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Publications archive - Ecologically Sustainable Development


Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Are We Sustaining Australia? Report Against Headline Sustainabilty Indicators

Environment Australia, 2002
ISBN 0 642 54771 8

Purpose and Organisation of Report

The indicators in this Report aim to measure national performance against the core objectives of the NSESD.

The NSESD commits all Australian governments to the following three core objectives:

For each of these objectives, a set of "values" has been identified, each value representing one key aspect of the objective. The first objective has been divided into two sections: direct aspects of individual and community well-being (including aspects of environmental well-being) and aspects of economic development (including aspects of natural resource management). The values identified for each of the objectives are as follows:

To enhance individual and community well-being and welfare ....

  1. living standards and economic well-being
  2. education and skills
  3. healthy living
  4. air quality following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations

  1. economic capacity
  2. industry performance
  3. economic security
  4. sustainable management of water
  5. sustainable management of forests
  6. sustainable management of fish
  7. sustainable management of energy
  8. sustainable management of agriculture

To provide for equity within and between generations

  1. economic and gender equity
  2. economic and educational equity
  3. economic and health equity
  4. locational equity

To protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support

  1. biodiversity and ecological integrity
  2. climate change
  3. coastal and marine health
  4. freshwater health
  5. land health

Collective desirable trends against all of the values identified against an objective would be generally indicative that the objective is being achieved.

Additionally, three contextual indicators relating to population issues have been identified. These indicators do not, of themselves, indicate performance against the values identified for each objective, but they do provide the context in which the "value" indicators need to be read.

This Report is organised to reflect the values which have been identified as relating to each core objective of the NSESD. A rationale for the inclusion of the value against that objective has been provided. For each value, one or more indicators has been identified. The rationale for selection of the indicator, along with any explanation of what the indicator means, if needed, is given. An explanation of what the data themselves mean, and any useful elaborative or trend information relating to the data is then provided.

A list of supplementary indicators which may provide check points for whether the indicator is giving the whole story is also provided, but data against these supplementary indicators are not provided in this report.

Summary of Headline Sustainability Indicators

Contextual indicators: Population
Total Australian (resident) population
Australian population growth rate
Proportion of the resident population living in urban areas
Proportion of the total resident population who are working age (15-64)

Main Set

  1. Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (GNI = GDP less net income paid overseas)
  2. Gross per capita disposable income
  3. Percentage of people aged 25-64 who have attained upper secondary and/or post secondary level qualifications including vocational training
  4. Disability adjusted years life expectancy (DALE)
  5. Number of occasions where concentrations of pollutants exceeded NEPM standards for ambient air quality in major urban areas
  6. Total SOx, NOx and particulate emissions
  7. Multi-factor productivity (Gross product per combined unit of labour and capital)
  8. Real GDP per capita
  9. (i) National Net Worth (ii) National Net Worth per capita
  10. (i) Surface water units within 70% of sustainable yield (ii) Ground water management units within 70% of sustainable yield
  11. Total area of all forest type
  12. Percentage of major Commonwealth managed harvested wild fish species classified as fully or under fished
  13. (i) Renewable energy use as a proportion of total (ii)Total renewable and non-renewable energy use
  14. Net value of rural land (Interim indicator - Agreed indicator: "net value of agricultural land use" not yet available)
  15. Adult female full time (ordinary time) average weekly earnings as a proportion of adult male full time (ordinary time) average weekly earnings
  16. Percentage difference in the year 12 completion rate between bottom and top socio-economic decile
  17. (i) Percentage difference in burden of life years lost due to disability between bottom and top socio-economic quintile. (ii) Percentage difference in burden of life years lost due to mortality between bottom and top socio-economic quintile
  18. Percentage difference in the year 12 completion rate between urban and remote locations
  19. Extent and condition of native vegetation, freshwater habitats, coastal habitats, estuarine habitats and marine habitats including extent to which represented in reserves and non-reserve systems. Actual indicators used:(i) Proportion of (354) bio-geographic sub-regions with greater than 30 per cent of original vegetative cover (ii) Proportion of (354) bio-geographical sub-regions with greater than 10 per cent of the sub-region's area in protected areas
  20. Number of extinct, endangered and vulnerable species and ecological communities. Actual indicators used:(i) Number of extinct, endangered and vulnerable species (ii) Number of endangered ecological communities
  21. Total net greenhouse gas emissions
  22. Estuarine condition index - proportion of estuaries in near pristine or slightly modified condition
  23. Proportion of assessed sites which are with high in-stream biodiversity, based on macro-invertebrate community structure (Interim indicator - Agreed indicator: "river condition index" not yet available)
  24. Catchment condition Index - proportion of assessed catchments that are in moderate or good condition