Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2009
The department provides a range of other services that contribute to all outputs under the outcome structure.
||Policy Coordination Division|
||Australian Government Land and Coasts|
||Corporate Strategies Division|
||Approvals and Wildlife Division|
- Represent the department's interests internationally and provide policy advice for the minister and officials attending international meetings and events.
- Provide economic advice and analysis to the department to inform policy and program development.
- Develop and maintain databases of environmental information to inform policy advice and to monitor progress on environmental protection.
- Communicate information to the public and stakeholders about the government's environment, water, heritage and the arts programs and policies.
- Conduct scientific research programs into improving the understanding of, and response to, environmental challenges.
- Support organisations in conserving and enhancing the natural and built environment.
- Support Indigenous interests in the areas of culture and land management.
- Support the department's compliance and enforcement activities for the 15 pieces of legislation it administers.
International policy advice
The department represents Australia's interests on environment, water, heritage, arts and culture issues, in multilateral and bilateral forums. This work includes formulating policy, contributing to policy discussions and decisions, and providing briefing material to the minister and officials attending international meetings and events.
In addition to active involvement in the range of issue-specific international forums detailed in other chapters of this report, in 2008-09 the department contributed to policy decisions at meetings of: the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development; the United Nations Environment Program; the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); the East Asia Summit Environment Ministers' Meeting; and the Pacific Regional Environment Program. It also engaged in bilateral forums and exchanges with selected countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Deputy Secretary, Water Group, represented the Minister for Climate Change and Water and led the Australian delegation to the 5th World Water Forum held in Istanbul in March 2009. The Forum provided an excellent opportunity to showcase Water for the Future.
United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development is a multilateral forum that promotes dialogue on sustainable development and builds partnerships between governments and stakeholders. The forum held its 17th session in New York from 4-15 May 2009. The meeting's themes were agriculture, rural development, land, drought, desertification and Africa. Australia participated in the negotiation of an agreed outcomes document. Further information on the 17th session's proceedings is available at www.un.org/esa/dsd/csd/csd_csd17.shtml .
United Nations Environment Program
The role of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is to provide leadership and promote partnerships for environmental protection. The department represented Australia's interests at the twenty-fifth session of UNEP's Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held in Nairobi from 16-20 February 2009. A number of decisions were adopted at the meeting covering: chemicals management, including mercury; international environmental governance; and the proposed intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Ministerial-level consultations focused on globalisation and the environment, including: opportunities for promoting "green" growth; international environmental governance; and United Nations reform.
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The department represented Australia's interests in the OECD's Environment Policy Committee (EPOC), which met in February 2009. Discussions included: the environmental dimension of OECD countries' economic stimulus packages; the next phase of the OECD's environmental performance review program; and environment and development. An officer of the department chaired EPOC during 2008-09. The department was also active in several of EPOC's working groups.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
The department led the Australian delegation to the fourth IUCN World Conservation Congress held in Barcelona, Spain from 5-14 October 2008. Issues of particular interest were: whales and other marine-related matters; protected areas; World Heritage; climate change; and Indigenous communities.
In June 2009 the Director-General of IUCN, Ms Julia Marton-Lefèvre, and several of her senior officers, visited Australia. Meetings were held with the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and with senior departmental officers.
Pacific Regional Environment Program
The Pacific Regional Environment Program is the primary intergovernmental environmental organisation working in the Pacific. Its mandate is to promote cooperation and provide assistance to Pacific Island Countries, in protecting the environment and implementing sustainable development. The program has 21 Pacific Island member countries and four countries with direct interests in the region.
The department represented Australia's interests at the nineteenth meeting of the program held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, from 4-12 September 2008. Australia contributed two papers; one on Australia's development of a template for streamlining reporting by Pacific Island Countries; and the other on genetic resources in the Pacific.
East Asia Summit Environment Ministers' Meeting
The East Asia Summit brings together the ten member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, China, Japan, India, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea, to promote policy dialogue and action on key challenges facing the East Asia region. At the third East Asia Summit in November 2007, Vietnam offered to host the inaugural meeting of environment ministers from member countries.
Held in Hanoi, Vietnam in October 2008, the environment ministers' meeting focused on environmentally sustainable cities, in recognition of the diverse and complex challenges faced by Asia's cities. Australia was represented at the meeting by a senior departmental officer.
China: The department hosted a senior delegation from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection in May 2009. Discussions focused on progress and priorities in environmental management in China and Australia, with a particular emphasis on: environmental law enforcement; water management; air pollution control; and controlling marine pollution from land-based sources.
