After 13 years leading some of EDO’s most important litigation and being at the cutting edge of environmental law in Australia and globally, Elaine Johnson has decided to move on from EDO. 

Elaine shares EDO’s vision for a world where nature thrives and has helped shape and grow EDO from the merger of eight separate state EDOs to become the largest environmental law organisation in the Australia-Pacific. 

As Director of Legal Strategy, Elaine has led a team that represents clients around the country taking groundbreaking cases and advancing the law, while mentoring and supporting dozens of colleagues, students and volunteers.  

Elaine has prepared and led some of the world’s leading climate cases together with her team, including the world’s first greenwashing case challenging net zero claims. Australia is now the second most prolific nation for climate litigation in the world, due in large part to the work of her team. 

As a solicitor and Principal Lawyer, Elaine has always put clients first. Softly spoken but fearless in the courtroom challenging powerful interests, Elaine stood side by side with her clients for some of their most important wins including: 

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action v NSW Environmental Protection Authority – The first time that an Australian court has ordered a government to take meaningful action on climate change. 

Gloucester Resources Ltd v Minister for Planning and Groundswell Gloucester (Rocky Hill Coal Mine) – The first rejection of a coal mine by an Australian court on the basis of climate change. 

Hunter Environment Lobby v Minister for Planning and Yancoal (Ashton Coal Mine) – Litigation halting Yancoal’s plans for a new open-cut coal mine in the Hunter Valley, which led to client, the late Wendy Bowman OAM, being awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. 

Elaine’s history with EDO spans some 20 years. She volunteered with EDO as a law student, and later as an Australian Youth Ambassador, working alongside lawyers from the Public Solicitor’s Office in the Solomon Islands to help establish the Landowners Advocacy and Legal Support Unit. Elaine was part of the team that filed the first public interest environment legal case in the Solomons. Her placement was supported by EDO as the Australian partner, and the relationship between EDO and the Solomons continues to this day.  

“EDO has been a big part of my life for decades. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many absolutely brilliant and hard-working people who have truly shaped my life,” Elaine said. 

“It’s been a privilege and a pleasure to have been able to serve some of this country’s bravest communities and individuals as a lawyer with EDO.  

“My clients are ordinary people, fighting extraordinary battles. These communities take on what must seem like insurmountable odds in the belief that it is possible to achieve a safer and healthier future for everyone. Being invited to support them in that fight is always a genuine privilege. 

“As an environmental lawyer, it is my clients who give me the strength and determination to look for justice through the courts, for people and for nature, in the face of extreme power and wealth. 

“As a human being and a mother, that drive also comes from within. It’s the desire to use my time on this planet to try and make it a liveable place for the generations that will follow. I hope I was able to achieve that in some small way during my time at EDO. I am grateful to the organisation and its board, staff, partners, supporters, clients and communities for giving me that precious opportunity.” 

While Elaine’s departure is a loss for EDO, we have no doubt she will carry on her good work and continue to be a trailblazer in and out of the courtroom. 

We thank Elaine for her hard work, dedication and wisdom and wish her all the best for her future endeavours using the power of the law to defend our precious environment.