Woman Schultz, Beth



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

Beth Schultz was born on the family's kitchen table in Roma, Queensland, in 1936 because her mother chose to deliver her babies at home. Descending from a line of strong women, Beth's mother had a high degree of honesty and morals, strong beliefs and strong commitments. Beth's leadership qualities emerged early in her life. She was head prefect at her boarding school and earned respect because she kept the rules and never asked students to do something she wouldn't do herself. At university she studied Romance languages and majored in Old French. She has five degrees, including a law degree attained in the early 1980s because she thought the environment movement needed a lawyer.

Beth has never thought of herself as a leader. She suggests you get those roles simply through having the time and energy to commit. She sees her strengths as networking, involving people, communicating between groups and individuals and identifies her weakness as an inability to delegate. Beth also finds difficulty negotiating outcomes, describing herself as 'unyielding on issues' and preferring to leave others to compromise.

Beth's involvement in the environment movement came through defence of Western Australia's Karri forests against woodchipping. In 1975, she became the first secretary of the activist Campaign to Save Native Forests and soon afterwards, the Co-convenor of the more science-based South-West Forests Defence Foundation. Beth was also very active in establishing the Environmental Defenders Office in Western Australia. Over the many years that she has been active in the Conservation Council of Western Australia Beth has filled many roles, including a three year term as president. She has also represented the Conservation Council on the Western Australian Forest Alliance, an umbrella body bringing together 20 community-based environment groups concerned with forest conservation in the South-West.

Beth has never had a paid position within the environment movement, but she has spent much of her time over the past 36 years working in a voluntary capacity on environmental issues. Her husband of nearly 50 years, Phill, who has provided the income for a frugal family life, has always been supportive of Beth's environmental work. She says her three children 'just had to put up with it', but all are now environmental and social activists. In 2007 Beth became an Officer of the Order of Australia for services to conservation and the environment, particularly through the protection of the South West old growth forests.

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