European Commission: A bilateral meeting on environment was held with senior officials of the European Commission's Directorate-General for the Environment, in Canberra in September 2008. Topics included: biodiversity protection; forestry; marine issues; and international environmental governance.
Indonesia: The department continued to collaborate closely with Indonesia through the Australia-Indonesia Joint Working Group on the Environment. Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on 15-16 September 2008, the sixth meeting of the joint working group focused on: deepening co-operation in environmental management in mining; phasing out ozone depleting substances; water resource management; and hazardous waste management.
New Zealand: The department led an Australian delegation that held bilateral environmental discussions with New Zealand, in Wellington in November 2008. Topics covered policy initiatives on: promoting sustainability; cetaceans; biodiversity; oceans; chemicals and waste management; world heritage; sustainable forest management; and regional environmental issues.
Papua New Guinea: The department supported attendance by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts at the Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, in June 2009. Discussions focused on deepening bilateral co-operation on protection of the Kokoda Track and the Coral Triangle Initiative.
Republic of Korea: In August 2008 a delegation of young leaders from the Republic of Korea visited the department to discuss policies on: culture and heritage; natural resource management; renewable energy; and air quality management.
The Economics and Strategic Policy Section provides economic advice and analysis to divisions and work groups in the department. Its task is to assist with the development of policies, programs and advice that take into account environmental, economic and social considerations.
Summary of main achievements
The Economics and Strategic Policy Section contributed to management of the $10 million National Market Based Instruments Pilot Program. Nineteen pilot projects were completed during the program, as well as a capacity building project.
During 2008-09 the section provided advice on the economic values associated with whale watching, world heritage areas and the environmental aspects of water resources in the Great Artesian Basin. It contributed to an international review of a database on the economic values of environmental assets and services, and a review of revolving funds for conservation in Australia. Consultation was provided on the economic aspects of the photovoltaics program. Economic advice was also provided on a range of issues and projects involving: waste management; heritage; biodiversity; marine; water; vegetation; and arts.
The section also provides the primary interface between the department and the Environmental Economics Research Hub, established under the Commonwealth Environment Research Facilities program. The hub's projects will allow access to broad environmental economic research, to support policy and program development. The hub focuses on four themes: establishing markets; climate change impacts; analytical enhancement; and environmental valuation. The research conducted also integrates with the work being undertaken in relevant topic areas within the department. The Hub also began additional work on emerging issues identified by the department.
The development of a National Environmental Information System (NEIS)
The concept of a NEIS is a governance and management model for a long-term solution to managing the collection, analysis, synthesis and coordinated delivery of environmental information.
The role of the NEIS will be to manage environmental information (through coordinating and setting standards for data collection, storage, access, sharing, etc.) and to provide targeted outputs aligned to the information needs of decision makers.
The department is leading the development of a NEIS through:
- chairing an Environment Protection and Heritage Standing Committee-Natural Resource Management Standing Committee Joint Working Group, on Improving Environmental Reporting Systems (JWG)
- Natural Resource Policy and Programs Committee endorsement of a: Needs analysis and vision statement for a NEIS
- engaging and managing a consultant to:
- document and assess the range of environmental information initiatives, and the links among them
- conduct a critical analysis of previous initiatives in co-ordinating the collection, analysis, synthesis and delivery of environmental information, and
- document the current level of investment in environmental information initiatives.
State of the Environment Report
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the minister is required to provide a report on the state of Australia's environment every five years.
The purpose of the State of the Environment (SoE) report is to inform government decision-makers and the community on the state of the environment. The next SoE report must be prepared and tabled by December 2011.
Summary of last report
The third State of the Environment (SoE) report - tabled in parliament in December 2006 - is available electronically on the department's website at www.environment.gov.au/soe/2006/.
The 2006 report emphasised that climate change was an important issue for Australia. Other key concerns included: the increasing individual consumption of natural resources to support the Australian lifestyle and the potential environmental impacts of Australia's continued coastal population growth.
Recognising the limitations of the five-yearly format and the gaps in existing environmental data, a key aim for the next SoE report is to ensure that it is more useful and policy relevant. To achieve this, the department will focus on four key elements that will shape the 2011 SoE process:
- the government will determine the core environmental information needs
- there will be provision for ongoing public access to accurate, up-to-date, environmental data and opportunities for periodic announcements of new, significant environmental statistics
- release of supplementary products - such as discussion papers and topical reports - will occur during the five year cycle, and
- an independent SoE committee will oversee production of the report.
