Defending takayna – an interview with Jenny Weber

With Australia’s largest remaining temperate forest, takayna / Tarkine, under threat of proposed mining, we thought it would be fitting to hear from one of the many people who are actively working to have this special place protected as a World Heritage National Park and returned to Aboriginal ownership. We caught up with Jenny Weber, Campaign Manager at the Bob Brown Foundation to chat about the importance of protecting takayna and some of the challenges they are facing in protecting this beautiful part of the world. The Bob Brown Foundation is a collection of campaigners and activists who help defend and protect ecosystems, wildlife and wild places and have a very active role in the protection of this pristine part of our country.

Jenny grew up on the New South Wales south coast and during her teen years was an active member of the Wollongong Youth Centre. She later went on to study sociology and completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Wollongong. It was during her time at university that she became an active volunteer with The Wilderness Society, working on its campaigns to protect Hinchinbrook, Jabiluka and the south-east forests of New South Wales. Speaking about her childhood and her move to Tasmania in 1998, Jenny reflected on what the catalyst was for dedicating her life’s work to protecting the environment.

“My parents had brought us up really dedicated to the ocean, spending all of our time at the beach. The steel works were on the horizon, so I had this concept of the juxtaposition between industry and nature. But then it wasn’t until I walked into a clear-fell that I opened my eyes to a whole new world of destruction that can happen with logging.”

“Coming to Tasmania, I took a walk to a place called Lake Judd, which felt to me like it was out of the Lord of the Rings – it was part of the World Heritage Area. I walked in there and it was like nothing I’d ever seen, this grandeur wilderness area that took me hours to walk into it.”

“And that was another moment to realise there are places that are so much more important than us on this planet, and they can have secure protection so they can just exist forever – like a World Heritage Area, or a National Park.”

During her time in environmental protection, Jenny has faced enormous pressure from the opposing side, which she admits has often overwhelmed efforts to save wild places.

“We’ve just been so up against it and places haven’t been saved. Having thousands of people turn up to a March or a rally have been our incremental ways of measuring success”

Despite this, Jenny’s successes are plenty – her biggest being the protection of the Weld Valley.

“Here in Tasmania we’ve seen the protection of the Weld Valley in the extension of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, and that was a place that I spent years and years campaigning for and finally it was protected.”



“So being able to go to the Weld Valley now and see the signs that it’s World Heritage after years of being on the frontline there, that’s absolutely inspirational.”



A recent anti-protest bill passed by the Tasmanian Government seeks to toughen penalties for protesters who obstruct business activities, such as environmental protesters. With the new bill having direct consequences for the likes of the Bob Brown Foundation, we asked Jenny if it would deter her efforts in the future.

“Well, it’s intimidating. Of course it’s intimidating. However, what is more intimidating for us at the foundation and me as an individual, is that there is the proposed deforestation of a couple of 100 hectares for a toxic tailings dam in takayna. There’s an area of ancient rainforests in takayna that’s proposed for a new tin mine. There’s constant logging going on out there in a Swift Parrot habitat. So weighing up these local issues whilst also understanding that we are absolutely up against it with the climate and biodiversity crisis. Are we, the Bob Brown Foundation, dedicated to keep going? Absolutely. We’re absolutely sticking around and we will still have to put ourselves in front of that remarkable piece of nature and the bulldozer.”

What is takayna?

This remarkable piece of nature that is under threat is takayna – Australia’s largest temperate rainforest that faces threats from acid mine drainage, deforestation and contamination of waterways by proposed new mines. Located in Tasmania’s north-west, takayna / Tarkine is a million-acre slice – or around 250,000 Melbourne Cricket Grounds – of wilderness home to over 60 rare, threatened and endangered species including the Tasmanian Devil, Tasmanian Masked Owl and the world’s largest freshwater invertebrate, the Giant Tasmanian Freshwater Crayfish.

Its 60-million-year history is embedded in the roots beneath the stringybark eucalyptus and in the Indigenous spirits carried on the wind. One of Jenny’s, and the Bob Brown Foundation’s main focuses is protecting takayna, having it listed as a World Heritage National Park and returning it to Aboriginal ownership. Yet, the majority of Australians are still largely unaware of what is happening in this small corner of Tasmania. We asked Jenny why she thought this was the case.

