Woman Sandwell, Grecian Edith


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

Grecian Sandwell was born in Perth in 1947. Her mother operated her own business at a time when there were few other working mothers. Her father (a keen gardener) was a labourer and a laboratory assistant working for the navy. Grecian started work in the 1960s, a time when she describes factory conditions as 'appalling'. She soon found herself standing up for women who were treated badly by their supervisors. Her working life was mostly in the technical and scientific area, where she filled several analytical roles as a laboratory technician. Her work gave her independence and a great deal of satisfaction.

The foreshores of Perth's Canning River have been part of Grecian's life since childhood. While at school, she spent a lot of time down at the river, collecting specimens and getting to know the area. Twenty-one years ago, Grecian looked at the foreshore and did not like what she saw - invasive weeds were seriously degrading the area. For the next five years, Grecian went to the foreshore after work and removed weeds. During most of that time she was ignored by others, until finally another couple living further nearby decided to form an environment group focused on the river. Grecian attended their first meeting, but came away confused by the local politicking that dominated. About a year later, realising that you can be more effective as part of a group, Grecian joined the Canning River Residents Environment Protection Association (CRREPA).

Before too long, Grecian and her partner Colma Keating recognised the value of encouraging local people to take responsibility for their own local stretch of the river's foreshore. Grecian's ability to build a positive relationship with the local Council, and to help people reach their potential in caring for the foreshore by teaching them about the plants, weeds, birds and other natural values of the area, soon saw her become the Groups Coordinator for CRREPA. Since that time, a huge amount of planting, working with Council to stabilise river banks, and weeding have taken place. Since her retirement, Grecian spends many more hours each week working on the foreshore, liaising with Council and teaching others about the river and its environment.

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