The refinements to the SoE process will:
- increase the frequency with which environmental information is published, analysed and interpreted
- improve public access to up-to-date environmental information
- improve the relevance of SoE reporting for decision makers, and
- improve the basis of environmental decision making, through more frequent reporting on environmental trends.
During 2008-09 the focus was on the planning and early implementation stages of the project. Key elements that have been progressed during this time include:
- establishment of a team to progress the project; and a set of strategic plans, including: the project plan, stakeholder engagement strategy, and communications strategy, to guide implementation of the project
- consultations, internally and externally, on a set of issues to ensure policy relevance and guide the focus of the SoE committee and the 2011 report
- undertaking development of a new information system - to be known as SoE Live - for the management and ongoing presentation of SoE data, information and products
- development of Key Environmental Statistics - the first of a new suite of SoE associated products aimed at informing public comment and debate during the five-yearly SoE reporting cycle. It consists of an annual, web-based publication, featuring data to show change and monitor trends - for release in mid 2009.
Environmental Resources Information Network
The Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN) area manages environmental information on behalf of the department. This includes: collating national datasets on environmental assets and pressures; undertaking extensive analyses; and presenting the results to the department and the Australian community, through maps and interactive tools. The area supports a wide range of the business processes of the department, including administration of major funding programs and the implementation of legislation. In 2008-09 ERIN:
- redeveloped the Ramsar database and the associated Ramsar wetland information system, hosted by the department, to improve the quality and quantity of information available on Wetlands of International Importance. Work being performed includes: improving and standardising information on the spatial boundaries of the sites, and the delivery of high quality and standardised online map products.
- significantly increased the department's capacity to generate distribution maps for threatened and migratory species protected under the EPBC Act . Distribution maps were produced, or updated, for 19 species and 6 threatened ecological communities. Maps for a further 62 species and ecological communities are currently under review.
- developed a map product indicating the number of EPBC-listed species and communities occurring in each 0.05 degree latitude/longitude grid cell, across Australia. This is significant because it is the first product to expose the richness of national environmental significance matters on a national scale.
- commenced the development of regional profiles, which contain information on current and emerging environmental values and threats, in priority regions of Australia
- implemented a strategy to develop a suite of services to present spatial information, via the intranet or internet, that use standardised technologies and components. Work has commenced on progressively migrating all of the department's spatial web-based applications to these generic application modules.
- produced high quality mapping and spatial data analysis and management, to support marine bioregional planning in all Commonwealth Marine planning regions
- collaborated with the states and territories to incorporate improved vegetation data into the National Vegetation Information System, which provides information on the extent and distribution of vegetation types in Australian landscapes
- provided detailed site and location maps to accompany the nomination of Ningaloo Coast and Cape Range, under the World Heritage Convention
- coordinated the development of public web mapping interfaces for a National Historic Shipwrecks Database and Administration system
- provided training and consultancy services in Geographic Information Systems and Land Use planning, for the Papua New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation
- managed the spatial data and developed the online application, for the Renewable Energy Atlas of Australia, launched by the minister in October 2008
- finalised and implemented a 5-year strategic plan for the application of remote sensing within the department and portfolio agencies
The first phase of the CERF program, to run to June 2010, has two main components: the $40 million Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF), for research relating to the Great Barrier Reef, tropical rainforests and Torres Strait; and the $60 million nation-wide research component, comprising the CERF Research Hubs, CERF Fellowships and CERF Significant Projects. Research is advanced, with most projects due to conclude in June 2010.
In addition to MTSRF, the CERF program funds seven collaborative, multi-institutional research hubs designed to foster professional partnerships between researchers, end users and policy makers. Some key results achieved during 2008-09 are:
- The program continued to strengthen the links between research and policy, particularly within the department, through focussing on communication activities that build relationships and understanding; for example, meetings, seminars, workshops and training courses. The annual CERF conference, in September 2008, centred on bridging research and policy, as did the Fenner Conference, organised by two CERF hubs in March 2009.
- The Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRaCK) hub, researching the sustainable use of Australia's tropical rivers and estuaries, has become one of the largest co-ordinated efforts for river management in Australia. The hub now has a well developed capacity for working closely with Indigenous groups, in collaborative, community-supported research, and with the department on the Australian Government's water interests.