“I strongly believe that our society is driven to pay the next bill, look after our families, look at what’s going on in our budget every single day to survive the next one. And I just believe that there’s been quite a disconnect of people from nature and realistically I think that some people are still to learn that we have one of the world’s largest temperate rainforests in northern Tasmania that is threatened.”

“And so that’s what we have to do. We have to raise that alarm for people that we do need these forests to be left standing and break through those issues that people are dealing with every single day in their lives to understand that we at the foundation are willing and able to mobilise lots and lots of people. We just need their support and at the end of the day we need their communication to their local members of Parliament.”



“It is, at the end of the day, the government that can declare a National Park, protect it as World Heritage and return to Aboriginal ownership to takayna.”



However, Jenny has personally seen an increase in awareness and more importantly an increase in the general public wanting to get active in protecting the environment in places like takayna.

“Sometimes 2/3 of the people visiting those places in their hundreds are from Victoria or are visiting from elsewhere. Even the Patagonia film “takayna” has influenced people from around the world to come and get involved in our blockades. So we have definitely seen an increase.”

“We’ve seen an increase incrementally. We haven’t seen the mass mobilisation that we need and we are still suffering under the power of the mining industry, and that’s what we need to counter. We absolutely need to counter that where it is important, which is at the ballot box. Or even until the ballot box, in communicating to our MPs that we need whatever piece of nature is left right now to be protected. Even if it’s not about the survival of species or survival of certain plants and animals. For the survival of humans we absolutely need those incredible places like takayna and Australia’s native forests.”

At the time of our interview with Jenny, Federal Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek’s decision on MMG’s planned waste dump in the takayna rainforest is expected any day. We asked Jenny if Tanya Plibersek’s recent comment that “people everywhere have a right to peaceful protest” made her optimistic about the future of wild places such as takayna.

“There’s been a bit of an inauspicious start by the Minister for Environment for us at the Bob Brown Foundation and for the environment. Until the bulldozers are back in there, we have to operate on hope and optimism. However, we also have to be pragmatic. So here at the Brown Foundation, we’re getting ready. We’re making sure that we’re engaging with people to understand that if those bulldozers return, we would need to take action. But until then, Minister Plibersek is hearing from 10’s of thousands of people already, so we know that there’s been independent federal MPs who have written to Minister Plibersek and been in touch with her directly.”

“We know that more than 10,000 people have written to her and every single Tuesday outside her office for anyone who is in Sydney, we’re doing Tuesdays for Tanya, talking about takayna specifically where a short demo is held. So she’s definitely hearing about takayna. She’s got all the information that she needs.”

“But really importantly, what we’ve been saying and what Bob Brown has said was that her statement was a great announcement for zero extinction, but there has to be a lot of actions, and there’s some immediate actions that can happen, like having MMG choose their 100% feasible alternative, which is putting their waste back down underneath their mine into what’s called a paste fill plant.”

Protecting all intact nature is something that Jenny dreams of, and is dedicating her life’s work towards achieving. There are a few things that Jenny hopes to see in the future.

“I think to be purely pragmatic, for MMG to never go back to takayna, absolutely.”



“But if I could package all my desires into it, it would be the protection of all intact nature. So then that would cover the fact that we do need native forests protected. takayna is 500,000 hectares that we need protected.”



“So absolutely the big picture is to try and really achieve it. I know it’s not so pragmatic, but it is achievable if there’s the desire. A government does have the power. They have to have the will to address the fact that the climate crisis is really weighing on us. The government needs to preserve all intact nature across Australia to ensure our survival and survival of unique plants and wildlife.”

So how can the average Australian have an impact on this mission?

“There’s a really great spectrum, and this is what is really good to be able to have people understand, is that you can fund someone who will turn up on the front line if your limitation is that you can’t come to Tasmania yourself. But then we have this excellent spectrum of ways people can be involved in our takayna campaign by visiting takayna with us. We have a citizen science event in November, an artists immersion in April and a running event in February. So there are ways that if you’re any one of those people, you can come along and be involved in those events.”

“And then come if you’re not even one of those sorts of people. You can still come along as a volunteer. So we have excellent ways that we want to take people into takayna and they become instant ambassadors there. You know, to see it is to want to save it, but then understanding that there’s people in WA, northern NSW, Queensland that can’t make it to takayna.”

We would like to thank Jenny and the Bob Brown Foundation for taking the time to speak to us about takayna, and for all of the ongoing work they are doing to protect our wild places. If you would like to get involved in protecting beautiful places like takayna, there are a number of ways you can take action below.