Felicity Wishart died in her sleep in July 2015 aged only 49. The death of this tenacious environmental activist who was one of the leaders of the campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef caused anguish amongst fellow conservationists in Australia and around the world. Her obituaries all recognise that Felcity Wishart, Flic to her friends, was not only one of Australia’s most high profile conservationists but that she had a major impact on the country’s environmental movement.
The statement released by the Australian Marine Conservation Society on news of her death spoke for many. It read ‘Flic was one of Australia’s leading conservationists and was a great and inspiring champion for the planet, the cause she dedicated her life to. …Flic was a leader of seminal campaigns to protect the rain forests, to stop land clearing in Queensland, to confront the threat of climate change and national campaigns to protect the marine environment through the creation of a national network of marine protected areas and in her last, greatest and as yet unfinished campaign, to protect the Great Barrier Reef’.
Green Left headlined news of her death with the words Vale Felicity Wishart – a true hero for the environment.
Felicity Wishart trained in environmental science and worked as an environmental advocate for over 20 years at state, national and international level . During the early 2000s she was Co-ordinator of the Queensland Conservation Society and then National Strategies Coordinator for the Wilderness Society. Her work in marine conservation can be celebrated by her key role in securing 25 Australian state based marine reserves comprising more than 3 million hectares.
Nothing encapsulates Felicity Wishart’s tenacity and grace more than her campaign on behalf of the Great Barrier Reef. She was called a Reef Warrior by newspaper the Whitsunday Times, (she was instrumental in founding the Whitsunday Residents Against Dumping group) and she fought hard against plans to expand port expansion and dredging operations that she felt put the Great Barrier Reef at risk – her practical nature led Wishart to point out that 63,000 jobs relied on a healthy reef. Shortly before her death she was disappointed when Unesco’s World Heritage Committee rejected calls for the Great Barrier Reef to be placed on the World Heritage Sites in Danger list. Felicity Wishart insisted that there was no doubt that the reef is still in serious environmental danger.
Other people will carry on Felicity Wishart’s uncompleted work on behalf of the Reef and the marine environment in general and, perhaps, her most enduring legacy will be the number of young people she has inspired to follow in what the UK’s Independent newspaper called ‘her carbon footprints’.