About Sharyn Munro

sharyn-about1Sharyn Munro lived for decades in a solar-powered mudbrick cabin on her remote mountain wildlife refuge in the NSW Upper Hunter Valley, the heart of her first two books, The Woman on the Mountain (Exisle 2007) and Mountain Tails (Exisle 2009).

Mother of two, grandmother of five, concern for their future drives Sharyn to use her very personal nonfiction style to reach beyond the converted. In The Woman on the Mountain, sustainability and global warming concerns mix with memoir, nature writing, and survival adventures with chainsaws or snakes. Threatened species is the theme underlying Mountain Tails, a self-illustrated collection of short pieces for animal lovers.

Her short stories have won many prizes, including The Alan Marshall Award; she writes regularly for The Owner Builder Magazine, and her essays have been published in the Griffith Review and famous reporter.

The very different Rich Land, Wasteland — how coal is killing Australia (Pan Macmillan/Exisle 2012) arose from her empathy with the people and places of the nearby Hunter Valley being devastated from runaway opencut coalmining. The aim of this self-designated ‘commonsense activist’ is to shock Australians into action, with the truth about coal and CSG. People have compared her book to Silent Spring in its passion, its exposure of issues and the possibility it may lead to a change in the way we treat our world.

In late 2014 she moved to a different mountain, closer to family, and with new wildlife to be discovered and chronicled in her blog. Sharyn is currently working on a new book, in the personal style of The Woman on the Mountain, to encompass the vast changes in her life since 2007, not least the heart-wrenching experience of researching and writing Rich Land, Wasteland

Listen to this illuminating 2016 podcast interview by Natasha Milne with Sharyn about her life, her books and her activism:

169 thoughts on “About Sharyn Munro”

  1. Hi Lee,
    Good idea re the Water Party, and I couldn’t agree more re the importance, but I’m afraid you’ll have to start it!
    Sharyn

  2. Dear Sharyn

    Thank you very much for your email and I am sorry we didn’t get a chance to talk. If you want to email me any questions please go ahead.

    My focus is moving on from the work we have done to research ways to better engage our guests. Given that guests are responsible for most of the energy and water consumption on our property I believe we can make good in roads to cut consumption. This approach does not need to be punitive but rather positive and educational because I believe most people do not have a true idea of how much they consume compared to the average. Anyway more on that another time. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you want any further information. Delighted to have a link with our website (I like all the work you are doing to protect our environment, it is people like you that help to generate change – thank you).

    Yes we were the owner builders for the new cottages and I am happy to discuss any questions you might have on this matter.

    Please accept our best wishes and congratulations for your important award.

    Kind regards

    Christopher

  3. I have only done a cursory glance at your page so far, but so like the idea of a political party called WATER PARTY or THE BLUE GOLD PARTY-please start it
    I am an old retired bushie living in the city, but am so conscious of the precious treasure of all – WATER
    thank you for your site

  4. Hi again Juanita,
    As you may have seen on the blog, I’ve now left the Mountain in the book and am over near the coast, facing different mountains, on 5 acres, but regrettably more ‘civilised’. Haven’t met many folk here but yes I will keep you in mind if I hear of any likely places.
    Best wishes
    Sharyn

  5. hello sharyn 🙂
    read your book, twice, few years apart, & am feeling very jealous….
    i miss the land & it’s wonderful privacy & beauty…
    am in north west sydney, & trying to get back to acreage, but, one needs so very much to buy these days.
    if you here of a miracle, or, an opportunity of caretaking, etc, please think of me.
    i am a foodie, & became very used to living alone some years back, & have also lived off the grid a few times…
    i do hope you are very well & happy, & stay that way for a long time.
    j

  6. Hi Ann,
    Not sure what regions you ask about. Have you read ‘Rich Land, Wasteland’? It answers those questions. No improvement since then but a lot more public awareness from campaigns like to cover the coal wagons, in media and community, leading to the exposure of the deliberate fudging of figures. Also to a Senate enquiry on Oz air quality, including from coal.
    Thanks for your interest in the issue.

  7. I am new to this so dont harsh me for my stupid questions pl but – Has the air quality improved at all? Has the quality of the drinking water improved at all? Is it worse in the township than out into rural areas? How has been lobbied? what was the response? same as usual we assume – ‘if you dont like it move’. Many thanks and I apologise for what may appear foolish questions but we have to start somewhere.

  8. Hi Juanita,
    Hope you find your special place soon to take you and all your poised belongings. I am still in chaos here but will gradually find my feet and time to write that next book. Meantime I am in nest-remaking-hermit mode…
    Please start to write that life story; just jot down bits in no order; you can structure it later. Starting is the hard part.

