action-story | 4th Dec, 2019

Meet Linda Parlane: the fearsome forest campaigner

Aside from being a fearsome forest campaigner, Linda Parlane was the director at the time the Conservation Council of Victoria was transformed into Environment Victoria, and continues to be a life member of this organisation.

Colleagues describe her as an uncompromising, tough-as-nails campaigner. “Do they?” laughs Linda Parlane, who at first glance looks more like a librarian than a formidable environmental warrior.

New Zealand-born Parlane arrived in Melbourne as a teenager. She went on to campaign for many different environmental issues, including green transport, solar energy and climate change, but is perhaps best known for her work fighting for Australian native forests.

Her affection for forests developed gradually, she says, beginning with bushwalks at Wilsons Promontory as a high-school student and then studying botany at university. “Later, I fell in love with East Gippsland. Friends and I were thinking of living there.”

In the mid-1970s, she heard about plans for woodchipping in the area. “I remember going to a public meeting, hearing more about the devastation it would cause and getting more involved,” she says. “Over the years, I got out into the forests more and more and was appalled by the destruction.”

Then the Franklin Dam dispute came to a head in the early 1980s, and she knew she had to put forests on the back burner. “I could see, strategically, that if we couldn’t win the Franklin then we weren’t going to win anything in Australia of national significance.”

Parlane learnt a great deal from the success of that campaign, and she brought the knowledge with her to the East Gippsland Coalition’s successful campaign for national parks in the mid-1980s.

During the 1990s she became a stand-out leader of Environment Victoria and gained a strong reputation for her determined approach, whether she was negotiating with politicians behind closed doors, debating logging interests on live television or dealing with Amcor’s dirty tricks.

“It’s because you’re standing up for the environment, you’re not standing up for yourself. The environment can’t stand up for itself, so we’ve got to do it.”Click To Tweet

Being a young woman speaking out for the environment in a largely male-dominated era also took courage. Where did it come from? “It’s because you’re standing up for the environment, you’re not standing up for yourself,” she says. “The environment can’t stand up for itself, so we’ve got to do it.”

Parlane is proud to have been part of the team that transformed the CCV into Environment Victoria, running effective campaigns and beginning the organisation’s journey to financial independence. “I’m also proud of our work on forests and the transition to plantations. Despite bullying from the woodchip industry and unions, we ran a powerful national campaign which gained massive public support.”

Photo: Arsineh Houspian