Jack River is using her music career to drive climate awareness and action


ARIA-nominated musician, mother, climate advocate, law student – Bank Australia customer Holly Rankin, who you might know better as Jack River, inhabits many roles. But they’re all propelled by the urgent task of saving the planet.

“The ocean, for me, is a part of who I am,” says Holly Rankin, the musician who performs as Jack River. “I feel strange if I go more than a few days without swimming in it.” It’s lucky, then, that she can see and hear crashing waves from where she stands on her driveway.

We’re at Holly’s house in Forster, the coastal NSW town that’s the heart of the Great Lakes region. Holly has recently returned to the town where she grew up to raise her own daughter, Maggie. It was here that Holly developed her deep appreciation for two seemingly disparate devotions. 

“From a young age, I was really passionate about nature and – for some reason – politics and leadership,” she laughs. “My mum and dad encouraged me to realise that if you’re unhappy with something, change it.” These passions coalesced with her budding creativity. When she was nine, she wrote her first ever song about saving a farm, where she loved to ride horses and go camping, from development. “The lyrics were like, ‘this is my heart, this is my home, and you’re not gonna take it away from me’,” she remembers.

"To be alive in these times comes with a heavy responsibility."

From there, Holly continued joining the dots between music and advocacy. She recalls being fascinated at her ability to engage with her local federal MP, joining a youth-led movement against coal seam gas mining in the Great Lakes, being “obsessed with Sea Shepherd” and observing Peter Garrett’s career trajectory from Midnight Oil’s charismatic frontman to federal Environment Minister. 

Throughout all of this, the songs kept coming. She released her first album Sugar Mountain in 2018, which nabbed three ARIA nominations, including Best Pop Release and Breakthrough Artist. Her latest album Endless Summer, released in June 2023, is a psychedelic, feel-good, surf-pop journey that belies its lyrical themes of a catastrophically heating climate and the urgent need for action. 

“To be alive in these times comes with a heavy responsibility,” Holly says. “I really respect artists who are stepping up to the plate and trying to define and create anthems for the movements that are going to get us out of the climate crisis.”

As Holly’s music career progressed, so did her ambition to move beyond being a spokesperson to actually getting stuck into systems change. “I've slowly ramped up how I see myself as an agent of change,” she says. This includes her advocacy work for the Voice to Parliament, establishing high-profile climate and community groups and festivals, and spearheading the ‘Our Soundtrack Our Stories’ campaign to get Australian organisations to champion Australian artists (which Bank Australia has happily endorsed). 

"We have this small window of time to affect how the rest of humanity will exist."

Holly is passionate about many social and environmental causes, but the all-encompassing nature of climate change is constantly driving home the need to act. And fast. “According to the IPCC, we have less than 10 years to radically change how we're living on the planet to avoid the worst of the climate crisis and the irreversible damage it will cause to our economies, people and planet,” she says. “We have this small window of time to affect how the rest of humanity will exist.”

Motherhood has made this mission even more urgent. “It’s made the future more real to me,” she says. “Maggie will be 30 in 2050. So it’s made me want to shape my life around the climate crisis.”

A big part of that is using her sizable platform and influence to drive climate awareness and action for younger generations. “I don’t want to just be the entertainment,” she says. “From the get go, I've tried to lend my voice to issues I care about to see what impact I can make in pop culture, where young people generally consume that information. I want to use whatever relevance I have to influence people's understanding of and conversations about climate and the environment.”

Holly also takes direct action in her own life to consume, invest and act more ethically. “I think it's so important to stop and think: ‘What am I doing right now? What decisions am I making? Where am I putting my money? What am I doing with my time?’,” she says. “I don't want to look back when I have grandchildren and think, ‘I had all these things at my disposal, and I didn't use them’. I want to use every single tool in my own shed to change this.”

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Tell us your story by completing the form below, and you could help write the next chapter of our ongoing content series 'How to change the world in 60 seconds'. Through these short documentary style videos, we're featuring Bank Australia customers creating positive change for people, animals and the planet. You can watch the videos and read the articles we've shared so far at bankaust.com.au/changetheworld



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