In memory of Elisabeth and Harry van Moorst

The team at Environmental Justice Australia are saddened by the recent passing of Elisabeth van Moorst - long-time EJA friend, and social and environmental justice advocate

Elisabeth, warmly known as Lizzie, was born in the Netherlands in 1928 and migrated to Australia with her husband and two children, Harry van Moorst and Elsje van Moorst in 1955.

Harry spent all his life as an activist for social and environmental justice after secondary school in Moe, Victoria. Elisabeth and Harry would spend many a night, sharing a beer and having long conversations discussing social justice issues, which included the environment.

Elisabeth would cut out relevant newspaper articles for Harry's attention and attend rallies with all the family, including her grandchildren.

We know Lizzie would like to contribute to the ongoing issues of social and environmental justice so we ask, in lieu of flowers, any donation, no matter how big or small, be donated to Environmental Justice Australia.

Elisabeth’s family have requested people make a donation to EJA instead of sending flowers.

And the passing of Harry van Moorst in 2022 - a dedicated advocate for environmental justice.

Harry was a tireless and extraordinary campaigner who for many years ran the Western Region Environment Centre. EJA worked with Harry on various pollution and community campaigns in the western suburbs over many years. Harry was our staff’s unanimous choice in 2011 to be the inaugural recipient of EJA’s Environmental Justice Award. This special recognition is reserved for someone we believe has made a long-term contribution to environmental justice – righting environmental wrongs, fixing bad laws, championing public participation, and generally standing up for the things we believe in.

At the time we explained:

‘Harry has been working with the EJA for many years as a client and on our law reform programs and projects. He received this recognition in light of his persistence over so many years across so many issues. Particularly, we admire his insistence that the law ought to deliver – that, for instance, the Environment Protection Act ought to protect the environment. He and the many others like him are particularly valuable to the EJA team in that they challenge and extend us to be creative, imaginative, and determined in looking for legal solutions. More than clients, they become collaborators.’

Prior to forming WREC, Harry led the Werribee Residents Against Toxic Dumps, a resident group that successfully campaigned against the construction of a toxic waste facility in their community during the 1990’s. Having learned so much about waste and the problems it causes, the original idea for WREC’s formation was to start campaigning at the local and regional levels on sustainability. WREC collaborated with Wyndham City Council and ran school programs and community events on how to be water wise, reduce waste, and increase renewable energy. Their contribution to sustained, localised education led to Hoppers Crossing having the highest uptake of solar panels in Victoria.

But Harry did not limit his efforts to Melbourne’s western region. He visited many communities Victoria-wide that were threatened by toxic dumps. Sharing his extensive knowledge, Harry ran workshops for local people to understand the risks that landfills pose to human health and ecology as well as what to do about it. His contribution to the Nowingi landfill assessment was quoted extensively before the dump was eventually rejected. Harry’s support for the Terminate Tullamarine Toxic Dump Action Group helped the community conduct their own survey and Harry’s health impact reports helped secured stronger post closure monitoring standards for that landfill.

EJA’s collaboration with Harry and WREC remained strong for many years, including many legal matters, such as opposing further expansion of the Werribee ‘mountain’ (landfill) in VCAT; and a landmark report, Raising a Stink. This work used case studies from the west to call for reform to the Environment Protection Act, reform to EPA culture, and an effective Environmental Justice Strategy. The importance of WREC as a client who could help us achieve real change was recognised when we were funded in 2017 to have a lawyer working half their time exclusively to partner with and support WREC’s work to reduce pollution for all western Melbourne communities.

These are just a few of Harry’s many incredible legacies. His tireless work has benefited both the west and the wider Victorian community. We will miss working with them and will ensure that gifts in his memory will continue to protect the community and environment they fought for.

Harry’s family have requested people make a donation to EJA instead of sending flowers.

Our condolences to Elisabeth and Harry’s family, Sue, Tom, Monica, Kim, and Mallory and everyone who worked with Harry over his many decades of activism.