Virginia Young

Virginia Young has been involved in successful environmental campaigns across Australia since the late 1980s. Prior to this she ran the mining section of the Foreign Investment Division in the Federal Treasury and then her own business.

She pioneered a continental scale approach to nature conservation in Australia, called ‘Wild Country’ and was instrumental, together with a science team lead by Professor Brendan Mackey from the Australian National University, in securing one of Australia’s pre-eminent research grants to build the scientific underpinnings for this work. At the time, it was the largest grant given to ecological research.

Virginia has also played a leading role as the National Forest Campaign Co-ordinator in the difficult arena of trying to protect Australia’s native forests. She is the only conservationist in Australia to have a complete overview of the state of the forests in every state of Australia and in our region and has played a major role in every significant conservation gain on protecting Australia’s native forests since 1995 – from Western Australia to Tasmania.

Working with industry, she was a leader in groundbreaking work in Queensland which resulted in the timber industry agreeing to transition out of native forest logging in 1999 and to immediate protection of 425,000 hectares of south-east Queensland’s forests (1.2 million hectares will eventually be protected and restored). She has amassed a formidable understanding of the global wood and wood products industry and of forest ecology.

Her interest in big picture problems and solutions lead her to start exploring the role that natural forests could play in fighting climate change. She secured funding for research (again lead by ANU) on the role of forests in mitigating climate change and pioneered policy analysis and development at the national and international level.

She has been involved in international climate processes and campaigns since 2007. The opportunities and challenges which were apparent then lead her to create (working with key ally Global Witness) an alliance of like minded international ENGO’s called the Ecosystems Climate Alliance who work together to bring good science, good policy and nature advocacy into the UNFCCC.

Virginia was awarded Wild magazine’s Environmentalist of the Year in 2001, and was recognised as one of 20 ‘Global Wilderness Visionaries’ by the World Wilderness Congress in 2010.