- The Landscape Logic hub, with its focus on Tasmanian and Victorian catchments, moved into a knowledge-transfer stage for its earlier research findings and products. It launched a publication series entitled: Briefs for policy-makers, as well as a technical report series on integrated landscape science.
- A project prioritisation protocol (PPP), developed by the Applied Environmental Decision Analysis (AEDA) CERF hub, to prioritise management actions and investment in threatened species recovery, is now being used by the New Zealand Government. It is also under consideration by the Tasmanian government and is being assessed for use by this department.
- The Prediction and Management of Australia's Marine Biodiversity hub, is collating extensive new, and updated, datasets of Australia's seabeds from broad-scale biological surveys.
- The Australian Marine Mammal Centre has made a number of new discoveries, including: recording for the first time, the full pathway of humpback whales from the Australian coast to their feeding grounds near the Antarctic continent; important findings were made about kinship in mass strandings of long-finned pilot whales in Tasmania; and of the dugong distribution and density in Torres Strait was modelled.
- The Environmental Economics Research Hub held its second hub workshop, this year in association with the Australian Agriculture and Resource Economics Society (AARES) Conference. Over the year, the hub produced 20 research reports, and a range of papers for journals, conference workshops and seminars. It continued to work with the department to develop various research projects to support departmental needs.
- The Taxonomy Research and Information Network has developed new web-based interactive tools to identify species of insects and freshwater macro-invertebrates, including a system to help the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to identify insect species coming into Australia. A new rapid assessment system, using ancient DNA, is being used to support the small terrestrial mammal reintroduction program.
Fellowships and Significant Projects
Work was undertaken within the five Fellowships and 10 Significant Projects.
All CERF fellowship recipients made significant research progress. For example, Dr Stephen Hamilton, from Michigan State University, USA, worked in northern Australia with Australian researchers on the hydrology of waterholes. Professor Gene Likens, from the Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, was a key speaker at the 2008 CERF Conference. Dr Likens' work on environmental long-term monitoring was very timely for some Australian Government initiatives currently under development. The new open access software, Bowerbird, developed by Professor Gordon Grigg and Dr Andrew Taylor to monitor and survey biodiversity remotely by using animal sounds at sites, moved into its final stages of testing.
CERF Significant Projects
CERF Significant Projects provided world-class research in a number of important and varied environmental areas, such as: the social attitudes of Australian farmers to environmental management; prioritising investment in Natural Resource Management (NRM) regions; determining the water regimes required to sustain floodplains; the impact of climate change on the spread of the dengue fever-carrying mosquito in Australia; and incorporating climate change projections of severe winds into current building codes.
Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (MTSRF)
The MTSRF Annual Research Plan for 2008-09 contains 50 projects under five research themes: Status of Ecosystems; Risks and Threats to Ecosystems; Halting and Reversing Decline of Water Quality; Sustainable Use and Management; and Enhancing Delivery.
MTSRF research outcomes over the year were considerable. For example: research suggests that on inshore reefs, local areas of good water quality are two to four times less likely to bleach and will tolerate up to two degrees increase in water temperature before serious bleaching occurs, compared to corals in areas of poor water quality. This new knowledge will support the programs and policies in the Marine Division and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, such as the Reef Rescue Package.
e-Reef (previously called 'Reef Atlas') has become an important information portal for environmental research on Australia's tropical, terrestrial and marine, environments.
The third MTSRF research synthesis conference was held in April 2009. It brought together researchers and stakeholders to discuss research progress and information needs, and to foster communication and cooperation between disciplines.
|The extent to which funded projects successfully contribute to furthering Australia's understanding of critical areas of environment research
Establish an evaluation framework for fine-tuning current and future program operations
|All research is publicly available and reported to end-users, through seminars, workshops, publications, and web sites. An evaluation framework was developed for the program and the evaluation will be conducted during 2009-10 to assist with the task of assessing program outcomes.|
|A communication strategy is implemented to ensure policy-research links are being made||The Communication strategy for the program was reviewed and a revised plan implemented.|
|The extent to which the 23 funded CERF research projects/hubs undertake and deliver research, as outlined in contracts
Percentage of projects delivered to a satisfactory result, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the project contract.
|100%. All progress reports that were due during 2008-09 were received. All projects delivered results in accordance with the terms and conditions of the project contract.|
|Number of new projects funded.||In addition to the existing research projects, a further 4 departmental emerging priority projects were approved by the minister and funded during 2008-09.|
The department significantly strengthened its communications capacity in 2008-09, responding to the rapid growth in the portfolio and the development of major programs aiming for energy efficiency reform, through the Energy Efficient Homes Package and the introduction of energy efficient appliances.
