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Grandmother activist's turbo charged climate passion

  • 25 November 2015

This weekend, in cities around the world, citizens will take to the streets for a People's Climate March. Their aim: to urge politicians and other delegates to bolder decisions at the 12 day UN Climate Change Summit which begins in Paris on Monday.

In a speech delivered last week at Brisbane's Global Change Institute, environment ambassador Peter Woolcott said Australia is aiming for a deal that keeps global warming below two degrees.

He also said that last week's horrendous terrorist attacks in Paris 'would only strengthen the resolve' of the French hosts to achieve an ambitious outcome at the conference.

Today's interviewee on Eureka Street TV has been a social activist all her adult life, and for much of that time a key concern for her has been environmental issues.

Thea Ormerod is President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change which embraces members from diverse faith backgrounds.

In the interview she talks about what motivates her to be an activist, the connection between religion and climate change activism, the People's Climate March, and her hopes for the UN Conference in Paris.

Ormerod was born in Amsterdam and migrated to Australia with her family when she was two years old. Their migration was spurred by severe poverty and hardship they experienced in Holland during the Depression and Second World War.

This meant longterm unemployment for her grandfather, followed by forced labour for her father during the war. In the winter of 1944 there was a food shortage, and her grandmother died of starvation.

So Ormerod's parents were determined their children would never go hungry, and instilled in them empathy for others experiencing poverty, war or injustice.

Her parents were devout Catholics and, despite struggling financially in their newly adopted country, sent their children to Catholic schools. Her father sang in a Dutch choir and every second week the family attended High Mass sung in Latin.

Ormerod is a social worker by profession, and specialized in counseling. She has been involved in a number of social justice organisations including Jubilee 2000, Micah Challenge and Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network.

She is an active parishioner at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Kingsgrove, in south-western Sydney, and recently became a grandmother, which has added impetus to her environmental activism.


Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.