Tasmanian wildlife defender and peaceful forest activist sentenced to jail today

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Today, Dr Colette Harmsen, a 47-year-old veterinarian and peaceful forest defender with Bob Brown Foundation, was sentenced to jail for peaceful protest in Tasmania’s threatened forests.

Colette’s recent arrests protesting native forest logging by Forestry Tasmania and Venture Minerals and MMG’s illegal works in takayna / Tarkine have resulted in a jail term, delivered in the Hobart Magistrates Court today by Magistrate Chris Webster.

Colette is a volunteer wildlife defender and forest activist and previously worked with the Tasmanian Government’s Save the Tasmanian Devil Program for 8 years.

“Dr Colette Harmsen is my friend of many years and I salute her zeal for saving the natural world. She has a deep and abiding love for life on Earth and, like millions more, is horrified by the deliberate killing of what’s left. Some scientists say 70% has been destroyed since 1970 and the rate is increasing. Colette is intelligent and kind and bravely decided to take action to save nature. She deserves an Order of Australia,” Bob Brown said.

“I am dedicated to protecting and defending Tasmania’s environment. I have been arrested multiple times to prevent the destruction of wild places, and it alarms me that the industries that degrade and destroy our environment are the industries that are offered the most support by the government. What is missing is court-ordered penalties for illegal logging and illegal mining works,” Dr Harmsen said.

“I am a non-violent direct action trainer and in the last seven years, I have trained 100 environmental defenders. All of the activists I work with practice non-violent direct action. Without the actions of peaceful protests, illegal works by industry go unseen and unreported, and environmental damage proceeds unhindered. Environmental defenders will continue to draw attention to places that need permanent protection, even if that means a jail term,” Dr Harmsen said.

“Premier Rockliff talks about balance, but for many decades there has been complete imbalance, and the urgency of protecting the environment and protecting native forests has been swept under the carpet and allowed to proceed. It is disappointing that in this age of climate and biodiversity crises, it is still a crime to protect what environment we have left. Meanwhile, industries like Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s native forest logging, and MMG and Venture Minerals’ new mining activity in takayna / Tarkine go unhindered and supported by federal and state governments,” Dr Harmsen said.

“Australia has the worst mammal extinction rate of any country in the world. More than 650 species of plants and animals are currently listed as threatened in Tasmania. I will not sit idly by and watch Swift Parrots, Masked Owls, quolls, devils, Spotted Handfish and Wedge-tailed Eagles career towards extinction. It is time we stood up and did something about it,” Dr Harmsen said.

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