New chapters in life generally have phases. Letting go of the old life. A transition tug between old and new. Then moving onto the new.
Sometimes it does not happen like that.
Such was the day when they began logging the valley opposite to where we lived. I was thrust into this next era of my life which spanned ten years, eight of which involved intense pressure. Family life was put aside as we moved into a world of politics, fighting for justice, defending free speech and questioning our own sanity.
The campaign to save our valley began with us organizing meetings and rallies. Although the fight for our valley was eventually lost, as a part of that campaign we fully researched legislation governing forest preservation, and we moved to a wider state and later national campaign to preserve some beautiful tracts of rainforest and old- growth forest in Tasmania. The Tarkine is Australia’s largest temperate rainforest and is a wonderland wildness of rivers, mountains, and majestic forests. In 2001 our family became active in a campaign for its protection.We became involved in the core campaign taken to the highest political level, right to the Prime Minister’s advice team. We did see a small win with 77,000 hectares of wilderness rainforest preserved in late 2004.
Our life changed again as one of the largest forestry companies in Australia sued my husband (and nineteen others) in late 2004 for things they had said and meetings we had held during the four year campaign. We had begun by defending the forests. We now turned our attention to defending freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly. A fire burned within me and I moved away from my shy introverted self into standing up for my husband and indeed for our basic human rights. At one point I bought a small parcel of shares in that forestry company so that I had the right to attend their annual general meeting. I stood up before the board with a large photo of my family and asked them why they were suing my family. I spoke with pride about our contributions to society and our place as law-abiding respected citizens of the community.
Later I continued with my share-holder activism and joined the campaign targeting the banks, questioning their funding of unsustainable environmental practices.
My husband was dropped from the legal writ in late 2006. We continued to support the others still entrapped and gradually life went back to normal. Then I was to make a discovery. Normal was gone. I had been thrust into a different era and way of thinking and living. It was only when it ended that I had a chance to look back at what had been lost.
There was the loss of innocence, of believing the government and the law would protect individuals. There was the loss of routine and order in a happy stable family life. By the end of this campaign, all my children had grown up and left home. For a decade we were surrounded by a quickly moving life of unpredictability. I began grieving that my two younger children had had that world, rather than the stable life my older two children had in their early teens. There was the loss of being happy and content with ‘normal’ family life. For a decade there had been this feeling we were contributing positively to a better world. There is much exhilaration, in that feeling of making a difference. One can be sucked into wanting more of that exhilaration and lose sight of the purpose – of wanting to preserve our way of life.
However, much had been gained.
I can look back with pride that I lived by my values of standing up for human rights and the preservation of our way of life. All my children, now in their late twenties and thirties, are either in professions or in voluntary causes for making a difference. They know first hand that it is possible to make the world a better place, and it begins with one heart and one voice. Indeed, my eldest son went on to form a statewide environment group and was instrumental in negotiations between government, industry and environment groups in striving for a working solution to end the forestry wars in Tasmania, and of protection of old growth forest in further parts of the Tarkine and in other areas of the state.
As much as I remain unhappy that protection of individual rights are not what I thought they were as a younger person, my faith in democracy was restored. Given the right driving force, those less-than-ideal laws can be changed for the better.
Author: Leonie Elizabeth.
Written 29 June, 2015. Updated 09 December, 2017.