WHAT LED A MACHO, football-playing dude at a respectable Catholic high school in New South Wales to become one of Australia’s most fearless and effective direct-action climate activists? That’s a question you might ask of Steve Phillips.
Steve could have succeeded in almost any career, but he chooses to live in what most Australians would call near-poverty. He has been an environment campaigner his entire adult life. In order to have flexibility for his activism, Steve works part-time to support himself and his son. He says, ‘I feel personally rewarded by my involvement in a universal cause. This makes life meaningful for me.’
Born in the mid-1970s, Steve Phillips is the eldest of three children. He describes his parents as decent, hard-working, middle-class people with progressive ideas about how the world could be a better place. Yet they would never attend a rally, let alone stage one. They split up when he was around twenty and he jokes that they were too busy with all of that to notice that their eldest child was becoming a ‘public nuisance’.
Questioning has always been central to Steve’s nature. He has always identified with people who challenge the status quo. He recalls making a dramatic transition in Year 10 at high school. ‘One day it just kind of dawned on me that the macho guys I was hanging out with were homophobic, borderline racist, and dull. So I decided to find some more interesting friends.’ Overnight, he went from being a typically cool guy to being the only male in an alternative chic clique. He enjoyed challenging his peers by crossing the floor to join a group of wild girls who bagged just about everything ‘normal’ from their vantage point at the back of the football oval.
Steve is an active member of lockthegate.org.au/hunter_valley