Woman Eldridge, Ilana Frances

Environmentalist and Journalist

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

Born in Perth in 1965, Ilana Eldridge stayed with her mother after parents separated when she was very young, and she had no further contact with her birth father until she was 18. When she was four her mother remarried, and they went to live on her step-father's farm in the Western Australia wheat/sheep belt. Ilana caught the school bus to Kalannie (75 miles away), where there were 60 children, until the farm was sold in her final year of primary school and the family moved to Perth's Hills District. Ilana attended a public high school until year 10, when she moved to boarding school. Her mother and grandmother (an early fine arts graduate from the University of Western Australia) were strong influences on her life.

Early work experiences after graduation led Ilana to a career in the media, first in rural New South Wales then in Darwin. Her interest in the campaign against the Coronation Hill mine in Kakadu National Park saw Ilana develop strong links with both the environment movement and Aboriginal people. As a founding member and convenor of The Greens in the Northern Territory, she stood for election several times before returning to her professional roots in the media.

As a member of Australians for a Free East Timor, Ilana spent a decade (1988-1998) campaigning for the liberation of East Timor. After Independence, she went to East Timor where she helped start the Asia Pacific Support Collective which worked to support grass-roots civil society and in opposition to violence against women. During this time, Ilana married a US State Department employee, Carey and moved to Zanzibar in Tanzanian East Africa. With her husband heavily involved in Kenyan politics, Ilana lived largely as a single parent, but worked to help local women start a development organisation. The marriage broke down in 2005, and Ilana and her young son moved back to Australia, where she again stood as a Greens candidate at state and federal elections before beginning work with the Larrakia Nation - an organisation of which she has become the CEO. Ilana has faced a lot of challenges in overseeing a massive expansion of that organisation.

She sees her ability to think ahead and conceptualise the essence of a problem and to find practical solutions as an important part of her leadership and has a horror of starting things that don't survive. Tamworth's Ron Hartree and Greens MPs Bob Brown and Christine Milne and their policy adviser Margaret Blakers have all provided important leadership role models. The importance of assistance, acknowledgement and mentoring to support women in leadership positions is something Ilana sees as needing to grow.

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