The branch made some structural changes in response to the department's new challenges. Public affairs teams worked across the portfolio from within the Communications and Ministerial Services Branch of the Policy Coordination Division, to deliver issues and media management services, and a range of targeted communication strategies.
The year ended with preparatory work for communication of the department's new strategic plan. This included the development of a new corporate look and feel for all departmental publications and products, reflecting the diversity of the department while providing a cohesive and unified brand.
The corporate public affairs team worked closely with the web team, to explore the multitude of opportunities offered by social media. Initial work focused on YouTube presentations on the internet and the first video broadcasts by the Secretary on the department's intranet.
Highlights and milestones
The department ran a successful joint advertising campaign with the Australian Refrigeration Council. The campaign supplied Australians with the information needed to make the right decision when it comes to installing, servicing and/or repairing split-system air conditioners. The campaign involved radio, magazine, press and online (display and search) advertising over a three month period.
Arts and culture
Communications highlights and milestones across the department included the implementation of a communications strategy to establish the brand and promote the inaugural Prime Minister's Literary Awards, for fiction and non-fiction published works. The awards resulted in an increase in book sales for the shortlisted and winning books.
The public affairs team continued to produce the biannual flagship magazine, Artbeat, covering arts and culture news and issues.
Significant achievements in water communications included support for the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator the Hon Penny Wong's tour of the northern Murray-Darling Basin, to meet key stakeholders and promote the Water for the Future initiative.
Stakeholder meetings in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, provided comprehensive briefings on the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's (CSIRO) sustainable yields report. The report predicts an overall decline in water availability due to climate change.
A stakeholder engagement strategy was initiated, to raise awareness and understanding of Water for the Future programs and policies among basin groups.
Materials were prepared to support the launch of the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure irrigation efficiency announcements.
Work began on an education portal to assist teachers and students access information on water, and materials were prepared for public consultation on amendments to the Water Act 2007.
An electronic newsletter, Water Matters, was launched, with initial circulation boosted from 1000 to 1500 in the space of four bi-monthly editions.
Other achievements included: media opportunities around environmental watering events; the Toorale and Twynam water purchases; the River Symposium and OzWater Conference; as well as the potable pipeline launch in South Australia, to help address the plight of the Coorong and Lower Lakes.
The year saw the announcement of the first round of projects receiving funding through the $60 million package for heritage conservation projects, as part of the Australian Government's $650 million Jobs Fund; National Heritage listing of the QANTAS Hangar at Longreach; and the M-24 Japanese midget submarine, declared an historic shipwreck under the Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976.
Caring for our Country
Communications around the Caring for our Country initiative focused on the development of a business plan and communications framework, and a series of joint ministerial events and announcements about the $428 million available this year for environmental projects across the country. Successful events were also held around the $50 million boost to Indigenous Protected Areas.
The main Antarctic Division website, at www.aad.gov.au , provided more than 14 million page views during the financial year; with an estimated 2.5 million visits to the site, from people in 195 different countries around the world.
A new Australian Marine Mammal Centre website was launched in January 2009 at: www.marinemammals.gov.au .
The Antarctic Data Centre continued to provide a wide range of data through their site at: http://data.aad.gov.au .
The Classroom Antarctica website, at www.classroom.antarctica.gov.au , continued to provide information for teachers and students. The new Krillcam video webcam service has been a popular educational tool.
Major AAD initiatives covered in 2008-09 include International Polar Year (IPY) projects:
- Census of Antarctic Marine Life.
- Aliens in Antarctica.
- Solar Linkages to Atmospheric Processes.
Visual artist Stephen Eastaugh was announced as the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow for 2009. He will spend a year in Antarctica, the first Arts fellow to do so.
The Marine public affairs team was established in March 2009. Public affairs teams were involved in ministerial events, such as: the announcement of the proclamation of the Coral Sea Conservation Zone; the release of the East Marine Bioregional Profile; the signing of the Manado Oceans Declaration in Manado Indonesia; and providing support for the 61st International Whaling Commission.
The department supports community environment and heritage groups, through a number of taxation concessions and the Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations program.
The Register of Environmental Organisations is a list of approved environmental organisations. Donations of money or property to these organisations, for the conservation of the natural environment, are income tax-deductible.
