Environmental activist and political leader Brenda Hean went missing in 1972 after her plane mysteriously vanished while she was on her way to the nation’s capital to protest the government-sponsored flooding of Lake Pedder.
Brenda had been fighting the government and the Hydro-Electric Commission, who’s damming system was to flood the lake, at every turn. She formed the United Tasmania Group, the world’s first Green political party, to try and save the lake. But the government thought she was getting too powerful, and had to silence her, before their million-dollar hydro-electric scheme was quashed for good… maybe. The mystery of what happened to Brenda Hean remains unsolved, but the fight to save both Tasmania and the world from environmental degradation continues.
In 1972, Brenda was on a mission to save Lake Pedder, a glacial lake located in south west Tasmania that was being flooded by the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Scheme. In a last-ditch effort to get the pollies interested in her beloved lake, she was going to fly to Canberra to write Save Lake Pedder in the sky. But her plane never made it to Canberra. It vanished somewhere around the north-east of the state, and Brenda and the pilot, Max Price, were never seen again.
People immediately believed that someone from the government or the Hydro-Electric Commission were responsible for her disappearance – a belief that was reinforced when it was discovered that the plane’s hangar was broken into, and the survival beacons taken from the plane. But would the government really go so far as to murder a woman, just to keep their dam in place?
We may never know what happened to Brenda Hean, but her legacy lives on. Her protesting with the Lake Pedder Action Committee, and later her political campaigning through the United Tasmania Group laid the foundations for the green political movement we all know and vote for today. Without Brenda, there would be no Greens parties, and the world would be in an even worse state that it’s already in, if that’s even possible.
Our main source this week was the book Whatever happened to Brenda Hean? by Scott Millwood. Scott was handed the police files relating to this case by an anonymous person with the note ‘use these for good’. He created a documentary investigating her disappearance, and this is the book version of that doco. It’s pretty good but be warned, there’s a bit of author insertion and a lot of wild speculation. We did our best to stick to the facts but it’s a little tricky when so much of the events have been quite fictionalised.
You can read a little about the history of the Save Lake Pedder campaign here https://www.abc.net.au/science/kelvin/files/s18.htm
Bitta history, bitta mystery in this article here https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/lake-pedder-beginning-movement
Brenda Hean’s missing persons page is here http://www.australianmissingpersonsregister.com/BrendaHean.htm