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Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? (ATOM Study Guide)

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In 1972, Brenda Hean was engaged in a fight to save Tasmania's beautiful Lake Pedder from damming for hydro-electricity. With 57-year-old pilot Max Price, she set off in a Tigermoth on a flight to Canberra to promote the cause. Hean planned to meet with federal parliamentarians and she and Price were going to write in the skies above Canberra, 'Save Lake Pedder' – as Greens Senator Bob Brown puts it, 'to emblazon in the skies this call to Australia to say a most remarkable frontline part of its heritage was threatened with tragedy in Tasmania'.

The plane disappeared, apparently not long after take-off. No bodies or wreckage were ever found. There was no official inquiry. Persistent allegations of sabotage and a cover-up remain to this day. Mystery shrouds her death, but what is clear is that Brenda was a passionate and committed spokesperson and advocate for her community and local environment. She was a woman of great integrity and courage, and her disappearance, at the age of sixty-two, was a tragic loss for all who knew her and for the environmental cause she had dedicated herself to.

Some thirty-five years after Hean's disappearance, filmmaker Scott Millwood undertook a quest to discover the truth. He journeyed into the landscapes and eccentric communities of Tasmania, painting a portrait of an inspirational woman whose environmental values still resonate today. Brenda's story, her tenacity and determination, tell us a great deal about the modern environmental movement. And her intense sense of connection to place must act as inspiration for all of us to cherish the precious wild spaces left around us.

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Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? (Scott Millwood, 2008) focuses on a courageous woman who died fighting for a cause she believed in. It is, moreover, an intriguing film about personal secrets, family scandals, lies, myths and memories, and it features a large and colourful cast of characters, each with their own theory or conspiracy. The deeply mysterious nature of this tale allows students to hone their skills of critical analysis, examining people's arguments and opinions while looking for bias and hidden agendas.

Whatever Happened to Brenda Hean? has relevance to junior and middle secondary school students in the Key Learning Areas of English; Media Studies; Environmental Studies; Science; and SOSE/HSIE/Humanities (Studies of Society and Environment/ Human Society in its Environment).

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