  9. hello sharyn :-)) (the two lines in my smile are me now)
    read yr book some time back, i love true tales, & related to you so often….
    i have also lived as you, for many years, & yearn so much to go back now. am living in a storage area, as i have so many boxes packed, waiting, waiting…. has to happen soon.
    am in nth west sydney, renting, & feel i am buried alive, a rose amongst a pack of frogs? frogs arent called a pack i feel….
    need to also be ‘bush’, peace & solitude, as i learnt to love being alone a while back, & i want to write my life story, which is a bit different to most….
    good book, hope you can get into another if you feel the urge.
    would love to drop in one day if you can bear a visitor, & bring some nice food to have for lunch.
    have a great year.

  10. Hi Bill,
    I agree, and others have voiced the same opinion to me. But someone has to start such a grassroots party A pity the Nats are so in bed with the Libs; water ought to be their primary issue. I’d back a party that Tony Windsor set up for example.
    What I am seeing is not so much a new party but a new grassroots resistance, such as with the Great Artesian Basin Protection group and regional protection groups, as in the Pilliga and Leard and the Galilee and Gloucester, where the mining and petroleum laws are legalising irreversible damage. It’s the people who know water best who are now getting arrested and going to Canberra to lobby, not ‘extreme greenies’ as the industry suggest.

  11. Sharyn,
    I think the message that is not being absorbed is the water one.
    I really believe that Australians need to wake up to what is happening to our (once) democracy.
    Resources Companies are 83%Foreign owned.
    Banks are at least 49.9% Foreign owned.
    Wake-up Australia????
    We need a ground roots Political Party.
    We do not need splinter parties or PUP’s or Greens.
    We just need fair Dinkum Aussies to have a voice once more.
    Is there a way forward that you can see?
    Regards,
    Bill Doherty

  12. Hi Catherine,
    Thank you for those connections. Yes the heartbreak has been happening for a long time; it’s just happening to more people now. I would like to meet you sometime, so will note your email and make contact. I also write for Owner Builder Magazine so maybe you’d like to share your solar/mudbrick story?

  13. Hi Sharyn
    I have just read Rich Land Waste Land. Congratulations on a well-researched and accessible book. My family were forced to leave our property, Malabar, Jerry’s Plains in 1975. Coincidentally my father sponsored the de Jong family and settled them on our property in the 1950’s. I grew up with with all the de Jong children. There were lots of us and life on the farm was great fun. I was so impressed to hear that Deidre has done so much in the campaign against coal. I also went to primary school wih Wendy Bowans daughter. Another coincidence…my reaction to seeing my family home bulldozed and the big machines move in was to build a mud brick-solar powered house further up the valley and create an organic farm. My family splintered in all directions when we left Jerry Plains. It caused much heart ache despite the wretched $s. My heart weeps every time I drive through Jerry Plains. I drove down the the river a few weeks ago just to see if it was still flowing. The mines seem much closer than legally permissable. I sat on the front steps of all that is remaining of Deidre’s grandparents house where I spent a lot of time as a young girl. Coal and Allied have erected a sign saying “Coal and Allied Heritage site – keep out”.
    I work as an artist and am just starting to express my distress about the horror of it all. A recent painting of these river flats is called “mine”.
    Maybe we could meet one day.
    Best regards
    Catherine Hickson

  14. Hi John,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the book and the issue, and your connections with the land. It is the lack of any forethought or balance or justice in the way the governments are permitting these extractive industries to dominate all others that is causing so much harm. But I do have hope, as I see more people like yourself ready to stand and speak out.
    Best wishes
    Sharyn

  15. Hi Sharyn,
    Must congratulate you on yoyr book”Richland Wasteland”

    Just finished reading it in the beautiful Nymboida National park where my wife and I have spent 2 wonderful days.
    I am a former western NSW sheep, cattle and wheat farmer who moved to Tamworth to educate children.
    I have travelled through the Hunter Valley many times over times last 16 years and flown over it as well. It has been totally depressing for me to see the advance of the open cut coal mines in that time.
    Your book really highlights the problems coal mining is causing this wonderful country of ours.
    It pleases me greatly to see that people are finally starting to wake up to the might of foreign companies in Austarlia and how they pull the strings of our puppet polly’s.
    I have worked on Tim Duddy’s Rossmore Park. It is truly magnificent country that has been nurtured by his family for seversl generations. Tim is to be commended for hisk in standing up to BHP.
    I am 67, and still own some the country my family settled on in 1858 on th Bogan River near Nyngan. I know the attachement people of the land fee for it and can understand the aboriginal attachement as well. It is absolutley heart wrenching to hear the stories you have so vividly told of these people who have tried to fight the demon “Coal”.
    We can only hope that justice and good sense froma few politicians will eventually cahnge the tide and stop the “quarrying”of Aus.
    There is a place for coal in our society but it needs to be sensible and tightly governed. What is happening here is exactly what happened undert the Portugese & Spanish in South America with the ming of silver.
    Please keep up your work, I will be a supporter in mind until I retire; my retirement plans include supporting blockades to prevent indiscriminate ming of coal and CSGG

  16. Hi Tia,
    You need to read Chapter 12: ‘Methane on the march’ and go to the book’s website and see the list of groups that may be able to help you.
    Good luck.

