News & Media Opinion Pieces Dr Linda Selvey – New CEO Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Dr Linda Selvey – New CEO Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Dr Linda Selvey – New CEO Greenpeace Australia Pacific

This appointment is great news for health and the environment. The message is important, here is an eminent medical doctor and environmental expert appointed to a major organisation. It signifies the strong inter-relationship between health and the environment.
My membership in Greenpeace had lapsed– I have now rejoined! David Shearman, Editor
The following is the press release from Greenpeace

Dr Linda Selvey is taking on the top job at Greenpeace Australia Pacific after a solid career as a senior public servant in Queensland. For more than 12 years Dr Selvey has held senior management positions in Queensland Health including being Executive Director, Population Health Queensland for almost 4 years. She is highly respected professionally and personally within the field of public health in Queensland and nationally.

Since 2001 Dr Selvey has also been Chair of the Queensland Conservation Council, as well as representing Queensland on the Council of the Australian Conservation Foundation from 1995-1997 and 2004-2006. In 2007 she was trained by Al Gore as a climate change presenter and has since conducted around 20 presentations to large audiences at state, national and international forums, including politicians and the health sector. Dr Selvey says meeting Al Gore was “fabulous, very inspiring… I learned an incredible amount and my interest and motivation to do something about climate change expanded dramatically.”

Dr Selvey has always been passionate about both the environment and health issues. In addition to her work in medicine and public health, she has long been an advocate for the environment and has made extensive voluntary contributions to this area. At the age of 21 she joined the Australian Conservation Foundation and got very active in their Queensland-based campaigns. She was a volunteer with the Wilderness Society and the Rainforest Conservation Society of Queensland. Dr Selvey was one of the key organisers of the campaign for the Wet Tropics World Heritage listing.

Dr Selvey sees strong links between health advocacy and environmentalism. She has been involved in Doctors for the Environment Australia and prepared a paper for QCC that explored the links between health and climate change. In India and Nepal she saw the links between disease and environmental factors first hand.

In her presentations to health audiences, she has explored the broader links between health and the environment, such as species extinction, toxicity and food and the outbreak of viruses as a result of humans encroaching on natural habitats. She was the lead investigator for the human health aspects of the Hendra virus outbreak that emerged in Queensland in 1994. She played a seminal role in determining the risks and modes of transmission to humans, both during the original outbreak, and later when it became apparent that fruit bats were the major reservoir hosts.

Dr Selvey says that health professionals can play a very important role in educating the public about links between health and environmental issues. As a trusted health professional in the eyes of the public, she feels a certain responsibility to be an ambassador for the climate message.

One of her proudest moments as Chair of QCC was at the Council’s 40th anniversary, where she heard inspiring stories about people who pioneered environmentalism in Queensland and beyond. She says it was inspiring to hear of the QCC’s environmental achievements over 40 years that are now taken for granted by the public, including campaigns to stop oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef, the creation of National Parks in places such as Noosa and the Wet Tropics World Heritage listing.

Dr Selvey grew up in Darwin, Northern Territory. She was 14 when Cyclone Tracy struck the city in 1974. She and her sister were sent to live in Sydney for 9 months until their house could be rebuilt.

After high school she moved to Brisbane to attend the University of Queensland, graduating with an MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) with honours in 1983 and a Bachelor of Medical Science with Distinction at the same university in 1986. She also completed a PhD in Immunology from the University of Queensland in 1991. She became interested in medical research and studying the links between viruses and cancer.

While studying, Dr Selvey worked as a GP from 1986-1991. She then went to Maryland, USA for 3 years where she was a post-doctoral Fellow at the National Institute of Health studying cellular immunology and in her spare time working with homeless men with AIDS and drug addicted families. Her experiences inspired her to work less in medical research and move more into public health. Upon her return to Australia she went on to undertake postgraduate studies in epidemiology, and completed her training as an Epidemiology Registrar with Queensland Health in 1995.

In 2000 she travelled to Nepal and India to work on a polio eradication programme for the World Health Organisation. Dr Selvey says this experience increased her commitment to doing something about climate change, as she saw first hand how people living a subsistence lifestyle were dependent on the regularity of the seasons. She says the experience “taught me humility and helped me understand that the Western way of doing things is not the only way.”

In her spare time she enjoys a variety of pursuits, including playing electric bass guitar in her band Not Dead Yet, biking, scuba diving and playing piano.

Dr Selvey was a Nominee for the Sidney Sax Public Health Medal 2009, an initiative of the Public Health Association of Australia. The award is given to a person who has provided a notable contribution to the protection and promotion of public health, solving public health problems, advancing community awareness of public health measures and advancing the ideals and practice of equity in the provision of health care.

Profile story in The Age, 21/11/09