Interview with Geoff Law

Geoff Law - Franklin River conservation pioneer and rafting leader
Geoff Law - Franklin River conservation pioneer and rafting leader

We interview Geoff Law to pick his brains on the history of the Franklin River Campaign he worked on all those years ago. 

 

If you’re familiar with the Franklin River, no doubt you have also heard of Geoff Law and his involvement in campaigns to protect Tasmania’s natural environment. Geoff law is a conservationist and author with a long involvement in campaigns to protect Tasmania’s natural environment. His passion for the Franklin wilderness ultimately led to him becoming the official spokesperson for the historic Franklin Blockade of summer 1982-83 – when the damming of the Franklin was officially stopped. You can experience this legendary river with a man who was intimately involved in the epic campaign to save it. Join Geoff on an exclusive trip along the famous Franklin River on Franklin River World Heritage Expedition with Geoff Law, departing January yearly. 

When you’re not fighting the battle to save the Tasmanian wilderness, where can we find you? You can find me on camping trips with my 10-year-old boy Elliott and my partner, Amanda. We love the east coast of Tasmania for the sunny weather, swimming and granite at Freycinet National Park. 

You probably pack pretty light, what are the three most essential items to pack for a week in the Tasmanian bush? You won't get far without a tent, map and raincoat. Of course, a sleeping bag might come in handy. 

How did you first get involved in the campaign? I was passionate about bushwalking in remote places but it was a rafting trip down the wild Franklin River that made me realize I couldn’t sit by without doing something to save it.  At the time, I didn’t realize that being involved would mean years of serious full-time work with the Tasmanian Wilderness Society and lead to a career in conservation and lobbying. 

It was really a David vs Goliath Scenario, wasn’t it? Absolutely.  We conservationists were vocal and well organised but were up against Tasmania's powerful dam-building HEC (the Hydro-Electric Commission), which  had the support of the Tasmanian Labor and Liberal parties, as well as the unions, media and big business.  Robin Gray, the Tasmanian Premier, described the Franklin as a “leach ridden ditch” in August 1982. 

How was the campaign different from a modern social media campaign? I’m really showing my age now!  Compared to a modern campaign, it must seem that we did things in slow motion.  Rather than instagramming photos or even emailing digital photos, we took photographs on film and developed then in converted bathrooms and then “photogrammed” then to media outlets.  Without email, I cycled around to media to distribute new information. 

Where were you on 1 July 1983 when the High Court handed down its decision to protect the Franklin? I was hitch-hiking home after a week trekking in Tasmania and the guy who picked me up mentioned the decision to protect the River had been made with 4 to 3 majority.  I didn't really believe it until I heard it on the ABC radio news and then was quietly euphoric, being with a stranger. 

And it’s an ongoing battle isn’t it?   Unfortunately it is. The most recent significant event happened on 24th June this year, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, when we successfully lobbied the World Heritage Committee to enlarge the Tasmanian Wilderness area to incorporate some of the world’s most spectacular, most vulnerable, most beautiful, and most bitterly contested forests.  It was hugely emotional and such a wonderful outcome for the future. Unfortunately, the newly elected federal government wants to turn the clock back and de-list these forests so they can be logged. Learn more about the Franklin River World Heritage Expedition with Geoff Law -departing in January .

Our Team

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