Speakers Profile - Patrice Newell

Travels From:

Fee Range: C

Patrice Newell manages a large certified bio-dynamic farm in the Upper Hunter Valley of NSW near Scone and is the author of three books.

The first is an inspirational celebration of rural life, telling her story of the joys and challenges of raising cattle and helping pioneer Australia's new olive industry in the best-seller The Olive Grove.

Its sequel, The River, tells of her fight to save the Pages River (which runs through her property) from overuse and abuse and from a coal mine currently being developed at the river's source. Her latest book, Ten Thousand Acres - A Love Story, continues the saga and her fight for sustainable agriculture and environmental responsibility.

Patrice left the city for a life on the land 21 years ago when she and her partner bought an historic property, Elmswood, and she became a full-time land manager. Her central belief as a farmer is summed up in the words: "the land must define its use."

Patrice's 'epiphany' came in the early 1980's working on a Seven network documentary that exposed Australia's agricultural land being used as a third world dumping ground for toxic chemicals.

She became a newsreader at SBS television and presented her own public affairs program Midweek; switching to commercial television, she co-anchored Channel Nine's Today Show when it was dominating network ratings.
Meanwhile she studied herbal medicine under the legendary Dorothy Hall at night school.

As a "conscientious observer of local politics" Patrice has been deeply involved in her local community.

She is secretary of the local fire brigade and president of Scone High School P & C but increasingly her focus has been on the growing water crisis in the district, the region, and the state.
In 2006 she set up the Upper Hunter Waterkeepers Alliance with a group of concerned locals. This is linked to Waterkeepers Australia and the international Waterkeepers Alliance founded by Robert F Kennedy Jr.
In 1996 she was a member of the Rural Lands Development Committee that modified her local council's Local Environment Plan (LEP).

In 1998 Patrice was a member of an Agenda 21 Committee at Scone Shire Council, a group intent on introducing and implementing sustainable practices in every aspect of municipal policy from subdivision regulations, development planning, storm water management and street-lighting to private water tank usage.

"As with climate change, sustainability affects every aspect of community life, from private behaviour to business practices."

As a member of water groups her concerns about water use and allocation are now intensified by the implications of climate change. "There is good reason to fear that the crisis is just beginning. We've already wasted decades. There's not a moment to lose."

Mindful of Al Gore's warning to not go from 'denial to despair", Patrice is far from defeatist about the scale of problems we face: "we must remain optimistic", she says.

Patrice Newell lives at Elmswood with her partner Phillip Adams and their daughter Aurora. Newell's new life has also been depicted in the ABC television's documentary programme, Australian Story. Patrice also sits on the Editorial Advisory Board of G Magazine, Australia's first green lifestyle magazine.