Woman Vallentine, Josephine

Environmentalist, Parliamentarian, Peace activist and Teacher
Alternative Names
  • Vallentine, Jo

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

Jo Vallentine was born in Perth in 1946 and raised in a family of five girls living on a farm about 140 kilometres away. She grew up in a traditional rural family, with her parents actively involved in the local community and her maternal grandfather serving as a conservative independent politician for 33 years. Jo was a prefect at Loreto Convent and a leader at Teachers College. She sees her Catholic education as a contributor to her self-identity - an identity that was later underpinned by her Quakerism. It was from the latter that she became committed to non-violence, peace and the anti-nuclear movement.

Jo's early involvement in the peace and non-nuclear movements was a response to her deep-felt anger at Premier Charles Court's announcement that Western Australia would be the first state in Australia to have a nuclear power station. In 1995, after a campaign largely run by young mothers and their children, Jo was elected as a Nuclear Disarmament Party Senator but sat in the Senate as an independent (1985-1990) then later as a Western Australia's Greens representative (1990-1992). Much of Jo's work as a Senator and that of her staff was focused on using their time as effectively as possible for community groups. Jo and her team put tremendous effort into working collaboratively and putting non-violent strategies into the workplace and she feels they were largely effective.

During her time in Canberra, Jo's husband Peter resigned his job and became the house-parent to their two young daughters. While at home in Perth, Jo describes her role at that time as '110% mother'. When her elder daughter reached her teens, and at a time when Jo's health was suffering from the pressure of her work and the commuting, she resigned her Senate position and left the parliament in 1992. Jo then resumed her activism, helping to found an Alternatives to Violence Project sharing non-violence skills with people in prisons, participating in the 1997 Peace Pilgrimage as part of the anti-nuclear alliance, the campaign against uranium mining at Jabiluka, and continuing opposition to the Iraq war and the expansion of nuclear power and weaponry. Mentoring young activists is also an important part of Jo's life. Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy has been Jo's 'guru' since 1985 and she is guided by general systems theory and deep ecology.

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