Three Women Conservationalists

Three Women Conservationists – a housewife, a lawyer and a teacher

Janine Kitson BA, Dip Ed, M Ed, Dip TEFI, MA, M Ed (Hons)

Janine has taught in many primary and secondary schools across Sydney since 1982. During her career with the NSW Department of Education she has also written English learning materials for schools and distance education as well as consulted to a Samoan education project. Janine has also been a former councillor on Ku-ring-gai Council as well as a Director on the Board of the National Trust of Australia (NSW). In recent years she has been an active member of the National Parks Association of NSW, the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, and the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, the David G Stead Memorial Wildlife Research Foundation of Australia and the NSW Teachers Federation. Through these groups Janine has developed a particular passion for the history of the environment movement. In 2014 Janine received Life Membership from the Ryde-Macquarie Teachers Association. In 2010 Janine received the North Shore Times Community Medal for Conservation and the Environment. Janine is a regular book reviewer for “Education”, the NSW Teachers Federation journal that goes out to 60,000 teachers working in public schools and TAFE Colleges across NSW.

Three Women Conservationists – A housewife, a lawyer and a teacher.

Annie Wyatt           1885-1961

Marie Byles            1900-1979

Thistle Harris         1902-1990

Annie Wyatt, Marie Byles and Thistle Harris were extraordinary women who, in their own unique ways, demonstrated their determination as women, to protect Sydney’s environment. This was at a time when women had limited education and professional opportunities and were generally financially dependent on men. They grew up at a time when most women were expected to marry, stay at home and look after children.

Annie Wyatt was a conservative married housewife who founded the National Trust of Australia (NSW) and was responsible for saving Balls Head Reserve on Sydney Harbour, Dalrymple Hay Forest at St Ives and bushland at Palm Beach.

Marie Byles was an adventurer, bushwalker, feminist, mountain climber and Buddhist who was the first practicing woman solicitor in NSW who ran her own legal practice in Eastwood. She successfully campaigned to create Bouddhi National Park on the Central Coast.

Thistle Harris, teacher, botanist and environmental educator promoted Australian wildflowers and left a memorial to the man she loved, David G. Stead, by creating “Wirrimbirra Sanctuary” at Bargo NSW. As a lecturer at Sydney Teachers College she influenced generations of teachers on how to engage and excite young people with the natural world.

The three women came from different backgrounds. Annie was reasonably comfortably off and was well connected. Her grandfather was Archibald Forsyth – a parliamentarian, industrialist and philanthropist who was involved in founding the RSPCA. Marie Byles family came out of the suffragette, Fabian socialist tradition of England; and Thistle Harris came from a comfortable background but one that often had to deal with hard times when money was short.

Annie was charming and forthright but promoted men to be leaders. Marie supported women in their legal and employment rights; and Thistle was an equal to her partner David Stead, one of Australia’s greatest environmental pioneers.

Marie Byles and Thistle Harris supported Annie Wyatt by gifting properties to the National Trust in NSW to be kept safe in ‘perpetuity’ [Thistle Harris – Wirrimbirra Sanctuary at Bargo and Marie Byles’ Cheltenham home “Ahimsa”]. Marie believed in the spiritual power of Nature and how one needed self-discipline and meditation to live in harmony with Nature. Thistle believed in the power of hands-on-outdoor-education that inspired young people to love and respect Nature.

Janine is presenting a series of lectures and discussion groups through WEA Sydney, 72 Bathurst Street  Sydney NSW 2000 and further information can be obtained at or by telephone to (02) 9264-2781