Woman Ajani, Judith

Environmental researcher and Resource economist

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

Judith Ajani was born near Maffra, Victoria in 1955 and grew up on a dairy farm. She moved to Melbourne to complete degrees in physical education, arts (economics) and teaching, then joined the Commonwealth public service in Canberra in the late 1970s. A Dutch immigrant, Amiee Horne, who was a House Manager at Trinity College had a significant influence on Judith's perspectives on life, widening her horizons 'from those of a country Victorian girl to a broader world awareness' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/8/26/judith_ajani/).

Following her marriage to a fellow economist, Judith worked with the Victorian government on policy aspects of the wine and forest industries, the latter becoming her specialty. She took maternity leave to care for her son, extending that to leave without pay. The family bought a farm in south-east New South Wales and while living on the farm and working part-time as a consultant, Judith became increasingly involved in forest policy issues. In the early 1990s she authored her first significant report on plantation forestry and then in 1995, the national report 'Australia's Plantations: Industry, Employment, Environment'.

The offer from Professor Henry Nix, of a Visiting Fellow position at the Australian National University's (ANU's) Fenner School enabled Judith to pursue her interests in the forest industry in Australia, and led to work that has proven over the years to be very accurate and prescient. In 1998 Judith received a scholarship to do a PhD in environmental science and resource management and in 2002 that led on to a four year post-doctoral fellowship and her insightful book 'The Forest Wars'. During that time, Judith's marriage broke down and she moved closer to the coast so her two sons (the second born in 1990) could finish high school and have easier access to both parents. She then moved to Canberra and has continued her work at Australia's National University (ANU) ever since.

Describing her role not as a leader, but as 'an information, understanding and policy broker to the environment movement, to the industry and to all political parties' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/8/26/judith_ajani/), Judith sees herself as a 'public servant', using her knowledge of the forest industry to inform 'decent policy' and fiercely defends her independence. Judith describes women in leadership as having 'a greater rapport, a greater intuitive understanding of where others are coming from'. She also commends the 'increasing numbers of men who are in that position too' (http://janeelix.wordpress.com/2011/8/26/judith_ajani/). An admirer of Christine Milne's leadership, she laments the lack of female leaders in the environment movement and in the wider world. However, she is inspired by 'the enormous number of ordinary people in Australia who are deeply seeking greater understanding of issues'.

Published Resources

Online Resources

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