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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website contains names, images, and voices of deceased persons.

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Doris May Jobling (1938–2006)

by Gemma Jones

from Daily Telegraph

Police divers yesterday scoured the spectacular Swan Lake on the South Coast as inquiries into the death of a local environmentalist became a murder investigation.

Detectives also door-knocked the 50 residents of the hamlet of Swanhaven after Doris Owens, 69, was found dead on Tuesday.

The environmental crusader had confided in one local, Elaine Haines, that she had received threatening letters over environmental campaigns she fought, telling Mrs Hains: "I know who it is", without elaborating.

Mrs Owens had said she feared a campaign of "terrorism would result in someone getting hurt".

Police yesterday confirmed an autopsy had shown Mrs Owens' death was suspicious and that inquiries were continuing.

Mrs Owens, from Sydney, had divided Swanhaven, with people either loving or hating her for her outspoken views and passion for preserving the environment around her weekender.

Locals yesterday either spoke passionately of their minor disagreements with her or emotionally paid tribute to her passion, her love for her family and friends, and her commitment to fighting causes she believed in.

Among her causes were the fight to ban cars from the hamlet's waterfront reserve, restricting motor boats on the lake, a fight for a cycleway and saving local endangered frogs.

Several locals said she would take photos of people lopping trees or building swings in bushland and forward them to the council with letters of complaint.

"It's fairly common knowledge Doris Owens had the support of less than a third of the local population, the other two thirds were sitting on the fence or were very opposed to her passion," Shoalhaven city councillor John Finkernagel said yesterday.

"She did upset people in her community, she wasn't a very liked person in her community.

"Not that that gives anyone the right to interfere with her if that's what happened."

It is understood police investigations are also outside of Swanhaven with Mrs Owens' activism covering a wide area of interest.

Local tavern owner Julie Read, who had disagreed with Mrs Owens' plans to ban cars from the local reserve, said she was a "petty controlling bureaucrat".

"Instead of negotiating and participating in discussions she would meet people head on, which is very much a trade union combative style from the 1950s."

Mrs Owens' forthright style, which drove some people away, were the same qualities which won respect from others.

Elaine Hains said: "I liked Doris, she was a worker. She fought for what she believed in, which annoyed a lot of people but I thought it was brilliant."

Mrs Owens' neighbour, who would only give her first name of Mischka, said: "I've known Doris all my life, she was like a second mother to me, we are devastated."

Original publication

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Citation details

Gemma Jones, 'Jobling, Doris May (1938–2006)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 April 2024.

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