Hannah was born in Hobart, Tasmania on 23 January 1990, making her the youngest interviewee so far. Hannah grew up in a bush area near Hobart and her family has always been environmentally conscious, her parents taking her to rallies and forest protests, and voting to support green politics. Hannah has one younger brother.
There was no formal religion in Hannah’s family and today she describes herself having a sense of the spiritual, perhaps influenced by her mother.
Hannah is currently in her third year of a Bachelor of Economics and Arts at the University of Tasmania, and has just moved to Melbourne for a new job.
Hannah’s first activism was as a participant in the student protests against the Iraq War when she was in early high school. Then, at 15, she went to Brazil as an exchange student (convincing her parents to let her go for the whole year at an unusually young age). She found the experience of being out in the world by herself, and seeing the massive gap between rich and poor in Brazil had a galvanising effect on her interest in politics.
On her return to Tasmania, Hannah joined the Greens, and became part of forming the Young Greens in Tasmania around the 2006 election. At the end of 2006, Hannah went as a delegate to the Global Young Greens conference in Nairobi, Kenya. Hannah explains in the extract below how meeting like-minded people was central to her enthusiasm for involvement in The Greens. (Apologies for the sound quality – we were recording in Retro Cafe in Salamanca Place- a Hobart cultural icon, but very noisy)
Returning again to Australia in 2007, Hannah also became involved in the Australian Young Greens. I asked her why she initially chose to put her energies into politics, rather than into a community-based environment group.
Because Young Greens was the first thing that came up, but also because the more I learned about the Greens, the more I became a firm believer in politics in a holistic sense. I realised that these middle aged men in grey suits were making decisions that will affect me and my generation, and could see the direct connection between politicians with all the power, and young people like me not knowing about the decisions they’re making.
Then later, I realised that, for the environment, the major limiting factor is political will, in terms of creating large scale change. The Greens show an alternative way of doing things, and political will for environmental change. Even though some people see politics as a ‘dirty business’, the Greens are now in the room when the important votes happen.”
In 2007, Hannah was in her final year of high school, she played guitar in a band, played soccer, and worked for The Wilderness Society doing telemarketing and data entry, (to fund her gap year).
In 2008, she travelled through South America, learning to speak Spanish and Portuguese, visiting Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and travelling alone through Europe and India. These experiences, she says, taught her to think on her feet and trust her gut feelings. She also attended a number of environmental conferences, volunteering with the organisation of the Global Greens Conference with Margaret Blakers, who has become one of her mentors.
In 2009, Hannah started University, continuing her paid work for The Wilderness Society. She also became involved in Environment Tasmania, and founded Climate Action Hobart with some friends, a process which she describes as fun and less structured than working in the political world.
Between October 2009 and March 2010, Hannah set up and ran the main campaign office for the successful Tasmanian Greens election campaign, taking time off Uni to do this. As Assistant Campaign Manager Hannah organised volunteers, candidates, and publicity for campaign. She was pleased to see the Greens gain 22% of the vote state-wide, earning a seat in every electorate and entering into a power-sharing government.
After a couple of months in South East Asia, Hannah then got a job as part time Media Assistant for the two Green’s Ministers in Tasmania, while continuing to study her University course. This next extract is of Hannah describing her communications work over the past year or so, including her use of social media.
I asked Hannah what she saw as her particular leadership skills. “I’m quite good at formalising things. Instead of just talking , I can get stuff moving, setting up meetings, pushing a group of people to commit to the first event or action they want to take.” Hannah says now that it was her work with the Young Greens and Climate Action Hobart that showed her leadership skills most clearly.
In terms of formal leadership training, Hannah has attended the Greens Schools run by the Green Institute (http://members.greeninstitute.org.au/events), but has also learned a lot from watching people and organisations. She says that a lot of people in the Tasmanian environment movement have taken her under their wings, and been role models and mentors, including Margaret Blakers, Louise Crossley, Gemma Tillack, Nick McKim, Cassy O’Connor and Leanne Mitchell. These people and Christine Milne are among the people she admires for their leadership capacities.
I asked Hannah what she sees as the difference between women and men as leaders.
Women push their agenda along a bit more quietly and more carefully. I like the way Cassy O’Connor works, for example, because she is really personable and caring, extremely driven, but very approachable.
It’s hard to generalise, but men are maybe a bit less conscious of the consequences of their decisions, more single focused, more focused on the few things that they’ve decided to pursue.
A few days after the interview Hannah emailed me that she was moving to Melbourne to work for Beyond Zero Emissions (www.beyondzeroemissions.org), a relatively new climate change action group. Beyond Zero Emissions leads Zero Carbon Australia, a project proving the practical and achievable road map to a zero emissions economy. She will be continuing to study part time, while working to build the capacity and impact of this exciting research and engagement organisation.
Over recent months I have interviewed a number of women for whom the Franklin River campaign was a turning point in their lives. I asked Hannah – born a few years after the end of that campaign – whether the Franklin campaign has meaning for her.
I have friends whose parents met at the Franklin. … I’ve always known about it as being the start of something a lot bigger. I’ve always been annoyed that I wasn’t alive then to experience it. It’s one of those landmark times in history that have obviously had a big impact on the political scene in Tassie, and around Australia.
Hannah’s life so far has been full of activism and adventure. Her energy and organisational skills are obvious. For Hannah, as with many of the interviewees, her ability to “get things done”, work with groups of people and help them move towards their objectives is an important part of her leadership capacity.