Woman Townend, Christine

Animal rights campaigner and Environmentalist

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

Christine Townend was born in Melbourne in 1944 and moved to Sydney with her family when she was eight. She left university after two years of teacher training, having only enjoyed the English subjects, but later completed a BA Hons in Politics and Philosophy. Married at 21, Christine spent her early adult life being a home-maker and mother to her two sons. It was at this time that she started writing novels. Two special purpose literary travel grants received in her 30s saw Christine go to India, where she was greatly influenced by a spiritual leader - a 'wise and beautiful woman' - who persuaded her of the importance of giving service to the world.

After her return to Australia, Christine's involvement in the Colong Foundation for Wilderness saw Milo Dunphy offer her a space in which to establish Animal Liberation as an organisation that addressed the rights of animals. Her 'passion and outrage' at the plight of animals raised in 'factory farms' saw Christine commit fulltime to that cause. Christine was the leader of Animal Liberation from its foundation in 1976 until 1990.

In 1990 Christine was at a World Society for the Protection of Animals conference in France, when she met a woman who persuaded her to visit a 'Help the Suffering' animal shelter in Jaipur, India. Christine was quickly offered the position of Managing Trustee, responsible for the shelter's day-to-day operations. Christine and her husband Jeremy sold their family home and went to India where they lived on a small monthly income. The shelter attracted funding from international donors and new programs and new shelters were established during the 17 years that Christine and Jeremy spent in India. Staff numbers grew from five to 40 and the organisation's ambit spread from dogs to a diversity of animals, including elephants. This was intense and demanding work, with Christine taking overall responsibility for the many aspects of operations.

Although this involved a very different type of leadership compared with her Australian experience, the consensus ways of working Christine had learned at Animal Liberation helped her build a sense of 'family' and relationship among staff in India. On the advice of another spiritual leader, Christine resigned from her position in India in 2007 as she felt herself starting to burn out, overwhelmed by the human and animal suffering. Back in Australia, Christine and Jeremy are still involved in support for shelters in Darjeeling and Kalimpong and they visit India once a year. Christine is also taking time out to write and to paint, and is involved in a think-tank on kangaroos.

Published Resources


  • Little, John, Christine's Ark, Pan Macmillan, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006. Details

Online Resources