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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 7071

Senator RICE (Victoria) (19:38): I rise tonight to pay tribute to a great Australian who passed away on 30 July. Louise Crossley was a dear friend and colleague, a mentor and an inspiration. She was a scientist, environmentalist and adventurer. At the beginning of the month, on Bruny Island, I attended a memorial celebration of Louise's life, and it was a joyous event, bringing together so many facets of Louise's rich and varied life. The celebration was attended by three of our current Greens senators—Senators Whish-Wilson, McKim and me—as well as former senators Christine Milne and Bob Brown.

Christine Milne remembered Louise as 'a leader, a great traveller and a person who made things happen', noting that Louise loved the Antarctic and was a pioneer as Station Leader at Mawson Base in 1991, only the second woman in Australia to lead a base. She was the first convener of the Tasmanian Greens, stood as the Greens Senate candidate in Tasmania in 1998—one of the finest potential senators never to be elected to this place—and also served as one of the first conveners of the Australian Greens.

Louise was a wonderful role model of female leadership and friendship. She was generous, kind, compassionate and strong, and never lost her passion for people, music, ideas and new experiences. To the last, she was a champion for women.

Former senator Bob Brown remembered her as 'an eminent Tasmanian scientist, author, environmentalist and community leader', with 'a great no-nonsense intellect, quick dry wit and keenness to protect the biosphere, not least Tasmania's wild and scenic beauty'.

In tributes online, Vica Bayley of the Wilderness Society described Louise as 'a passionate environmental leader and long-time conservation campaigner in Tasmania, spearheading work to protect the forests of Bruny Island and highlighting the plight of threatened species such as the swift parrot'. He said:

Louise was a much-loved leader of the conservation movement in Tasmania who … made enormous contributions to progressing environmental awareness, achieving conservation outcomes and mentoring young campaigners …

Host of Radio National's LNL, Phillip Adams, who knew Louise from her days with the Powerhouse Museum and the Commission for the Future, paid tribute to her shortly after her passing, acknowledging her on-air for her contribution, her incisive mind and her passion. He awarded her a posthumous 'koala stamp'.

I cannot remember when I first met Louise. It was probably at a very early meeting of the Australian Greens, back in the early nineties. I know that any meeting that Louise was at benefited from her clarity, her humour and her ability to analyse and synthesise information.

I certainly remember her contribution to the first Global Greens Congress, held here in Canberra in 2001. Louise had pulled together the Global Greens Charter, a framework for Greens politics, from her wintry Antarctic base on Macquarie Island. The charter has stood the test of time. Any party around the world that wants to become a member of the Global Greens has to sign up to this charter, which covers Greens principles of ecological wisdom and sustainability, social justice and respect for diversity, participatory democracy, and peace and nonviolence. The Global Greens Charter has enabled the Greens worldwide to grow powerfully and coherently, and stands as Louise's great legacy.

Global Greens and Louise went hand in hand. For the next Global Greens Congress held in Brazil in 2008, Louise decided that she could not in all conscience fly, given the carbon pollution that aviation entails. So she set out to travel by land and sea, travelling by public transport and cargo ship there and back. It was an adventure in true Louise style. She arrived to chaos, with the Brazilian organising team overwhelmed by the scale of the task. Louise rolled up her sleeves and, along with the equally magnificent Margaret Blakers, spent most of the conference making a massive contribution to keeping things organised—not quite what she had planned for her attendance of the event!

Four of us took the opportunity to have a few days off together after the congress, travelling by bus and ferry to a small island, Ilha Grande. Louise was held up tidying up after the conference, so she arranged to travel separately from the rest of us. We were getting worried late in the evening, quite a few hours after she was meant to have turned up, when finally she arrived. She had been well on her way when she realised she had mislaid the directions to and details of where we were going, and we did not have working mobile phone connections. Somehow, with next to no Portuguese and some ferries to wrong places, she finally tracked us down. This was my first trip with Louise, and what a travel companion and travel mentor she was. I remember striding out on a walk across the island with her, hearing her tales of her adventures around the world.

Our paths crossed more often after that. We sought each other out at Greens meetings and supported each other, and supported other women. She was generous and thoughtful, warm and humble, while being simultaneously feisty and assertive. Her style of leadership coincided with mine. This is how she described it:

I enjoy working with other people to make things happen. Increasingly the concept of leadership of being out front and having everyone else follow is not the way it works. Usually 2 or 3 brains are better than one, and it's that kind of collaborative leadership that works best, and the sum becomes greater than the parts, and that's the excitement of it. You develop that way, and you learn. I really think leadership is about learning.

In 2011 we spent a fortnight travelling together on a road trip across south-west Queensland and South Australia. We climbed in the Flinders Range, walked across the salt pans of Lake Eyre, and she stood back allowing me to grieve for my father as I remembered him on the shores of Lake Eyre where my family had scattered his ashes three years before. We talked about spirituality and science, her life and her adventures, including her time in Antarctica. She rekindled my desire to visit Antarctica, which I finally was able to act upon when I was senator-elect—with Louise as my advisor, gear provider, and background reading provider from her massive Antarctic library, including her very own Explore Antarctica. I still have some of Louise's Antarctic books, and the gloves she lent me for the trip are those I wear on my bike as I ride to Parliament House each day, capable of coping with minus-five degrees!

Louise's passion for and connection with Antarctica was profound. As well as her time on Mawson, she had two more stints as a station leader on Macquarie Island in 2000 and 2003. She described Antarctica as:

… the awesome beauty of a midwinter aurora, the perils of glacier travel, the discomforts of a blizzard bound tent, the exhilaration of boundless landscapes, the joy in companionship of special friends on a 'jolly', the trust and interdependence generated by a longer field expedition, the satisfaction of a successful resupply operation, the depression and loneliness of isolation from friends and family, the wonder of wildlife, in fact the whole kaleidoscope of experiences which create for almost everyone who has been there, the most intensely lived period of their lives.

That enchantment drew her back as a lecturer on Antarctic and Arctic cruises almost every year from 1994. It was on one of those trips in 2011 that she was diagnosed with cancer and evacuated back to Australia for emergency surgery.

I can imagine Louise as a leader in Antarctica. It was her leadership and her love for life, for humanity and for nature that I will remember her most for. Her life over the last four years—managing life with cancer, managing the treatment, the ill-health, the surgery and submitting herself to the health system—was a challenge for such an independent and adventurous person. She took every opportunity in the respites and the periods of remission to travel and connect with friends and nature, particularly spending as much time as possible on her wild, wind-swept eyrie, Sea Eagle, on her beloved Bruny Island and to keep working on projects, including campaigning for Bruny forests and their precious swift parrots.

Louise decided to give up all treatment at the end of last year and was given three to six months to live. She described making that decision as a great relief, giving her a sense of lightness and certainty that it was the right thing to do. We talked a lot about dying, which I found deep and profound and a real privilege to share with her. Louise Crossley died in Hobart surrounded by friends, with her friend Kate playing Bach cello suites for her as she passed. Travel well, Louise, on the adventure you are now on. Your love and your many legacies will live on.

Senate adjourned at 19 : 48