Activist who seeks to protect the rivers


Jock Cheetham

Stephanie Luke is the Greens candidate for the Central West NSW seat of Calare.

Stephanie Luke is the Greens candidate in the seat of Calare, which is held by Nationals MP Andrew Gee. Luke studied law at university with a focus on industrial rights and alternative dispute resolution.

Before moving to the NSW Central West in 2010, Luke lived to Adelaide, working in the arts and disability sector. She spent 20 years working in Adelaide, leaving when she became worried about increases in heat records and questions about the viability of the Murray River.

The Western Advocate reports that Luke was involved in an anti-mine protest near Mudgee in 2017. A Central Western Daily profile notes this is her first run as a candidate and that she has been involved in “community organisations and frontline activism”.

“I know our community is divided,” Luke’s Greens page notes. “However, when I speak with other candidates and voters across the political spectrum, the concerns are similar: drought, future livelihoods, making the tough decisions that mean generational change.”

Luke’s Greens page lists several key goals if elected, which prioritise environmental sustainability, climate change and social justice. She was contacted for an interview with The Junction but was out of the electorate and could not respond.

Climate change

Luke says that she would protect the Macquarie River, the Belubula River and “prime agricultural land” from mining fallout. Another component of her environment policy is a move towards publicly owned renewable energy as part of the fight against climate change. She also wants to establish or extend legal protections for local rivers. These would be similar to the legal protections already afforded to the Yarra River in Victoria.

In the Central Western Daily profile, Luke argues that the Central West region is under threat from mining companies that are appropriating land and water resources and further damaging an environment already under stress from climate change. Additionally, the Greens plan to reach net zero emissions by 2040, with 100% renewable energy by 2030, and a $1 billion fund to support the works in fossil fuel industries in the transition. Luke stresses the need for a feasibility study and an assessment of potential environmental impacts of a pipeline running from Ben Chiefly Dam to Bathurst as a water conservation attempt.

At an election forum in Bathurst on May 8, Greens member and councillor at Bathurst Regional Council John Fry spoke on Luke’s behalf as she was out of the electorate. Fry spoke about the goal of building a “renewable economy”, an economy that focuses on renewable energy and would be more environmentally sustainable.

Other policies

Additionally, Luke’s Greens page advocates working with Indigenous Australians towards sovereignty and treaties. She supports creating a dialogue around significant sites, such as Wahluu and the Circle of Stones. Luke also calls for the immediate ending of offshore detention and for refugees to be brought to Australia.

In the profile from the Central Western Daily, Luke supports improving “transport links” between Sydney and the Central West to “facilitate a thriving tourism industry, safer driving and efficiently getting products to the city”. She notes that investing in new infrastructure could trigger large opportunities for rail and electric travel. She specifically notes the need for rail infrastructure in Calare to be updated, claiming that it is out of date.

At the election forum event, Fry noted that the Greens are against the privatisation of public assets such as water and sewage supplies. Another Greens policy is reforming the apprenticeship system, as apprenticeships in various industries are not having the same amount of people enrol and are suffering as a result.