Woman Weber, Jenny Catherine
Written by Judy Lambert (edited from blogs prepared by Jane Elix), Australian National University
Jenny Weber was born in Wollongong in 1978 and grew up on the New South Wales south coast in a family that made her feel confident and proud of what she could do. During her teen years, she was an active member of the Wollongong Youth Centre, where youth worker Dave Curley empowered Jenny and her friends to start running environmental events. She studied sociology at the University of Wollongong, where she completed a Bachelor of Arts. At university, she became an active volunteer with The Wilderness Society, working particularly on its campaigns to protect Hinchinbrook, Jabiluka and the south-east forests of New South Wales.
Jenny has been in a long-term relationship with her partner Adam Burling, who provides 'hard core support' to her activism and to their two children. Adam and Jenny moved to Tasmania in 1998 and since then her commitment to protection of the environment, and in particular old-growth forests, has become even stronger. Living in the Huon Valley, surrounded by threats to the local forests, Jenny founded the Huon Valley Environment Centre, which has become a focal point for forest campaigning and activism. Jenny has continued as the Centre's treasurer and spokesperson, volunteering there every day, sharing the place with other young women activists and their children. A desire to send their children to a Steiner school may see Jenny having to take on some paid employment, but for the present continues in her unpaid role because of her commitment to the forests. Living in a rural area with organic food readily available makes this more possible.
Jenny says she has no training in leadership, but has learnt from other experienced activists including the Rainforest Information Centre's John Seed, Tasmanian wilderness campaigner Geoff Law, Tasmanian Senators Bob Brown and Christine Milne and Tasmanian MPs, Peg Putt and Kim Booth. She also takes every opportunity to learn from visitors to the area. Jenny speculates that if she were in a paid coordinator position, activists who seek equality may not respect her, whereas by being a volunteer and treating everyone with respect, those same people seek meetings and look to her for strategic direction. She feels that she has gained recognition by being committed and 'a bit of a stalwart'.
While at the local level men and women treat each other respectfully, Jenny observes that the current forest negotiations are very male-dominated without them even recognising that. A lack of real wins for the forests makes many activists dispirited, but with support from her family, Jenny celebrates the fact that they are 'standing up and saying no'. She draws parallels with the history of the women's movement and the black power movement in America.
- Elix, Jane, 'Jenny Weber', in Jane Elix’s Blog, 10 August 2011, http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/134287/20120604-0915/janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/jenny-weber/index.html. Details