Woman Tillack, Gemma


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

Gemma Tillack was born in Melbourne in 1981 and moved to Townsville with her family when she was five. The youngest of five children, Gemma lived in Townsville until she was 21 and it was there that she completed her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies. After six months working in Kuranda, Gemma started travelling around Australia becoming involved in environmental campaigning. Unlike many who become involved as campaign volunteers, her entry came as a street fundraiser, a job in which she became skilled. In 2004 Gemma set up fundraising teams in Cairns and Townsville and from there progressed to building campaign teams. Her skills saw her invited to establish an election campaign centre for The Wilderness Society, after which she took on the role of building and coordinating community opposition to the proposed Gunns' pulp mill in the Tamar Valley in Tasmania.

Gemma sees herself as being a good organiser, who can multi-task and develop good relations with people. Describing herself as a 'shaper' of campaigns rather than a director or manager, she sees herself as having a continuing role as 'an active campaigner or someone who is working on creating change across the planet'.

Her experiences when supporting Peg Putt as a negotiator at a UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 reinforced for Gemma the importance of women, with their different way of doing things, in pushing forward in such situations. Male domination of leadership in the environment movement is, in Gemma's opinion, a legacy of the past, with a transition to the next generation not yet occurring. However, she is optimistic that through social media 'there is a new, more dynamic space that women can work effectively in'.

Gemma attributes the relative lack of women in leadership roles in part to a reluctance of many women to take a 'harsh' line in making tough decisions - an approach that is not comfortable for many women. Mentoring and her observation of several role models has played an important part in her development, with Greens leader Christine Milne described as the person she 'most respects in the Australian political system'.

Published Resources

Online Resources

See also