Woman Selvey, Linda Anne

Environmentalist, Immunologist and Public health advocate

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

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1960, Linda Selvey moved to Australia with her family when she was four. Her father was a surgeon and her mother a GP who worked part-time while the children were growing up. Seeing the impacts of family on her mother's career, Linda determined at an early age that she was not going to 'get married and have children' - a decision that was reinforced in adulthood by concerns about population pressures on the environment. Linda grew up in Darwin and attended public schools throughout her education. Her leadership began with her role as president of the school council. She moved to Brisbane for her tertiary training, enrolling first in science then transferring to medicine.

In her early 20s, Linda became aware of rainforest destruction in Queensland. She joined the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), became an active volunteer and soon after did voluntary work with Dr Aila Keto who was preparing a World Heritage nomination for the Wet Tropics area of North Queensland. After facilitating a national meeting of The Wilderness Society in 1987, Linda went on to coordinate that organisation's Federal election campaign, then took on various leadership roles in a voluntary capacity.

After completing her PhD, Linda undertook post-doctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, USA, where she was also involved in social justice work with disadvantaged communities and drug users. On her return to Australia in 1994-1995, Linda completed a Masters of Applied Epidemiology, while also working fulltime in Queensland Health, where she spent time setting up the Hepatitis C Council of Queensland. Married at about this time, she took on a very big job as Director of Communicable Health in Queensland, leading a team of about 40 people. Linda describes management as being about making sure people do what they needed to and keeping budgets in order, whereas for her leadership is about 'defining the work and inspiring people'.

Linda took a year off and went to India, where she became even more motivated to act on climate change. On her return she accepted a position as chair of the Queensland Conservation Council, a voluntary position she filled from 2001 to 2009. At the same time, she was leading an organisational change process across Queensland Health and in 2005 she was promoted to head of Population Health, a position she held for 3½ years. Linda also represented Queensland on the governing council of the Australian Conservation Foundation (1995-1997 and 2004-2006).

After her husband's death in 2005, Linda trained as one of Al Gore's climate champions. This role was incompatible with her senior public service position so she sought a more junior position, but was soon recruited as CEO for Greenpeace Australia. She left that position to move to Perth in 2011 and has since been appointed Associate Professor and Deputy Head of Public Health at Curtin University.

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