The Commissioner's role
The Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability for Victoria provides independent scientific reporting to inform policymakers, scientists, and the wider Victorian community on the state’s natural environment and support ecological sustainable development.
The Commissioner is an independent statutory role and is a Governor in Council appointment. The Commissioner provides advice to the Minister for Environment The Hon. Ingrid Stitt MLC and prepares statutory reports according to the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Act 2003 (refer below) and/or referred through other Acts.
Dr Gillian Sparkes AM was appointed as Victoria’s third Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability in 2014.
Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Act 2003
In 2003, the first Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability was appointed after the Victorian Parliament passed the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Act 2003. As per the Act, the objectives, functions, and reporting obligations of the Commissioners are outlined below.
Independent and objective scientific reporting to inform the Victorian community, policy-makers, scientists on the state’s natural environment.
Objectives of the Commissioner
The Act 2003, requires the Commissioner to:
(a) report on matters relating to the condition of the natural environment of Victoria;
(b) encourage decision making that facilitates ecologically sustainable development;
(c) enhance knowledge and understanding of issues relating to ecologically sustainable development and the environment;
(d) encourage sound environmental practices and procedures to be adopted by the Government of Victoria and local government as a basis for ecologically sustainable development.
Functions of the Commissioner
The functions of the Commissioner are to—
(a) prepare the Report on the State of the Environment of Victoria;
(ab) prepare a report on—
- the environmental condition of Yarra River land; and
- how the environmental condition of Yarra River land has changed since the last report on Yarra River land;
(ac) prepare a report on—
- the environmental condition of the Great Ocean Road coast and parks; and
- how the environmental condition of the Great Ocean Road coast and parks has changed since the last report on the Great Ocean Road coast and parks;
(b) conduct, once every 2 years, strategic audits of, and prepare reports on, the implementation of—
(i) environmental management systems by Agencies and public authorities; and
(ii) the MSA conservation outcomes by the Secretary to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning;
(c) audit public education programs relating to ecologically sustainable development and advise the Minister as to the effectiveness of the programs in encouraging the community to adopt ecologically sustainable development principles and practices;
(d) advise the Minister in relation to any matter relating to ecologically sustainable development or the implementation of the MSA conservation outcomes referred to the Commissioner by the Minister under section 10(2);
(da) prepare and make a State of the Marine and Coastal Environment Report under the Marine and Coastal Act 2018 if requested under that Act;
(db) make a report on the progress of a Biodiversity Strategy under section 18D of the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988;
(e) administer this Act.
Commissioner’s reporting obligations
The Commissioner will prepare the following statutory reports for Victoria to 2024.
‘State of’ environment reports 2021-2024
- State of the Environment 2018 Report: Biodiversity Update – completed in 2021: View the news article including the link to this report.
- 5-yearly State of the Marine and Coastal Environment Report – completed in 2021: View the news article including the link to this report.
- 5-yearly State of the Environment Report – to be tabled 2023. This will also include a report on the outcomes of environmental watering (Action 3.6, Water Plan) and a report on Victoria’s Biodiversity 2037 targets.
- 5-yearly State of the Yarra and its Parklands Report – to be tabled 2023
- 5-yearly State of the Forests Report – due 2023
- 5-yearly State of the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Report – due TBC
Strategic Audit Reports
- Annual strategic audits of Environmental Management Systems in Victorian government agencies
- Biennial reports on the implementation of Melbourne Strategic Assessment conservation outcomes – from October 2022.
Specific environmental incidents
Specific environmental incidents or situations are managed and reviewed by either the Environment Protection Authority, Victoria or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning or other appropriate government agency. The Commissioner can be directed by the Minister according to section 10 of the Act.
Commissioner's Reference Group
The Commissioner may, subject to the approval of the Minister, establish a Reference Group for the purpose of providing advice to the Commissioner, in respect of the performance of the Commissioner’s functions.
The Reference Group is comprised of non-government members, identified and invited by the Commissioner, with a range of interests and expertise that support the Commissioner.
The members represent a broad range of interests including environmental and industry associations and/or representatives, traditional owner and community, local government, energy and primary industries.