Woman Rice, Janet Elizabeth

Councillor, Environmentalist, Facilitator, Mayor and Scientist

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

Born in Altona in 1960, Janet Rice has lived most of her life in Melbourne's western suburbs. The middle one of five children, Janet attended the local primary school then won a scholarship to an Anglican girls' high school. Her school leadership roles included prefect, house captain and sports captain.

During her university days, Janet was involved in the Franklin River campaign, where she had her first experience of consensus decision-making and its use in a big group of blockaders, initiating Janet's life-long commitment to collaborative leadership. Janet met her partner Penny at university and their relationship has since withstood a range of challenges, including media attention when Janet was involved in local politics.

Although grateful for her science training (a BSc Hons in meteorology), Janet did not work in that field. Her early work was with the Victorian Conservation Council (now Environment Victoria), then as campaign coordinator for the East Gippsland Coalition's forest campaign. In the six months leading up to the birth of her first child in 1991, Janet worked as a consultant for Context consulting, a position she returned to in 1997, when her focus was on running community engagement processes for local government. She describes this as 'working with people, rather than policy or strategy'.

While on maternity leave in 1992, Janet was a key driver in the establishment of the Victorian Greens. Working closely with Margaret Blakers, Peter Christoff and others, she focused on bringing in local activists and community groups. In 1992, Janet began work with Bicycle Victoria. She was the founder and instigator of the Ride to Work program and at the same time set up workplace support groups for cyclists. Elected to the City of Maribyrnong in 2003, Janet served as Mayor in 2005-2006. During her time as a councillor, Janet was Chair of the Metropolitan Transport Forum (2004 - 2008) and Vice-President of the Victorian Local Government Association. In recent years, Janet has continued her work for The Greens, standing as a candidate at both state and federal elections and managing election campaigns for Greens MLCs. She is The Greens lead Senate candidate for the election due in 2013.

Janet describes herself as a 'facilitatory leader'. She has been a mentor, both formally and informally, to a number of young women, but finds it difficult to recruit them as Greens candidates, due to the time commitment required and a reluctance to make themselves a target for criticism. Asked about differences between women and men as leaders in The Greens in Victoria, Janet highlights an ongoing tension between those who are committed to working collaboratively and others (more likely to be men) who focus on the task and its achievement.

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