Woman Putt, Margaret Ann

Environmentalist and Parliamentarian
Alternative Names
  • Putt, Peg

Written by Judy Lambert (edited from blogs prepared by Jane Elix), Australian National University

Peg Putt was born in Sydney on 5 June 1953. Her parents were both 'conservationists of the old school' and as a child, family friends included influential conservationists such as Marie Byles and Dorothy Butler. She attended a selective primary school for grades 5 and 6 and then went to Hornsby Girls High School, leaving at 16 to take up a scholarship at the Australian International Independent School, a radical school, where the students were allowed to take part in running the school, and the curriculum focused heavily on international issues. She applied successfully for a position at Sussex University in the UK and graduated with a BA Hons in International Relations.

In 1975 Peg got a job with Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) developing pollution control programs, at a time when the New South Wales Environment Protection Agency had just been set up. However, she dates her involvement in environmentalism from the late 1970s when, camping in a commune in Nimbin, she became involved in a logging protest. Her next activist activities took place after the birth of her first child when, returning to Sydney, she took part in the protest against a sandmining proposal at Middle Head. She remembers the protest as being fairly male dominated. Women tended to be treated dismissively in decision making, especially women with small children. However, her introduction to Aboriginal issues through this protest, led to her travelling to work in north east Arnhem Land where her second child was born.

Moving to Tasmania in 1987, Peg joined a campaign in opposition to a proposed woodchip mill, as a spokesperson for the Huon Protection Group. In 1990 she became the first Coordinator of the Threatened Species Network in Tasmania and in 1991 the Director of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust in the 1991-1992. Asked by Bob Brown in 1992, to be a support candidate for the Green Independents she became the Member for Denison in the Tasmanian parliament after Brown's 1993 resignation. When, following the election of three more members, the Greens gained party status in 2002, Peg became party leader, a position she held until her retirement in 2008. Since then she has focused on international work - mainly with The Wilderness Society - on UN forest and climate change negotiations.

Peg has had no training in leadership but focused on working 'collaboratively, bringing everyone with you, and getting the resources to do the work' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/peg-putt/), putting in place systems for doing work as efficiently as possible. She did experience discrimination but developed her own strategies to 'take control and behave in a way that asks people to respond to you appropriately' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/peg-putt/). She learned a lot about leadership from Christine Milne, who she believes has a strong and clear perception about what a leader should do - including an ability to see the big picture, beyond the political party to the needs of the whole community.

Published Resources

Online Resources