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 provides advice to the Minister for Environment The Hon. Steve Dimopoulos MP and prepares statutory reports according to the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Act 2003 (refer below) and/or referred through other Acts.

The Commissioner is an independent statutory role and is a Governor in Council appointment. Helen Vaughan PSM is Victoria’s Interim Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability. Helen is appointed in accordance with section 11 of the CES Act and will serve a six-month term as Interim Commissioner.

Previous Commissioner’s include most recently Dr Gillian Sparkes AM from 2014, who served as Commissioner for a decade, over two reporting periods. Dr Kate Auty served from 2008 and Dr Ian McPhail served from 2003.

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.

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.

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 Biodiversity Update 2021 Report: delivered, view the article and report link.
  • State of the Marine and Coastal Environment 2021 Report: delivered, view the article and report link.
  • 5-yearly State of the Environment Report – tabled in Parliament in 2023, view report. Includes reporting as required under Action 3.6, Water Plan, and Victoria’s Biodiversity 2037 Plan
  • 5-yearly State of the Yarra and Its Parklands Report – tabled Parliament in 2024
  • 5-yearly State of the Forests Report - due 2024
  • 5-yearly State of the Great Ocean Road Coast and Parks Report – to be tabled 2024
  • 5-yearly State of the Marine and Coastal Environment Report - to be tabled 2024

Strategic Audit Reports

  • Biennial strategic audit of Environmental Management Systems in Victorian Government agencies
  • Biennial report on the implementation of Melbourne Strategic Assessment conservation outcomes

Other statutory obligations

Specific environmental incidents

Specific environmental incidents or situations are managed and reviewed by either the Environment Protection Authority, Victoria or the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action 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.

View the Reference Group members

Independent and objective scientific reporting to inform the Victorian community, policy-makers, scientists on the state’s natural environment.