As a kid, Bri Collins’ happy place was gardening with her grandma in the rambling yard behind the family’s Queenslander in suburban Brisbane. “That,” she says, “is where I learnt my love of nature.”
These days, however, spare time to spend in the garden is a rarity. At just 24, this newly-minted law graduate is helping young Queenslanders take on Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal in the Land Court. It’s a David and Goliath battle, conceived as a final-year uni project, which could have far-reaching implications for both the environment and the law.
Bri says that she has both her mother and grandmother to thank for the mix of empathy and determination that is helping her to see this case through.
“I was very much born into a family that understood social justice,” she says. “And because my parents and my sister and I lived with my grandmother, she was a very direct influence on my life. The first and most obvious thing I learnt from her was a fortitude of self. She was very true to herself, had an incredible conviction, could be quite fierce but very warm-hearted, and she taught me strength … Spending time with her, you wouldn’t have any idea of the horrors she’d endured.”
Bri and her sister Melita called their maternal grandmother “Omi”, but her name was Vladislava Kozlovskis. She’d fled Latvia with her husband and young family after WWII and the brutal occupation of her homeland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Vladislava found shelter in a refugee camp in Denmark, along with her seven children – her eighth was born there. Then the family secured passage to Australia and moved first to the Greta migrant camp in the Hunter Valley, then on to Brisbane, where Bri’s mother Ingrida was born.
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