Thanks to Coral Wynter the remarkable life of Pauline Jensen is in print – her lovely poems, descriptions of long desert walks and her passion for First Nations rights and so much more. Sadly Pauline died in November 2019 are a short battle with mesothelioma. Coral’s book also includes contributions from Pauline’s diverse friends. This book is a great read – not just to remember Pauline but to be inspired by her ideas and energy for transformative change. You can purchase a copy from Coral – or 0402514165. My contribution to this book is below.

Pauline and I only came to know each other over the past ten years, although when we realised the similar lives we had lead and that we were only a year apart in age, we figured our paths had probably crossed before we met up in the Greens. 

Pauline got things done in such a thorough and delightful way that at first one could overlook the enormity of the tasks she took on. Our first contact was on Greens NSW election campaigns. Pauline is one of those volunteers who helped build the the Greens into the third force in Australian politics. I do not make that comment lightly. 

Running a political party and winning seats at all levels of government is tough for small parties. Pauline did the consistent, hard work, volunteering to promote the Greens in her community. Her home base of Balmain was where the Greens made history when we won the party’s first NSW lower house seat in a general election. In 2011 Jamie Parker was elected as the Greens MP for Port Jackson. 

Pauline worked tirelessly on so many election campaigns – letterboxing leaflets, phoning hundreds of constituents, postering and organising volunteers. Her delightful, understated way with people helped consolidate an amazing team, that worked tirelessly to mobilise a huge voting base that helped win Greens representatives at all levels of government. Pauline was a co-convenor of the Greens Port Jackson local group.

Pauline and I bonded over a lot more than election campaigns. We were both fortunate to have grown up with the experiences of the women’s, environment and anti-war movements. We had seen Australia become more progressive because of people’s collective actions. So we shared a strong commitment and love of non-parliamentary campaigning. 

I very much appreciated Pauline’s frank assessment of the Greens. At times she was disappointed. I valued her critical feedback and particularly appreciated her support in the 2017 debacle over school funding. She was horrified that I was suspended from the party room when effectively all I was doing was advocating that how Greens federal MPs voted on the Coalition’s bill should be determined by the Greens policy of total support for public school education.

Writing these words about Pauline evokes warm memories but also sad thoughts. Pauline was only 67 when she died. Her energy was still so vibrant. She had just completed her straw bale house, a huge undertaking that took over five years. Pauline was so looking forward to spending more time at her new bush home. 

When I last saw her in hospital it was hard. It was me who was holding the tears at bay. Pauline was full of life – writing, organising her health care and visits from friends and looking forward to seeing her land and new home. But all this was in the context of a clear realism of what lay ahead. 

For someone who campaigned all her life for justice and an equal and caring society I thought the cause of her death so unfair. Pauline died of mesothelioma probably contracted when she was doing house renovations. 

This disease has killed so many people because companies that profited from asbestos would not heed the warnings of the deadly consequences of using this material. Now decades after a greedy company made such a ruthless decision, Pauline was suffering.

Pauline died way too young – she had so many plans, hopes and loves that she should have been able to fulfil

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