22 December, 2007

THE AGE: Magistrate so impressed by woman in the tree that Holly gets off lightly

Steve Butcher, The Age
December 22, 2007 [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/magistrate-so-impressed-by-woman-in-the-tree-that-holly-gets-offlightly/2007/12/21/1198175340714.html?page=fullpage Source]

To some, the young woman atop the tree-sit tripod in the Victorian old-growth forest was just another unemployed feral greenie disrupting legitimate workers.

However, Holly Creenaune's appearance last week in a Melbourne court, after her arrest on January 17 last year in the Goongerah Forest logging coupe in East Gippsland, moved one of Victoria's most senior magistrates to exercise a rarely used discretionary power.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Jelena Popovic dismissed charges of obstructing a road and obstructing an officer (Creenaune having pleaded guilty), rejected an application for Creenaune to pay $1900 compensation, and described her as a "remarkable young woman".

"I have to say I've never had the opportunity to meet somebody like Miss Creenaune, who has worked consistently and effectively in relation to improving our environment and maintaining the environment," Ms Popovic said.

"I don't know that I'll ever meet anyone again with the same passion, drive and ability, and I suspect that it won't be the last time I hear the name," she said.

"Next time I'll know how to pronounce it." A CV tendered by Creenaune's lawyer, Vanessa Bleyer, alerted Ms Popovic to the fact that she had a unique offender before her.

It was a CV that might motivate some, or put others to shame.

Creenaune, 23, Victorian-born but now living in Sydney, started a school conservation club when she was 12. As a teenager she worked for Rotary in a Brazil orphanage, and later she co-ordinated 2000 young people for Australia's largest environmental sustainability conference.

She was the recipient this year of the University of Technology Sydney human rights award, presented by Justice Michael Kirby of the High Court.

It denoted Creenaune's commitment to a range of social justice and human rights organisations and activities, including indigenous rights, climate change and environmental justice.

Now in her final year of a law and journalism degree, Creenaune said that her parents, both teachers, were not "greenies or lefties" or even activists.

"What they fostered in me as teachers was to use critical thinking skills, to read a newspaper and look beyond and take a critical eye to issues," she said.

When ordered from the tree-sit, Creenaune refused unless VicForest, the Government's commercial forestry arm, stopped logging.

Her parents, shocked when the prosecution summons lobbed, followed the progress of the charges and "reminded me every now and then to avoid a (criminal) record at all costs", Creenaune said.

Politics does not excite her — "my feet are firmly planted in organising" — but the Rudd Government now offered "wriggle room" for a stronger voice for communities, unions and environmental lobbyists.

"I am looking towards the new area of climate law," she said.

Ms Popovic ruled Creenaune's "exemplary" character as a significant factor in her dismissing the charges against her, but warned that she might not adopt the same line of reasoning if Creenaune reoffended.

Such forest activities were best left to the past, Ms Popovic advised Creenaune.

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