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Department of the Environment and Heritage Annual Report 2003-04

Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004
ISSN 1441 9335

Glossary - Frequently used terms

Accrual accounting is the system of accounting where items are brought to account and included in the financial statements as they are earned or incurred, rather than as they are received or paid.

Administered items are expenses, revenues, assets or liabilities managed by agencies on behalf of the Commonwealth. Administered expenses include grants, subsidies and benefits, and may fund the delivery of third party outputs. For example the Department administers appropriations for the Australian Government's Natural Heritage Trust to provide grants. This annual report refers to appropriations for administered items as 'administered appropriations'.

Additional estimates is a process where the Parliament may appropriate more funds to portfolios if the amounts appropriated at Budget time are insufficient.

Appropriations are authorisations by the Parliament to spend monies from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Two appropriation Bills are introduced into Parliament in May and comprise the Budget. Further Bills are introduced later in the financial year as part of the additional estimates.

Biodiversity in essence means the variety of life. The term 'biodiversity' is a contraction of, and synonymous with, biological diversity. The term 'biological diversity' is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on Biological Diversity to mean 'the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems' (a similar definition appears in the glossary to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands available at Apparently this term was first defined in 1980 to include two related concepts, genetic diversity (the amount of genetic variability within species) and ecological diversity (the number of species in a community of organisms). In terms of the diversity between species, so far about 1.75 million species have been identified, with estimates of the total number of species ranging from three to 100 million. Apparently the contracted form 'biodiversity' was coined in 1986. See the glossary of terms related to the Convention on Biological Diversity available on the Internet at

Bioregion in essence means a geographic area characterised by a combination of physical and biological characteristics - for example, terrain, climate and ecological communities. The glossary of terms related to the Convention on Biological Diversity (available on the Internet at provides the following definition: 'a territory defined by a combination of biological, social, and geographic criteria, rather than geopolitical considerations; generally, a system of related, interconnected ecosystems'. The term 'bioregion' is a contraction of biogeographic region and is usually synonymous with that term. The glossary to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (available at provides the following definition of 'biogeographic region' in relation to wetland management: 'a scientifically rigorous determination of regions as established using biological and physical parameters such as climate, soil type, vegetation cover, etc.' Bioregions are a useful way to analyse patterns of biodiversity. The definition of a particular bioregion depends on the scale at which its characteristic features are measured. Examples include the Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (see and Interim Marine and Coastal Regionalisation for Australia (see

Corporate governance is the process by which agencies are directed and controlled. It is generally understood to encompass authority, accountability, stewardship, leadership, direction and control.

Departmental items are assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses that are controlled by the agency in providing its outputs. Departmental items would generally include computers, plant and equipment assets used by agencies in providing goods and services and most employee expenses, supplier costs and other administrative expenses incurred. This annual report refers to appropriations for departmental items as 'departmental appropriations'.

Ecologically sustainable is used to describe activities that meet present needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs, because of damage to the environment. For example, ecologically sustainable development is 'using, conserving and enhancing the community's resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased' (source: National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development, available at Ecologically sustainable use of natural resources means 'use of the natural resources within their capacity to sustain natural processes while maintaining the life-support systems of nature and ensuring that the benefit of the use to the present generation does not diminish the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations' (source: Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999).

Ecological communities are 'any naturally occurring group of species inhabiting a common environment, interacting with each other especially through food relationships and relatively independent of other groups. Ecological communities may be of varying sizes, and larger ones may contain smaller ones' (source: the glossary to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, available at In the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 they are 'assemblages of native species that inhabit particular areas in nature'.

Ecosystem services or ecological services are 'ecological or ecosystem processes or functions which have value to individuals or to society' (source: glossary of terms related to the Convention on Biological Diversity, available at The term encompasses the range of resources and services provided by the natural environment and the life forms it contains. It is often used to characterise services that are fundamental to the economy but that are not traded or priced because historically human intervention was not needed to maintain them. For example, the environment naturally provides services such as decomposing wastes, pollinating crops, absorbing carbon dioxide and maintaining habitat for useful animals and plants. It also produces resources such as oxygen, fresh water, fertile soil, fish, timber, and pharmaceuticals.

Expense is the total value of all of the resources consumed in producing goods and services.

Financial results are the results shown in the financial statements of an agency.

Integrated natural resource management is a way to ensure that uses of natural resources are ecologically sustainable. It is 'integrated' because it attempts to manage all the activities that could affect natural resources, taking natural processes into account as well. It combines managing uses of natural resources with conservation. To do this it cuts across artificial distinctions such as government agency responsibilities, government or property boundaries, industry sectors and scientific disciplines. In defining management areas it gives priority to natural over human boundaries, for example using river catchments or bioregions as the primary basis for planning and management.

Outcomes are the results, impacts or consequence of actions by the Australian Government on the Australian community. They are listed in agencies' portfolio budget statements and portfolio additional estimates statements. Actual outcomes are the results or impacts actually achieved.

Outputs are the goods and services produced by agencies on behalf of the Australian Government for external organisations or individuals. Outputs also include goods and services produced for other areas of government external to an agency. In practice, most of the Department's current outputs are expressed in broad terms linked to major environmental themes (see 'Outcome and output structure' in the 'Departmental overview' part of this annual report).

Price is the amount the government or the community pays for the delivery of agreed outputs.

Purchaser-provider arrangements are arrangements under which the outputs of one agency are purchased by another agency to contribute to outcomes. Purchaser-provider arrangements can occur between Australian Government agencies or between Australian Government agencies and state or territory government or private sector bodies.

Revenue is the total value of resources earned or received to cover the production of goods and services.

Special appropriations are monies appropriated by Parliament in an Act separate to an annual Appropriation Act, where the payment is for a specified amount. For example, the Department receives special appropriations under laws that require industry to pay a levy on the import of ozone depleting substances. Special appropriations are not subject to annual budget control by the Parliament, unlike the annual appropriations.

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