Woman Blakers, Margaret

Occupation
Environmentalist and Political adviser

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

Margaret Blakers was born in Melbourne in 1951, the older sister to three brothers. She moved to Canberra with her family late in her primary school years, but describes her experience of high school as 'dysfunctional and boring'. After reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring she determined to work on environmental issues. Studying at Australia's National University (1969-1972), she completed all the ecology units available but didn't identify at that time as a 'real' activist.

A scarcity of environmental jobs led Margaret to join the Pesticides section of the Department of Primary Industries. In 1973 a 'reprieve' saw her seconded to the Secretariat of the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate, working alongside Commissioners Judith Wright, Len Webb, David Yencken and others. After a year working in Germany and another touring Australia, Margaret worked in the Wheat Branch at the Department of Primary Industries. She also became involved in forestry issues and in establishing an Ecological Studies Association. For seven years from 1976, Margaret organised the Atlas of Australian Birds, a Melbourne-based job in which she developed her networking skills.

From 1984 Margaret spent 12 years working on environmental campaigns, including coordination of the environment movement's response to the Victorian Timber Industry Inquiry. In 1992, recognising the need for a political party to complement groups defending the environment, she collaborated with Janet Rice to set up the Victorian Greens. Under Margaret's organisational guidance, the Victorian Greens advanced environmental policy development, contributing to the nascent Australian Greens. Over the next 10 years, Margaret worked as adviser to Senator Bob Brown, taking leave in 2000-2001 to organise the first Global Greens Congress, on which she worked closely with Christine Milne and Louise Crossley. In 2008, while caring for an ailing parent, Margaret established the Green Institute, an Australian Greens policy think tank of which she continues as Director.

Whilst not identifying a role model, Margaret admires former Australian Greens leaders Bob Brown and Christine Milne, and Queensland Aboriginal activist Cheryl Buchanan. She describes her leadership roles as 'one of those things that has to be done' and is impatient when 'other people can't see how obvious it is that this needs to be done, and therefore let's do it'. With neither children nor a partner, Margaret sees herself as 'extraordinarily lucky' to be able to 'make decisions, choose to forego income or whatever'. She observes that within the environment movement 'women are prepared to put up with a lot more...Men are more prepared to demand their rights - pay and conditions for example- than women, particularly women of my generation'. 'Men are prepared to put themselves in the front row of representing the group or being recognised. And that's society's expectation too. I think it's very deeply embedded - still'. (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/margaret_blakers/).

Published Resources

Magazines

  • The Global Greens, The Australian Greens & The Green Institute, 2001. Details

Online Resources

See also