Environmental Education for a Sustainable Future: National Action Plan

Environment Australia, July 2000
ISBN 0 642 546 665

Implementing a National Framework for Environmental Education Activities

National Action Plan

Raising the Profile of Environmental Education

National Environmental Education Council

Environmental education deserves to have a profile in the community which accords it the same priority as other fundamentally important social and economic issues.

One way to raise its profile is to involve eminent and expert Australians in advising the Commonwealth Government on the appropriateness of current approaches and future directions. A National Environmental Education Council comprising experts in environmental education in different sectors as well as eminent community leaders will therefore be established to provide advice to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.

The Council will maintain an overview of Australia's environmental education programs with a view to identifying priority environmental education issues and research needs. It will work to promote a coordinated national approach.

The Council will provide advice on the environmental education activities of the Federal Environment and Heritage Portfolio and, in particular, recommendations to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage on the further implementation of the National Action Plan.

In addition to a coordinating and advisory role, the Council will be a catalyst for raising the profile of environmental issues in all sectors of the community.

The Terms of Reference of the Council are at Appendix A.

Australian Environmental Education Foundation

The Commonwealth Government will establish an independent Australian Environmental Education Foundation in an Australian university. The Foundation will advance scientific knowledge and capability in relation to the Australian environment and to ensure that knowledge and understanding informs the decisions of communities, corporations and governments. Such knowledge, capability and understanding is essential if we are to ensure the sustainable use of the planet's resources.

The Foundation will mobilise and focus the nation's intellectual resources to position Australia as an international leader and newsmaker in environmental issues. Its focus will be global and strategic and its character Australian.

The Foundation's Mission will be to ensure sustainable stewardship of the Australian environment as a precious national and human inheritance and to enhance the capacity of Australians to contribute to enlightened global environmental consciousness and management.

The Australian Environmental Education Foundation will develop strategic alliances with educational, business, community and government organisations to ensure that its Charter is fully realised. Eminent Australians and leading organisations, along with the Chair of the National Environmental Education Council, will be represented on the Foundation's Board of Management.

Through the creation and sharing of knowledge, the Foundation will seek to secure:

  • an informed Australian electorate that empowers governments to develop appropriate and effective policies in relation to the environment;
  • community and consumer support for, and participation in, practices that deliver a sustainable future for the Australian environment;
  • development of resources for scholarship, research, teaching and learning for environmental education and management at all levels in Australia and the world;
  • a strategic focus for Australian environmental research and development within the broad context of world science;
  • a culture of environmental best practice and innovation in Australian institutions and professions and their associates around the world;
  • understanding among other peoples and governments of the Australian environment and Australian positions on environmental issues; and
  • international cooperation in creating a sustainable future for humanity.

The Charter of the Australian Environmental Education Foundation is at Appendix B.

Communicating the Importance of Environmental Education

Environment Australia will continue to promote the importance of environmental education in ensuring that Australia has a sustainable future. Its communications activities will focus in particular on the popular media, given its impact on community attitudes, specific sectors such as business and industry, and other Commonwealth agencies.

Improving the Coordination of Environmental Education Activities

Both the National Environmental Education Council and Australian Environmental Education Foundation will help to improve the current level of coordination of environmental education in Australia. Other initiatives are set out below.

Australian Environmental Education Web Site

Environment Australia will upgrade its existing environmental education web site that provides access to a range of environmental education material. The web site will be promoted more to ensure it operates effectively as a resource for quality environmental education materials.

Commonwealth, State and Territory Environmental Education Network

The Commonwealth will promote the establishment of an effective Commonwealth, State and Territory inter-governmental environmental education network, drawn from representatives of environment and education departments.

Environment Australia Environmental Education Working Group

An Environmental Education Working Group will be established within Environment Australia to better coordinate environmental education across the Portfolio, develop an Environment Australia environmental education policy and identify priorities. Market research and evaluation of Environment Australia's environmental education initiatives will also be coordinated through the Working Group.

Improving the Quality of Environmental Education Resource Materials

The Commonwealth intends to achieve this by:

  • the establishment of the Australian Environmental Education Foundation;
  • upgrading Environment Australia's environmental education web site;
  • undertaking more market research and evaluation of Environment Australia's own environmental education products;
  • encouraging more collaboration between the Commonwealth, State and Territories on environmental education programmes and products.

More Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers in the Formal Education Sector

Professional development opportunities for teachers are fundamental to improving the quality of environmental education in the formal education sector. To be confident in their skills as environmental educators, teachers need adequate training, a wide range of quality resources and materials and effective leadership and support from schools and school systems.

The Charter of the Australian Environmental Education Foundation includes the provision of professional development and a program of Environmental Education Fellowships for teachers in the formal education sector and others involved in environmental education.

More Integration of Environmental Education Principles into Mainstream Education (Including Tertiary Level Education) and Vocational Training Activities

There is a clear mandate for environmental education within Australian schools. In April 1999 Commonwealth, State and Territory Education Ministers agreed to the Adelaide Declaration on National Goals for Schooling in the Twenty-first Century. The Declaration states that, by the time they leave school, all students should "have an understanding of, and concern for, stewardship of the natural environment, and the knowledge and skills to contribute to ecologically sustainable development."

The Commonwealth will pursue further integration of environmental education into mainstream curricula through the activities of the Australian Environmental Education Foundation and the National Environmental Education Council, and by developing partnerships with tertiary bodies including bodies involved in vocational training.

With respect to vocational training, Environment Australia will seek to establish a partnership with the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA) to develop generic environmental competency standards and National Training Protocols.

Increasing the Resources Available to Community Organisations Involved in Environmental Education

Environment Australia Grants Programs

The guidelines of all funding programs administered by Environment Australia will include provision for the funding of environmental education projects.

Natural Heritage Trust Training Program

A training program for coordinators and others involved in Natural Heritage Trust programs will be implemented to enhance the skill levels of those involved in the biggest environmental rescue effort ever implemented in Australia.