Actor, Author, Activist, Podcaster, Mum
Sitting down for a conversation with Australian environmentalist and actress Madeleine West about solutions to the environmental crisis is like reuniting with an old friend who knows everything about you, and who you can trust to tell it like it is. Madeleine radiates with the kind of passion and sincerity we all need a little more of in our lives.
Rainforest regenerator, actress, author, podcaster and mom— these are only some of the hats that Madeleine wears. She is also a leader in her community of New South Wales, where unprecedented floods in March 2022 wreaked havoc on the lives of local people and wildlife; destroying homes and businesses, reinvigorating Madeleine’s sense of purpose. After witnessing the devastation firsthand, helping with the clean up and sheltering a family in her home, Madeleine felt she had to do more. She has since decided to enter into politics, running for state parliament in Australia on a platform that emphasizes the importance of environmental management to secure a future where human beings thrive with the Earth. Her campaign —“the first environmentally sound campaign ever run,” Madeleine says— is a reflection of those values:
“For a politician to propose an environmentally driven campaign they need to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk, and that is precisely what I’m doing.”
Madeleine’s campaign will be exclusively digital to avoid the accumulation of waste from posters and corrugated plastic and handouts, and all donations will go directly into rewilding efforts. Every $10 AUD donated will plant a native tree, and see that tree maintained for four years.
“I’ve been agitating for change in many sectors socially for a long time. Now I want to be the change that I want to see in the world,” Madeleine says. “The reality is: if we don’t treat the world right, we can be shaken off. If we want to stay here, we need to change our relationship with the Earth. The planet is not under our dictatorship, it is like a space we rent and if we don’t treat it right, we don’t get to stay.”
One of Madeleine’s earliest memories is of the sounds the trees made during the Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983, when one of the worst fires in Australian history transformed the north face of Mount Macedon from forest to ash.
“I remember the high-pitched wailing of the trees as they burned before they cracked and exploded.” Madeleine says. “This bushfire was so powerful that when it crossed a major freeway, the freeway cracked right through all the layers of concrete and rock. It just simply cracked it open and created a huge chasm.”
Madeleine lived in Woodend at the foot of Mount Macedon, where her grandfather was a part of the firewatch. Madeleine says that after years of drought, her grandfather tried to raise the alarm about the fires he suspected would come. He was ignored by the local government at the time. The memory of that event has stayed with Madeleine since childhood, and informed the course of the rest of her life. She says:
“I realized at a very young age that our wilderness is a living, breathing being, as fragile and frail as any of us. It takes many human lifetimes to make up the lifespan of a tree, so we often don’t see the consequences of our poor environmental stewardship until it’s too late.”
“For people to willfully ignore climate change, to willfully ignore the dire state of our environment is heartbreaking because it’s playing out right before our eyes,” Madeleine says. “I want to help position policy; I want to be someone who can make recommendations to statutory provisions and introduce changes to safeguard the environment.”
When she is not running for public office or participating in flood relief efforts, Madeleine works with refugees to ensure that their rights are respected, and helps find meaningful ways for them to secure housing and employment. On top of being an Ambassador for Re:wild Your Life, Madeleine is Spokesperson & Co-ordinator for Reforest Now, a non-profit organization working to rewild Australia through the planting of native trees and bush regeneration.
“The reality is: if we don’t treat the world right, we can be shaken off. If we want to stay here, we need to change our relationship with the Earth. The planet is not under our dictatorship, it is like a space we rent and if we don’t treat it right, we don’t get to stay.”
- Madeleine West