Woman Milne, Christine Anne

Environmentalist, Parliamentarian and School teacher

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

Christine Milne was born in northern Tasmania in 1953. She and her sister grew up on the family dairy farm near Wesley Vale. Her mother returned to teaching when Christine was five and she attended boarding school from age 10. The nuns instilled in Christine a strong work ethic, a belief that one should have courage in one's convictions, a strong sense of social justice and a stoic capacity for self-contained resilience. After gaining a scholarship to University, Christine signed on for a 4-year teaching studentship and taught at local high schools between 1976 - 1984, with time out for travel. Married at 22, she has two now adult sons.

Overseas travel was a social and environmental awakening but Milne's first real involvement with the environment movement came with the national Franklin River campaign. Time spent in Risdon prison as a result of her participation in the 1983 blockade of the river reinforced her belief in doing what is right. The North Broken Hill proposal to build a large-scale chlorine based pulp mill in a prime agricultural area at Wesley Vale propelled her into environmental leadership. As spokesperson for Concerned Residents Opposing Pulpmill Siting, she led a campaign backed by Tasmania's Green Independent MPs Bob Brown and Gerry Bates, environmental groups, scientists and others. Christine drew on her teaching experience to run a 24-hour a day, seven day a week campaign. She ran as an Independent candidate for the seat of Lyons in the 1989 Tasmanian election which focused on the pulp mill. Christine found the early 1990s 'hostile and difficult'. Parents and friends cared for her children while she was campaigning and on her election to parliament, her husband took leave to work part-time so that he could care for the children.

Christine draws inspiration from Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and South African apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. She describes Bob Brown, whom she has succeeded as Greens leader both in Tasmania and more recently nationally, as a friend and inspiring colleague. Martin Luther King's writings and 19th century naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau remain core references.

The huge level of responsibility and the absorption of your life are the drawbacks of leadership. Christine sees differences in leadership style not as gender-based, but as stemming from ways of working, using good communication skills, an ability to engage, inspire, network and work with people. Many women, she observes, are not prepared to stand up as leader - not prepared to face the levels of exposure involved and the media intrusion. Real leadership in the current environment movement, she believes, is to be found among the young women who run community-based campaigns. Perhaps this fits well with their sense of local identity and their homemaking stage of life, hopefully progressing to the national stage later. The mainstream environment movement supposedly works in a consensus mode, but Christine muses that unless rules are established at the start, then few voices will dominate and those will likely be male.

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