Woman Russell, Vicki-Jo



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

Born in Adelaide in 1970, Vicki-Jo Russell's schooling included a couple of years of home schooling as her family travelled the world. Her interest in the environment began early. She set up the first Environment Club at her high school - a club that is still going strong 15 years later. Vicki-Jo has a degree with majors in psychology and biology, but unsure whether her planned career in neurophysiology was the right one for her, she completed a second degree in natural resource management.

After a year as the front-line Information Officer for the Conservation Council of South Australia, Vicki-Jo became that state's Threatened Species Network Coordinator, a position that she held (with a change of title) from 1995 to 2009. Because the position was only part-time Vicki-Jo also held a number of other jobs in the conservation movement. Her leadership in this work is recognised in her appointment in 2003, as a Member of the Order of Australia.

In 2003 and 2007, Vicki-Jo took unpaid maternity leave after the birth of her two children, one of whom has learning difficulties that require a range of intensive therapies for which Vicki-Jo and her husband Dave share the day-to-day responsibility. An end to Australian Government funding the Threatened Species Network in 2009 saw Vicki-Jo choose to stay in Adelaide both because of her family and because of her commitment to South Australia and its environment. She was soon recruited to the Adelaide Zoo as a Policy Coordinator, a position in which she advises the CEO on matters of national and international conservation policy and conservation partnership development. Vicki-Jo is also responsible for Special Projects, including drafting and consulting on a Strategic Plan for the Zoo, which is the only non-government owned and operated zoo in an Australian capital city.

Asked about her own leadership, Vicki-Jo found it quite hard to list her skills (reflecting a level of modesty found among many women 'leaders'). Her ability to think in an integrated, conceptual way and her sense of humour came to the fore. Although she identifies several people who have given her time and encouragement, Vicki-Jo says she has generally sought out her own leadership training - an area in which she feels the environment movement invests too little. Being part of a Queens Trust Young Leaders forum (1998), the Australian Future Directions forum for leaders under the age of 40 (2006) and a successful application for a Queens Trust for Young Australia scholarship were important milestones in her leadership development. Asked why women don't take on leadership in the environment movement, Vicki-Jo describes many female leaders as being 'relationship brokers', adopting 'a more gracious approach than their male counterparts'. She also highlights the demands on both the individual's personal life and physical health, of being a leader, and the extent to which women in leadership roles are put in intimidating positions. Vicki-Jo sees it as important to 'help women to see themselves as leaders, to explore, to continue to develop, and to have the mental and emotional space to develop it'.

Published Resources

Edited Books

  • Who's Who in Australia, Crown Content, Melbourne, Victoria, 1927 - 2013. Details

Online Resources

See also