The Voice in my Head

Extract from “The Jane Effect” published to celebrate Dr Jane Goodall. Edited by Dale Peterson and Marc Bekoff ; Trinity University Press, 2015

As a child growing up in the 60s and 70s, I followed Jane Goodall’s journey through the many stories I read in National Geographic. The jungles of Africa were a long way away from my hometown, Adelaide, South Australia – but Jane became one of my key inspirations to pursue a career serving animals. I lost track of her for a while, but her story returned to my life in 2002 when a friend loaned me her book, “Reason for Hope”. At that time I was a busy mum with three young daughters, living as expats in China, and feeling overwhelmed by the problems our planet faced. “Why should I bother doing anything if nobody else cares?” That was how I felt until I read Reason for Hope.

Since then, Jane has become the voice in my head (well at least one of them!). Or is it my voice that aligns so closely with Jane’s? Who knows? What I do know is that Jane Goodall has become a guiding force in my life, and now my daughter’s lives.

I rarely see or speak with Jane but her gently spoken, wise words influence me daily.

“Do what you can when you can with the time and resources you have. That will make a difference. That will be enough.”

Jane shared those words with me at the end of our first meeting, in Beijing, 2004. As an Australian living in China and passionate about her global youth program, Roots & Shoots, I started the program in our international school but had noticed that there was not a global office in Australia. “Why?” I wondered.  So when Jane visited China, I campaigned hard to meet with her.  I asked, “What about Australia?” She explained that nobody had started it there yet, to which I replied, “I’ll help”.

This conversation marked a turning point in my life, to say the least. Seeing the Jane Goodall Institute established in Australia has occupied many of my hours, and much of my energy, over the past 16 years. It has been an incredible journey filled with beautiful connections, moments of joy and many challenges.

“We must never, ever give up”, I hear her speak. So on we go, forging ahead in the face of adversity, story after story of disaster and suffering for animals and people. At times we face burnout, utterly overwhelmed by it all – and then we find the resilience and hope that Jane talks about. The four reasons for hope: human ingenuity, our indomitable human spirit, the resilience of nature and the energy and creativity of youth.

I have experienced the energy and creativity of youth many times – young people who are driven to create a better world, their hearts connected to their minds. That is where my hope lies, through the many young people I continue to connect with through JGI.

“Discover your gifts and passions and use these to follow your dreams while creating a better world for animals, people and the environment” 

Those are Jane’s words and I continue to share them far and wide. With my daughters it has become my mantra. Jane Goodall has not only been a force of influence in my life, but I am seeing my daughters each blossom into their own talents while creating a better world.

I feel deeply proud and honored to have had the opportunity to be mentored by Jane – and to unleash the potential of many young people, especially my daughters, towards a kind, sustainable and peaceful future.


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