Environmental campaigner and WA Forest Alliance convenor Jess Beckerling has been inducted into the WA Women’s Hall of Fame, in recognition of her commitment to the protection of WA’s forests.
Established on the centenary of International Women’s Day in 2011, the WA Women’s Hall of Fame acknowledges the remarkable contributions and achievements of women in the State, in areas of community, society, history and culture.
Held at the Government House Ballroom on Tuesday, March 8, the awards ceremony saw 16 new inductees at a packed event.
“Being recognised in the context of International Women’s Day and the incredible work being done by women around the world is a huge honour,” Ms Beckerling said.
“We’ve come a long way, and that work should be celebrated, but we have a long way to go to deal with gendered violence and the broader injustices women and girls still face.
“It is critically important that we remain focused on creating safer and fairer societies for women and girls.”
Growing up in South Africa and surrounded by the disturbing injustices of apartheid, Ms Beckerling said she was driven from a young age by a pursuit of fairness and social justice.
Moving to Australia in her youth, that drive found a community in the budding environmentalist movement, where as a university student, Ms Beckerling discovered her voice.
“I felt immediately that I was in the right place,” she said.
“I have always cared very deeply about the natural world and about fairness, and these two values still motivate me every day.
“I believe deeply that climate action must be nature and social justice-positive or we will fail.
“I have found a community of people who not only believe this too, but are acting every day to do the best they can.
“That is very sustaining and motivating.”
That belief, the collaboration of her community and the drive it has inspired have led to genuine and significant impacts on the future of WA’s forests.
When asked about her proudest achievements, Ms Beckerling doesn’t mention the many awards and recognitions she has received throughout her career, including the Bob Brown Foundation Environmentalist of the Year Award she won in 2021.
Instead, she points to the outcomes she has achieved in her efforts to preserve WA’s forests.
“The first major achievement I was a part of was ending old-growth forest logging, as it was defined, in 2001,” she said.
“This meant that 230,000 ha of incredibly precious forest was protected in national parks.
“Then, in 2016, I developed the Forests For Life plan to transition the timber industry and protect the South West’s remaining native forests.
“It took another five years to build the political will, but we got there and finally achieved a policy change to end native forest logging and protect a further 400,000ha of forests for climate, biodiversity and future generations.
“I’m really proud of the resilience, creativity and community-building work that led to that outcome, not least because it means we have a strong foundation to keep working from.”
According to Ms Beckerling, there is much work yet to be done.
“We are living in very important times and our actions matter,” she said.
“If our generations fail to deal with escalating climate change and biodiversity decline, the implications will be catastrophic for future generations and for the creatures and places we share this planet with.
“My greatest concern is that while governments are acting in the interests of polluters rather than the community, we are hurtling towards a dangerous future that will have unthinkable impacts on our children.
“We have to stop burning fossil fuels and protect what’s left of the Earth’s intact ecosystems as a matter of urgency.”