The structure of the Portfolio changed through the Administrative Arrangements Order announced by the Prime Minister and approved by the Governor-General on 14 September 2010 and 14 October 2010. Machinery of Government changes resulted in new responsibilities in relation to sustainability, population and communities and the transfer of the Arts and Culture component of the Portfolio to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Other changes included:
- the change of the Portfolio name and department name from the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
- the transfer of housing supply and affordability policy matters from the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs to the department
- the transfer of sustainable population matters from the Department of the Treasury to the department
- the appointment of the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Honourable Tony Burke MP, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator the Honourable Don Farrell.
The department’s mission has broadened from:
- Protecting and enhancing Australia’s environment, heritage and culture
- Advancing a sustainable Australia: our environment, water, heritage and communities.
In 2010–11 the department supported the minister and parliamentary secretary in their policy and statutory functions. The department, minister and parliamentary secretary developed and implemented national policy, programs and legislation to protect and conserve Australia’s environment, water and heritage, and to advance Australia’s activities in the Antarctic.
In addition the department provided advice on sustainability matters, consistent with the expanded portfolio responsibilities. These sustainability matters include a number of important challenges that directly affect households, communities, businesses, industries and the natural environment, including:
- helping to protect Australia’s unique biodiversity
- improving how water resources are managed, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin
- adapting to the impacts and challenges of climate change
- contributing to Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage
- developing a national sustainable population strategy
- contributing to affordable housing access.