The Environmental Defenders Office pays tribute to farmer and stalwart environmentalist Wendy Bowman, who passed away last week aged 89. [1] 

EDO had the privilege of representing Mrs Bowman in her David-and-Goliath struggle to save her farm and local water supplies from a planned open-cut coal mine in the Upper Hunter region of NSW. 

Thanks to Wendy’s determination and courage in the face of the power of Yancoal, a court ruled in 2015 the South East Open Cut Coal Mine the company hoped to build over her property could not proceed until Mr Bowman agreed to sell. [2] 

Mrs Bowman remained staunchly opposed to the mine until the expiry of that deadline in April 2022.  

As a result of her courage, Mrs Bowman prevented the mining of millions of tonnes of coal and protected water sources vital for nature and local agriculture.  

She also worked closely with the Plains Clans of the Wonnarua People for protection of connection to Country. 

EDO Director of Legal Strategy Elaine Johnson worked closely with Mrs Bowman and many others in the Hunter to defend farmland, bushland, wildlife, water and air quality from the impacts of coal mining over the past 20 years. 

“News of Wendy’s death is so sad,” Ms Johnson said. “Wendy was a true powerhouse who spent her life fighting for a safe and healthy environment, for community, culture and for justice. She was one of my first clients and a true friend of the EDO — she will be missed immensely.  

“She showed us all that it is possible to stand up for what is right, even in the face of entrenched power structures. At great personal cost she stood up to multiple multinational mining companies and governments and won.  

“Wendy was one of my first clients when I joined EDO in 2011. It was a privilege to stand alongside her over the past 12 years in her fight to stop the unsustainable expansion of coal in the Upper Hunter.  

“She was so happy when she finally won that fight last year when the mine’s approval lapsed, after 22 years of daily opposition. What a legend and a legacy.” 

In 2017, Mrs Bowman was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, which honors the achievements and leadership of grassroots environmental activists from around the world, inspiring all of us to take action to protect our planet. [3] 


[1] Wendy Bowman (activist), Wikipedia, accessed July 2023  

[2] Upper Hunter community wins 22-year battle against Yancoal mine expansion, 22-5-22, EDO media release.  

[3] 2017 Goldman Prize Winner — Wendy Bowman.   

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