Page 463 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .

absolutely changed the way we understand the forests in Australia. That does not mean that it got the recognition it deserved; in fact, I think you would find it very hard to find a copy now. It was produced in 1973. It was called The Fight for the Forests. It was very well researched—a response to what was then the destruction of native forests in the south-east of Australia for pine plantations.

We now know that many of those pine plantations have not been harvested. There are all kinds of problems that I will not go into now, but the move was based on false projections by ABARE, which said that there would be a worldwide shortage of softwoods in a couple of decades. At the time Val was doing that, I was embarking on the fight against the destruction of East Gippsland and south-eastern New South Wales forests for woodchips—again, a very low value and misplaced policy direction, I believe.

The later work of Val cemented our collaboration. For instance, there was her work on the Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo—I am sure Hansard will want a copy of that—which is the organisation where our taxpayer employed foresters mingle with their industry counterparts and set up jobs for themselves once they leave the department. Her analysis of institutional connections was very profound; it has not been followed up by anyone else, perhaps with the exception of Ian Penna.

When I was working for the ACF editing the report The ecological future of Australia’s forests, I asked Val—she was the best placed person—to contribute a chapter on the intrinsic value of forests, the idea that forests have a right to exist for their own sake and not just for our own amenity. Later, she wrote a seminal text, Feminism and the mastery of nature.

Val was a well-known local identity but her academic work placed her on the international stage. She always said that she was better known in the United States than she was in Australia. She had just secured for herself an ARC grant, and she was embarking on the academic career that she always wanted to have in Canberra. Val worked with environmentalists in Canberra and the Braidwood region to save Monga forest from woodchipping. Like many women, she struggled to take her rightful place in academia.

Val is most well known for fighting off a crocodile and surviving. She may have met her death from the bite of one of the many snakes that found sanctuary at Plumwood, but I take comfort in reading something that I found on the internet from an interview she had with the Age when she talked about that encounter with the crocodile. She said:

It was really a life-changing event for me. Those final experiences have an incredible intensity—that’s why they have such a life-changing power …

During the attack, it seemed as if I’d entered a parallel universe where I didn’t count for anything, I was just a piece of meat. So I’ve had to develop a different idea of eating and being food, where we must honour our food and the more-than-food that all of us are, including other life forms.

It also changed my view of death. I used to be a conventional atheist, thinking that you live your life and the story ends completely with death, that there’s

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . . PDF . . . .