During 2008-09 the department assisted 167 organisations interested in applying formally for entry to the Register. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the Assistant Treasurer, Senator the Hon Nick Sherry, approved the listing of 44 organisations and their public funds on the Register. Four organisations and their public funds were removed from the Register, at their request. At 30 June 2009 the Register listed 477 organisations, compared to 437 at 30 June 2008.
Statistics for 2007-08, the most recent available, show that the public donated more than $130 million to tax-deductible environmental organisations to help protect and enhance the natural environment.
The department also maintains an apportionment register. Under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, donors that have donated money or property valued at more than $5,000 to a tax-deductible environmental organisation, or who have entered into a perpetual conservation covenant with an accredited conservation program, may elect to apportion their donation over a period of up to five years, by sending an election form to the department. The department recorded 10 apportionment elections and variations during 2008-09.
Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations
The Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations program assists community-based environment and heritage organisations to meet the administrative costs of their activities.
In the 2008-09 funding round, 370 applications were received and 249 organisations were awarded grants, totalling $1,452,600. Forty-seven groups were granted multi-year funding for three financial years.
Caring for our Country
The Australian Government's Caring for Our Country initiative provides funding for Indigenous communities to deliver environmental outcomes to the Australian Government through the Working on Country, Indigenous Protected Areas and Indigenous Emission Trading elements. These programs contribute to the Australian Government's Closing the Gap agenda.
Working on Country
Working on Country provides jobs for Indigenous people to undertake environmental work to protect, conserve and manage Australia's environment and heritage, while meeting their aspirations for caring for their country.
Working on Country has funding of $90 million over five years, to fund approximately 300 rangers. The program has increased from the initial 14 projects in 2007-08, which contracted approximately 95 rangers; to 31 projects in 2008-09, which contracted approximately 190 rangers.
Projects are located across Australia, with two projects in New South Wales, seven projects in South Australia, four projects in Western Australia, two projects in Tasmania, one project in Victoria, nine projects in Queensland and six projects in the Northern Territory. Additional projects are located in the Northern Territory as a result of a Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) investment of $28 million over three years, to fund an additional 170 ranger jobs across thirty Aboriginal communities. Maps one to three show the geographic spread of current Working on Country projects.
Working on Country will expand in 2009-10 by a further 210 Indigenous ranger positions; made up of 50 traineeships, 60 flexible positions and 100 ranger positions to undertake environmental works on land not held on Indigenous land tenure.
Working on Country continues to provide pathways to jobs in tourism and other natural resource management sectors. For example, the Budj Bim ranger group in Victoria received additional heritage funding for walking and mountain bike paths, and the Martu people in Western Australia have been contracted to provide substantial environmental works, including tasks along the Canning stock route.
Over 125 rangers participated in induction, training and transfer of traditional knowledge activities in 2008-09. These included cultural exchanges between ranger groups, health and safety training, and delivery of Conservation and Land Management certification. Workshops were also held with Indigenous community representatives, to develop tools that will guide them in the steps involved in delivering training to Indigenous rangers. Feedback from rangers and communities on this training initiative has been positive.
The minister made Working on Country project visits in April 2009, meeting the Bardi Jawi ranger group in the Kimberly region, followed by the Budj Bim project in Victoria.
Healthy Country, Healthy People Schedule
During 2008-09 the department continued to implement the government's commitment to improved environmental and Indigenous employment outcomes, under the Northern Territory Healthy Country, Healthy People Schedule (the Schedule).
The Schedule supports Indigenous engagement in the sustainable management of land and seas in the Northern Territory. The cooperative arrangements between the Northern Territory Government, the Australian Government and Indigenous Land Councils, have delivered a clear strategy to guide investments in ranger groups. Seven multi-agency multi-year pilot projects, leveraging $2.5 million, were funded during the start-up phase of the Schedule. In 2007-08 and 2008-09, two significant multi-agency multi-year packages were negotiated. They will provide salaries, training, operational and capital investment for 19 ranger groups, delivered through contracts managed by the Northern Land Council ($16 million) and Central Land Council ($4 million). These groups are delivering environmental and heritage services to governments and providing greater certainty of funding to Indigenous communities.
Indigenous Emissions Trading
On 18 December 2008, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts and the Minister for Climate Change, agreed on the implementation of the commitment to provide opportunities for Indigenous participation in fledgling carbon markets, by establishing the legal framework for the creation of carbon credits from altered fire management. The commitment focuses on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through improved fire management in northern Australia.
