Woman Redwood, Jill


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

Jill Redwood was born in Melbourne in 1954, the younger of two children in a family that was neither political nor involved in community activism of any kind. She attended co-educational public schools, where she developed an early interest in animal welfare. In high school she participated in anti-Vietnam marches and after graduating she became an active member of Friends of the Earth.

Jill's first work was in laboratories at CSIRO animal health then at ICI, where she worked on agricultural pesticides. In her early twenties Jill decided to shun society and honed the skills needed to largely live independently from 'the big city machine'. While living at Buldah in East Gippsland during the early 1980s, Jill became aware of the impacts of logging activities around her. After her home was burned out in bushfires in 1983, Jill worked on construction crews in the Snowy Mountains National Park, where she became a leading hand despite gender-based resistance from her bosses. This work enabled Jill to save the money to purchase her 22 acre property in Goongerah, where she built a house and has lived for the past 30 years.

In Goongerah, Jill became involved in the group Concerned Residents of East Gippsland - the beginnings of her environmental activism. Faced with challenges from the local media, personal attacks and efforts to discredit her leadership, the group made limited progress in achieving its desired outcomes through working with science, emotion, the media or economics. In 2010, renamed Environment East Gippsland, the group took legal action to stop government-owned VicForests from logging the old growth forests of Brown Mountain Creek. The successful case was a landmark decision for public interest litigation.

While Jill sees herself as more battle-scared and cynical than in her early days, she relies on her like-minded friends to be her wider 'family' and support base. She is now mainly self-employed, living a humble life, working as a freelance writer and cartoonist, and receiving a small honorarium from Environment East Gippsland. She has also built a tourist eco-cottage on her property, which brings in some income.

Asked about differences between men and women as leaders in the environment movement, Jill says a lot of men have big egos, but that it is often the women who are the driving force, doing work behind the scenes and persevering. She laments that women are only taken as seriously as men if they have a persona which is confident and authoritative and opines that men get away with a lot more because they present as 'the absolute authority'. While Jill looks forward to retirement, her natural and strong sense of outrage against injustices, of which there are many, will likely see her always involved in something.

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Digital Resources

Jill Redwood at Goongerah
Audio Visual
28 October 2011