Annika Reynolds is a young leader in the Australian climate justice movement and a non-binary advocate. They are the CEO and Founder of GreenLaw, a youth-led research institute leveraging the vision of the next generation of legal researchers and lawyers to tackle the climate crisis. Annika is also an inaugural Youth Chair of Environment and Human Rights at Australian Lawyers for Human Rights. Annika is a recognised international speaker and writer with words in New Mandala, International Law Association Reporter, Women's Agenda, The Canberra Times and Pro Bono News. They are also a published academic on environmental law reform, human rights and climate change topics.
Your organization, GreenLaw, which you are the Founder and CEO of, is finding ways to use transformative law reform to make Australia more sustainable. What are some of your favourite achievements in your journey with GreenLaw so far?
GreenLaw is all about empowering young people and leveraging the vision of the next generation of lawyers and advocates to tackle the climate crisis. I am constantly inspired by my fellow researchers; hope is possible when you are surrounded by people working towards a more equitable future. And, unsurprisingly, my favourite achievements at GreenLaw all relate to the vision of my team. In 2020, we undertook Australia-first research into the prevalence of alleged “green lawfare” litigation and found that such claims are ill-founded. Rather, our research highlighted the importance of improving access to the Courts for environmental justice. In 2021, we were commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation to examine how climate change impacts are assessed in federal threatened species management documents. We found that there is a climate gap in our national threatened species conservation framework that is undermining threatened species recovery. We recommended that climate change be addressed directly in our threatened species management framework, and are continuing to work in this space to propose more robust systems of species conservation.
Through GreenLaw, you’ve had the chance to work on a number of reports, campaigns and research series. What are your favourite parts of working at GreenLaw?
GreenLaw is a space filled with energy, creativity and shared values for the protection of our environment. So, my favourite parts of working at GreenLaw really come down to the incredible people in our organisation and the shared compassion we have for each other and the work we are doing. The impact of this workplace culture is evident in our work. We consistently emphasise the needs of the most vulnerable. For example, proposing a human rights-centric approach to energy law reform to the ACT Government in their Inquiry into Renewable Energy Innovation or publishing the ACT’s first comprehensive Practical Guide to Law and Protests to support all Australians in safely participating in our democracy.
I also love the work we are doing to support the wellbeing of our members through the GreenTea Program. This program is the first of its kind in Australia and it involves ecological wellbeing seminars led by Christie Wilson, an internationally-recognised climate psychotherapist, and On Country Tours led by Indigenous Elders in the ACT. The program provides a safe space for our members to connect, to grieve climate impacts and to heal.
You were recently appointed as a General Member to the LGBTIQ+ Ministerial Advisory Council to the ACT Government. Congratulations! What changes would you like to see made for the queer community in Australia and how does this role allow you to make an impact?
Gender and sexuality equality is still to be achieved in Australia and I would love to see greater action to prevent Queer homelessness (especially for trans and gender diverse youth), including housing reform that aims to protect the right to housing that all people possess, irrespective of one’s financial position. Currently, the rights and safety of trans and gender diverse Australians are being eroded right now – for example the religious discrimination bill and accompanying media storm. Our lives are treated like political footballs to our detriment. More needs to be done to promote inclusivity for trans and gender diverse people, including improving accessibility to healthcare, providing gender and sexuality education in schools and investing in suicide prevention.
Indeed, I was motivated to apply to the Ministerial Advisory Council to tackle these challenges. We will not see Queer-inclusive policy unless Queer people are involved in that policy development whether that is in housing or healthcare.
Who are your mentors and what is the best advice you've received?
I am lucky to have a number of mentors, and I encourage other young people to seek out a couple of mentors to give you a diversity of advice. Professor Vivien Holmes of ANU is one such mentor who has very wisely counselled me to protect my own wellbeing and energy. Burnout serves no one, least of all the climate movement as a whole. Similarly, Sara Wedgwood, my mentor from the Pinnacle Foundation, gave me very important advice last year to be authentically myself and that being proudly Queer and non-binary is a source of strength. My perspective and advocacy are different from a cis-gendered climate activist, and that diversity is a source of strength for the climate movement overall.
At GreenLaw, your focus is largely on empowering young people, and more specifically, young lawyers. What is your message to this coming generation who want to see change?
My message is twofold. First, the coming decades are uncertain – climate change, economic upheaval, recovering from the pandemic, warfare (the list goes on ad infinitum) – the challenges facing our generation appear insurmountable. It is okay to be daunted and to seek support from mentors, peers and loved ones. Progress is like a choir, together we can sustain the music indefinitely by giving each other breaks to take a breath.
Second, we are powerful. Our power comes from the clarity of our voice – the call to protect the future of our planet and the wellbeing of our young. And bolstering our call to action is our vision and drive to change the world for the better. Embrace your vision for change and be unapologetic in your advocacy.