The department and the Department of Climate Change (DCC) are working closely to jointly implement the commitment, in particular to ensure the necessary science, accounting, legal and governance measures are in place.
The Northern Savannah Fire Management project under this commitment is being jointly-delivered by the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA), the department and DCC. This component involves research to provide a better understanding of emissions outcomes from traditional savanna burning practices, and the establishment of four large-scale fire management project areas in the savanna regions of: northern Kimberley, central Arnhem Land, western Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria. NAILSMA received $1.24 million in 2008-09 to instigate work on these aspects of the commitment.
A second component to the commitment, the Indigenous Carbon Market Participation and Communications project, provides technical advice and information through workshops with Indigenous groups across Australia, to guide them on carbon abatement and carbon market opportunities.
Indigenous Protected Areas
The Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) element has been running successfully for over 13 years and the government's increase in funding to $50 million over five years (from around $3.1 million per year), will achieve a significant expansion of environmental and cultural outcomes.
The twenty-eight declared IPAs bring over 20.6 million hectares of Indigenous-owned land into the National Reserve System (NRS). The NRS is Australia's network of protected areas conserving our unique biodiversity. For further information about the NRS see Output 1.2 - Land and inland waters.
A further thirty-seven IPA consultation projects have been approved in 2008-09, to initiate or continue consultation and planning processes. These IPA consultation projects have the potential to add millions of hectares of Indigenous owned land and sea country to the NRS.
Indigenous Advisory Committee
In recognition of the role of Indigenous people in the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity, an Indigenous Advisory Committee (IAC) was established in 2000 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The IAC advises the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts on the operation of the EPBC Act, taking into account the significance of Indigenous peoples' knowledge of the management of land and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
The IAC also has a broader function, providing advice to the department on the development and implementation of policies and programs that may impact upon Indigenous people and appropriate ways of engaging and consulting with Indigenous people.
The IAC is made up of members who are Indigenous Australians selected on the basis of their expertise in Indigenous land management, conservation and cultural heritage management.
Indigenous Policy Leadership Group
The roles and achievements of the department's Indigenous Policy Leadership Group are reported in the Managing the department chapter.
Indigenous arts and culture programs
The department's Indigenous arts and culture programs are delivered through a National Network, focusing on cross-government delivery of broadcasting, language and arts and culture Indigenous programs. For further information on indigenous arts and culture programs refer to the Outcome 4 - Arts and Culture chapter.
Indigenous Australians are involved in developing management plans for places with Indigenous heritage significance on the National or Commonwealth Heritage lists. When a place is nominated for inclusion in the National or Commonwealth Heritage lists, and the IAC considers that it may have Indigenous heritage values, the IAC must endeavour to identify the Indigenous people with rights and interests in the place. The minister takes those submissions into account when making a decision about listing the place.
Under the EPBC Act, there are penalties for anyone who takes an action that has, or will have, a significant impact on the national heritage values of a place. Australian governments have a range of laws to protect Indigenous heritage, including the EPBC Act, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 and the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986. For further information about Indigenous heritage, refer to the Output 1.4 - Heritage Chapter and Volume 2 of this annual report.
The department's web sites provide public access to substantial holdings of information. Throughout 2008-09 the department continued to restructure, redesign, and rewrite its web sites to improve public access to online information, notably with Water policy content (www.environment.gov.au/water) and Sustainability Education (www.environment.gov.au/education).
Summary of main achievements
The department successfully integrated the arts and culture related web sites. It also transferred the management of www.climatechange.gov.au to the Department of Climate Change.
With the recent announcement of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, the department will assess our information holdings and implement recommendations from the Taskforce as they apply to the portfolio.
The department continues to monitor and improve its online content, by working towards implementation of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 standards.
Web site statistics
During 2008-09 there were over thirteen million visits to the department's web sites. The most popular was the main web site at www.environment.gov.au, with more than eight million visits.
The department administers 15 pieces of legislation with compliance and enforcement responsibilities, encompassing a diverse range of environmental themes.
Table 1 lists some some significant enforcement outcomes of the year.
Table 2 lists international conventions and treaties under which the Australian Government has compliance and enforcement obligations, activities subject to regulation by the department, and the relevant legislation.
