of forest. So Forest Walks Lodge demonstrates that you can make a business out of taking people into the protected forests and teaching them why forests are important for the future of the world. They provide many services important for life, biodiversity, water protection and carbon storage to name a few. The lodge also demonstrates the feasibility and importance of using local resources when running a business. Purchasing local foods, employing local people and creating an aesthetic environment by supporting local artists. The building itself demonstrates the feasibility of self sufficiency. It is a solar passive house complete with its own, energy, water and food garden, a long held dream.
The conservation achievements I have seen come to fruition over nearly 40 years in Tasmania couldn’t have been achieved without a tight local group of committed activists. My advice to those who seek to achieve environmental and social change is to form with others a cohesive group and work outwards from there. This will make you more resilient. Whatever your cause it could take a long time to achieve results. Don’t give up but take a break and let others take over when it all gets too much.
Small groups working together can be a powerful force for change at both local and national level, a type of campaigning which is coming back into fashion as we gear up for the 2019 Australian Federal Election. Interest groups and splinter groups all have their usefulness. Work out how to work with them not against them.
Photography by Ninna Millikin.
This project was assisted by Bellendena Small Grants