History of the Supervising Scientist

Establishment in 1978

The position of Supervising Scientist was established in 1978 under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 following the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry (RUEI) which ran from 1975 to 1977. This was also known as the 'Fox Report' after Mr Justice Fox who chaired the inquiry. The inquiry considered the environmental impacts expected to occur as a result of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, and recommended ways to minimise those impacts. It found that mining could proceed, without unacceptable environmental impacts, and delivered its final recommendations in 1977. Included in those recommendations was the establishment of the Kakadu National Park, and the creation of the position of Supervising Scientist to oversee the environmental aspects of mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region.

First Supervising Scientist

On 25 August 1977, the Australian Government accepted the Inquiry's recommendations, announcing that a Supervising Scientist would be appointed to fulfill the role stipulated by the RUEI. The first Supervising Scientist, Mr Robert Fry, was appointed on 29 June 1978. The Office of the Supervising Scientist (OSS) was established at Bondi Junction in Sydney during 1979 and a research facility, the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute (ARRRI) was established at Jabiru adjacent to the Ranger mine site.

The enabling legislation for the Supervising Scientist, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978, was amended in 1993. The amendments allowed the Supervising Scientist to advise the Minister for the Environment on matters outside of the Alligator Rivers Region, modified the consultative arrangements in place in the Alligator Rivers Region, and altered the way in which the Supervising Scientist was appointed. As a result, OSS became a branch of the Environment Protection Agency of the then Commonwealth Department of the Environment (now the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts) and moved from Sydney to Canberra. Mr Fry retired, and Mr Barry Carbon, Executive Director of the Environment Protection Agency became the second Supervising Scientist in February 1994. At the same time the ARRRI was renamed the Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist (ERISS) and its role expanded to undertake research relevant to its expertise, principally into wetlands management.

Following Mr Carbon's resignation in late 1996, Dr Peter Bridgewater was appointed to the position of Supervising Scientist in June of 1997. Shortly thereafter, OSS was renamed the Uranium, Mining, Audit and Review Branch (UMARB) and moved from the Environment Protection Group to become a branch of the Supervising Scientist Group (SSG) within the Department of the Environment and Heritage. SSG was later renamed Science Group when the functions of Chief Science Advisor to the Environment portfolio were taken on by the Supervising Scientist and the group acquired the unit responsible for State of the Environment reporting.

Dr Bridgewater retired as Supervising Scientist in 1998. In June 1999 Dr Arthur Johnston, previously Director of ERISS, was appointed as Supervising Scientist. Since that time UMARB was renamed OSS with all functions of OSS previously based at Canberra relocated to the Darwin office. In August 2000, the Science Group also changed to the Supervising Scientist Division (SSD). OSS and ERISS are both part of SSD.

Move to Darwin

In July/August 2002, the majority of ERISS and OSS staff moved to a new purpose-built office and laboratory facility located at Darwin Airport. A small contingent of staff remain based in Jabiru, operating from the Jabiru Field Station. These staff continue with the environmental monitoring program work and provide support services for other field research programs.

Dr Johnston retired from the position of Supervising Scientist on 21 October 2005 and Mr Alan Hughes was formally appointed as his successor on 19 January 2006.

See also