2022 Street Stories

David Pocock has spent a lifetime playing against the climate clock

Senator David Pocock smiling, while sitting at a desk in front of a microphone.
David Pocock has only been in the Senate for a few months but has still made a powerful impact

David Pocock bears a striking contrast to the traditional character we see in Australian politics. Surprisingly soft-spoken and reserved for a man of such physicality, Pocock lacks the typical bombastic, brash personality that has propelled many of his colleagues onto the Senate Crossbench.

Key Points

  • At the May election, David Pocock became the ACT’s first independent senator
  • David spent his childhood on a farm in Zimbabwe, which had a significant influence on his conservation work
  • At the height of his professional rugby career, he was arrested at a coal mine protest
  • He’s passionate about wildlife conservation and climate action

From the bone-crushing game of rugby union to the cut-throat world of politics, David Pocock has always worn his principles on his sleeve.

A dedicated campaigner for climate action and environmental protection since his heyday as one of rugby’s greats, David attributes his interest in nature and conservation to his Zimbabwean roots.

“Your early years shape you,” he says. “It’s been an interest since I can remember.”

Reminiscing on a “charmed upbringing” on the family farm, David recounts a childhood filled with adventure and mischief, highlighted by an idyllic natural landscape. Recalling fond memories of birdwatching and raising barn owl chicks with his father, David describes a bird-obsessed young boy with a passion for wildlife. “Birds are incredible, and it was one way of really getting into nature” he says.

Beginning a new life in Australia as a teenager, Pocock’s childhood love for nature followed him all the way to the world of international rugby, where he became known as a staunch supporter of climate action.

For a professional athlete, talking about anything outside of sport can be polarising, but for David the issue of climate change was “important enough to take that risk.”

“Climate change will affect all the people and places we love,” he says. “Nothing will be untouched.”

For many, David’s activist label was cemented when he was arrested in 2014 after spending several hours chained to an excavator while protesting the establishment of a new coal mine in a critically endangered New South Wales forest. For most, the backlash and public scrutiny that strong statements of conviction produced could be too much to bear. Despite the risk to his career, David summoned the courage to take a public stand in support of impacted local communities.

“I got to the point where I was willing to cop the backlash and consequences” says David.

David drew strength from the experience of local farmer Rick Laird, whom he was arrested alongside. “His livelihood [was] at risk, and he’s now affected by the mine,” says David.

Several years on, with an impressive history of community-driven activism under his belt, David was approached by ProACT to run as an independent candidate for the Senate.

Far from the typical career politician, David says he “agonised over it for months” before beginning his bid for a Senate seat.

“Ultimately it was a decision I made because it felt like something I’d regret not having a crack at” says David.

History and precedent were stacked against him. No independent had ever disrupted the major party duopoly and won an ACT Senate seat. Nevertheless, come election time, David emerged victorious and has since become a powerful player in the red chamber.

“This is a way I can actually represent people and push to be part of the changes I think so many of us want to see.”

With no party line to toe, and no allegiance except to the people of the ACT, David says he ultimately wants “to be someone the people of the ACT are proud to have represent them”.