  17. Dear Sharyn, I am writing a paper for a research elective at university. My paper is a case study on CSG in NSW. I have completed most sections but now I am trying to find stories about people who have been affected in some way by the CSG industry. I am also looking for evidence of the negative effects on human, animal and plant live from CSG in NSW. I have read half of your book Rich Land, Waste Land and although incredibly informative and well written, I can see that it targets coal mines, such as deep cut mines. Where as I am trying to target more specifically stories of fracking. Are you able to provide me with any insight or any direction?

  18. Thanks for those comments, John. Yes the TAI’s ‘Mining the truth’ did a good job in pointing out to lay people like me some of the accounting sleights of hand but there are always more. As for lack of value-adding or reserving resources: we are basically behaving like a third world country now!
    See you on Thursday then.

  19. Dear Sharyn,
    I shall be chairing your session in the Fenner Conference and am reading your book, Rich land, Wasteland at present. I would add two important matters to your book:
    1. Exploiting non-renewable resources does not make us richer. It is a trick of accounting that GDP is a measure of the flow of money (resources) through the economy while we have no National Capital Account comparable with the cash flow and capital accounts kept by every company. Thus when we exploit a natural resource money appears in GDP as if by magic and we are led to believe that we have become richer but we are no more richer than when we sell our house, a capital asset, and turn it into cash.
    If we kept a National Capital Account we would show the exploitation of a non-renewable resource as the transfer of an asset from the NCA to GDP and the values being the same we would know that we had not become richer. We only become richer by the value adding that we put into the resource and precious little of that occurs in Australia.
    2. Energy is the thing that makes everything else possible. Our state and federal governments cannot get rid of precious energy resources fast enough. Surely we should be much slower in the exploitation of such critical resources. Our descendants may like to have access to some of the high energy containing resources which we now sell off for a song.
    Looking forward to meeting you at the conference.
    John

  20. Hi Ann,
    Yes, I learnt that later, thanks. I’m no expert on anything, just an observer, and a bit slow at times! So I always welcome such info.

  21. Hit the wrong thing and my comment went unfinished. Have spent a lot of time up in your area and explored some wonderful places near where I imagine you to be so it was wonderful to read your tales.

    On Page 93 of “Woman ……” you mention the king parrot and “the young one’s head still green”. The juvenile AND the female have green heads. Only the adult male has a red head. Thanks again,
    Ann Millard

  22. Hi Sharyn,

    A tiny bit of good news. I have been reading Rich Land Wasteland on the train to and from work. Recently I have been approached by two people enquiring about the book and its contents. Both demonstrated sincere interest and took note of title with intent to pursue.

  23. Hi Robyn,
    Yes they do not seem capable of envisioning a clean and sustainable future way of revenue and jobs, but as the World Bank, amongst others, has said it will not lend to coal power anymore, and the price of thermal coal keeps dropping…
    I have hope these projects will not start.

  24. Hi Jennifer,
    I hope you have a wonderful life there; mine sustains me in the worst of times with its peace and beauty and its own life!

  25. Hi Sharyn,

    I’ve just learnt via FOE website that The Vic Govt wants to step up coal mining & build a coal port facility on a pristine Gippsland beach. They are apparently dead-set to follow the insanities of mining in Qld and NSW.

    I’m sending my local MP a copy of Rich Land Wasteland!. Thank you for writing that book, even if it depresses the hell out of me one minute and makes me mad as a bucket of hornets the next!

    Kind regards,

    Robyn
    Melbourne
    .

  26. Dear Sharyn,

    I have just finished reading ‘The Woman On The Mountain’. My husband and I moved into 100-acre bush block with a gorge and running creeks in January, and I understand and share many of the emotions you have for your mountain, the flora and the fauna. Thank you for such a wonderful, inspiring and emotive book.

    Jenni.

  27. I was shocked too Robyn; ‘insane’ is the word that kept coming to me. Thanks for commenting; the book was a nightmare to write, so I am always glad to hear it’s doing its job.

  28. Hi Sharyn,

    I am barely half way through “Rich Land Wasteland” and am shocked at what I did NOT know about what is happening to this county. It’s a brilliant book and should be made compulsory curriculum reading for every year 12 student throughout Australia.

    Kind regards,

    Robyn

  29. Hi Val! Nice to hear from you. Will get hold of the ‘Grass Roots’ magazine. Hope you’re well and still writing
    best wishes
    Sharyn

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