The department's commitment to compliance and enforcement is highlighted by the fact that, during the year, the department:
- sampled in excess of 4000 examples of various commodities covered by its legislation
- assessed over 1700 potential breaches of departmental legislation, for compliance action
- administered over 5200 seizures of specimens, and
- introduced an infringement notice regime, to strengthen one of its regulatory schemes.
|$45,000 fines||Part 7, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999||Residential development at Mission Beach, Queensland|
|$121,000 fine||Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000||Supply of ethanol blend petrol without the required labelling and automotive diesel exceeding maximum permissible levels of sulphur|
|$20,000 over 4 years under Enforceable Undertaking||Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999||Clearing of important habitat for a listed threatened species at Barunah Plains, Victoria|
See the chapter on Output 1.5 - Human Settlements for further details on enforcement outcomes during 2008-09.
Governance and Capacity Building
Internal governance on compliance and enforcement matters is achieved through the Compliance Executive Committee (CEC) and the Compliance Operational Network (CON). The CEC sets departmental policy and direction for compliance activities, and the CON gives operational effect to CEC directives. CON also ensures ongoing links between areas in the department with direct compliance responsibilities.
This year also saw consolidation of the department's Compliance Support Unit, which ensures the department has the appropriate policies, procedures and administrative systems in place to provide general support for whole-of-department compliance activities.
Steps taken to improve compliance and enforcement governance included:
- implementation of a centralised governance framework for the appointment of authorised officers (Inspectors and Wardens), in line with legislation administered by the department
- development of a Strategic Plan for Compliance and Enforcement
- review of departmental Compliance and Enforcement Policy
- development of robust whole-of-agency procedures for criminal history checks and handling exhibits, and
- refinement of case management processes, to ensure transparency of compliance and enforcement operational decision making.
Activities undertaken to build compliance and enforcement capacity within the department included:
- establishment of a secure exhibits storage facility
- establishment of a secure operations planning room
- trial establishment of a small centralised intelligence capability
- facilitation of environment-specific compliance and enforcement training courses (including Nationally Accredited Certificate IV qualifications), and
- reviews of enforcement aspects of departmental legislation.
Engagement with Other Agencies
The department has remained engaged with international bodies, such as: the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE); the International Policing Organisation (INTERPOL), through its Environmental Crimes Committee; and the environmental compliance assurance project of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Australian Government represents the Oceania Region in relation to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). As part of these responsibilities, the department, together with CITES Secretariat Enforcement staff from Geneva, hosted and delivered training at the CITES Capacity-Building Workshop on Enforcement, which included participation from Oceania member countries.
The department is also a major contributor to the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network (AELERT). AELERT was launched in 2004, to promote cross-jurisdictional information sharing and cooperation, on environmental law enforcement and regulation. It provides a forum for environmental compliance and enforcement practitioners from all tiers of government in Australasia. It now has over 40 member agencies, with at least one agency in every jurisdiction. This year the department played a lead role in bringing AELERT under the auspices of the broader Council of Australian Government (COAG) framework.
|Legislation||Typical Commodities/Activities||International Obligation|
|Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981||Disposal at sea.||1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter 1972 (London Protocol)|
|Sea Installations Act 1987||Structures in Commonwealth Waters|
|Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999||Activities in Commonwealth National Parks, Commonwealth Marine Reserves or affecting the environment on Commonwealth Land or in Commonwealth waters.
Actions having a significant impact on listed protected species, ecological communities, marine species, migratory species, wetlands of international significance, World Heritage Areas, National or Commonwealth Heritage.
|The Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (1979) (Bonn Convention)
The Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (1974) (JAMBA)
The China-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement (1986) (CAMBA)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat Ramsar (Ramsar Convention)
Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention)
International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling
|Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act 1980
Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980
Australian Antarctic Territory Act 1954
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Act 1953
|Activities in Australia's Antarctic Territories.||Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Madrid Protocol)
Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources
|Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986||Australian moveable cultural items; relics and fossils subject to bilateral treaties.||UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property|
|Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000||Motor fuel contamination|
|Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989||The export or import of hazardous waste, including electronic waste.||Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (Basel Convention)
Convention to Ban the Importation into Forum Island Countries of Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes and to Control the Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within the South Pacific Region (Waigani Convention)
|Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989||The importation, handling and disposal of ozone depleting gases and equipment/appliances containing them.||Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer
|Historic Shipwrecks Act 1976||Activities affecting historic shipwrecks including relics previously obtained from wrecks.||Agreement between the Netherlands and Australia concerning old Dutch shipwrecks|
|Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005||The sale and installation of water using appliances and plumbing fittings.|
|Water Act 2007||Management of the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin, and other matters of national interest on water and water information.|
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