Woman Watson, Giz

Builder, Environmentalist and Parliamentarian

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

Giz Watson was born in Hampshire, England in 1957 and grew up in a family in which questioning of authority was encouraged. Her mother joined the Quakers while Giz was growing up and Quaker values have shaped her attitudes to leadership and consensus-building. Even at school Giz spoke on behalf of others who needed help, and as a teenager she was asked to negotiate for a group of students who had undertaken a revolt against the school administration. Educated in England and Australia, Giz obtained an Environmental Science degree from Murdoch University. She is also a registered builder, a trade in which she worked for several years.

Giz was one of a small group who ran 'Train the Trainer' non-violent direct action groups for people opposing the proposed 1978 expansion of bauxite mining in the Jarrah forests of south-west Western Australia - one of the first direct action environmental campaigns in Australia. Soon after the Jarrah forest campaign, she moved overseas and while working in the UK became involved in anti-nuclear peace camps at Greenham Common and in women's politics. Back in Australia in 1985, Giz continued working as a builder and was active in environment and peace groups. In the early 1990s, she became Coordinator of the Marine and Coastal Community Network in Western Australia, a position she filled very successfully for the next five years. She sees this networking experience as 'an extraordinary fortuitous preparation' for her political career.

Giz ran several times as a candidate for the WA Legislative Council and in 1997 was elected as the metropolitan north representative - a position she has since held through several elections. She sees The Greens shared approach to leadership as potentially very resilient but also dependent on much more rigorous attention being paid to relationships within the organisation. Although Giz has a strong commitment to consensus and shared decision-making, she acknowledges that because of their body language and the way people act in groups, some people assume unspoken leadership roles, to which others defer. Self-confidence, a certain 'presence' and a willingness to question rules are qualities that she identifies as part of that recognition as a 'leader'. Giz expresses admiration for Martin Luther King, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Emma Goldman as people who have a spiritual underpinning to their direct action.

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