State of the Environment
Photo: Aerial view of the Pilbara, Western Australia, by Andrew Griffiths, Lensaloft.
Roles and responsibilities of the independent committee
Australia State of the Environment (SoE) 2011 was produced independently by a committee of experts, in a manner similar to the 1996, 2001 and 2006 reports. The committee was tasked with: • assisting the department to determine a list of key topic areas to address in the SoE 2011 report and an appropriate structure for the report • producing the SoE 2011 report, including a summary of main findings – drawing on various sources of reliable data, input from other independent contributors and comments by independent reviewers and the department • providing advice and updates as requested by the Minister • providing updates, comment and advice to the department as requested by the chair of the departmental SoE executive panel or their delegate • assisting with promoting and disseminating the SoE 2011 report and other products, and • throughout the process of developing and promoting the report, advocating for accurate, robust and meaningful environmental reporting and identification of policy issues, but not for any particular policy position. The chair of the committee was also responsible for: • providing strategic direction to the SoE 2011 Committee in an efficient and effective manner in order to provide the Minister with a report on the State of the Environment by the deadline in 2011, and • maintaining relationships with other relevant bodies concerned with environmental reporting and representing the committee as requested by the chair of the departmental SoE executive panel or their delegate.
State of the Environment 2011 Committee
The Minister for the Environment is required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to table a report in Parliament every five years on the national State of the Environment (SoE). The report constitutes a comprehensive assessment of the environment in terms of its current condition, the pressures on it, the drivers of those pressures, its resilience, the risks that threaten it as well as management responses and their impact. These are brought together into an overall assessment of the outlook for our environment. An executive panel in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities determined the overarching process for conducting SoE reporting. The report itself was written by an independent committee, appointed by the Minister for the Environment in October 2010. In the past, the SoE Committee has been pivotal in ensuring the independence, scientific credibility and overall quality of the reports. As such, the 2011 report was produced independently by a committee of experts, in a manner that built on the strengths of the 1996, 2001 and 2006 reports. Chairman Thomas (“Tom”) Joseph Hatton Ph.D PSM is the Director of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship. He was previously Director of the agency’s Water for a Healthy Country Flagship. He has 25 years of research experience in ecohydrology and catchment hydrology and has led significant environmental research projects across Australia. He was awarded the Inaugural National W.E. Wood Award for Scientific Excellence in Salinity R&D in 1999. For his work leading the Murray-Darling Sustainable Yields Assessment, he was awarded the CSIRO Chairman’s Medal for Research Excellence. His contribution to water and environmental research was recognised with the Public Service Medal in the Australia Day Honours 2008. Members Steven Cork Ph.D is an ecologist and futurist who spent 25 years at CSIRO researching the ecology of Australian and North American mammals and the interactions between biodiversity and human welfare. He led CSIRO’s Ecosystem Services Program (1998-2002) and played a key role in writing the scenarios for the World’s ecological futures for the United Nations’ Millennium