The Environmental Defenders Office is proud to announce its new national team, bringing together scientific and legal experts across the country to provide best-in-class legal services to its clients in Australia and the Pacific.

The new team is carefully designed to ensure we retain a local presence in key communities around the country, improve service provision to vulnerable Australians around environmental law, and enhance our capabilities to tackle our greatest environmental challenges at a national level.

EDO’s legal work will take place within three major organisational programs – the Healthy Environment & Justice Program, the Systemic Change Program and the First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program.

Healthy Environment & Justice Program

The Healthy Environment & Justice Program, led by Nicole Sommer, is our national program centred around providing environmental legal services to those who most need it through our eight offices across the country.

For 30 years Environmental Defenders Offices have been providing free and low-cost legal services on environmental matters to clients around the country, including farmers, landholders, community organisations, Traditional Owner groups, and other people.

The new Healthy Environment & Justice Program will ensure EDO’s vital tradition of maintaining direct, local grassroots connections with communities around Australia remains a key element in its overall mission to create a world where nature thrives.

This program will work with communities to ensure a safe and healthy environment, and achieving the human right to a healthy environment. This program is driven by concepts of environmental justice and working to shift the power imbalance from those placed at disproportionate risk of environmental harm and those shut out of the system.

We recognise that the right to life and health includes the right to a healthy environment, and that in Australia those burdens are placed disproportionately on First Nations people and marginalised communities. Recognising the link between health, life and culture, our lawyers will work with Aboriginal communities to protect Country and culture. We will strategically combat pollution risks and legacy, to protect communities from harm, and our waterways and land for current and future generations. Recognising that chief among those environmental risks is climate change, this Program will work with the Safe Climate team on adaptation and redress for climate impacts.

Our lawyers will work at the grassroots to empower communities to participate in decision-making, protect against key risks to biodiversity at a local level, and provide access to services for peaceful protest.

Operating out of Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Hobart, Cairns, Canberra, Perth and Sydney, the Healthy Environment and Justice Program will operate a national intake service to connect prospective clients directly with local offices and ensure our legal services are targeted to the communities that need it most.

Key Personnel

Nicole Sommer – Director

Melissa Ballantyne – Managing Lawyer, South Australia

Revel Pointon – Managing Lawyer, Southern & Central Queensland

Stacey Ella – Managing Lawyer, Northern Territory (relieving Gillian Duggin, currently on maternity leave)

Tim Macknay – Managing Lawyer, Western Australia

Claire Bookless – Managing Lawyer, Tasmania

Kirstiana Ward – Managing Lawyer, North Queensland

Rana Koroglu – Managing Lawyer, New South Wales, ACT (Acting)

Julia Grix – Managing Lawyer, Citizen Representation Program

Jasper Brown – National Intake Solicitor

Systemic Change Program

A fundamental driving motivation for the merger of eight Environmental Defenders Offices at the end of 2019 was the recognition that as a single, unified organisation we would be better placed to tackle the environmental challenges facing us at a national level.

To reflect this, EDO has created a new Systemic Change Program to unite our national work across three major pillars – Safe Climate, Freshwater and Biodiversity – as well as encompassing our law reform, international and education and outreach programs.

Led by Elaine Johnson, this team will focus on delivering strategic legal services to protect and enhance our environment for current and future generations.

The work of this team will bring together our ground-breaking litigation work on coal, gas and Australia’s iconic ecosystems and species, our pivotal investigative work on crucial waterways like the Murray-Darling Basin, our work with international partners in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, as well as our law reform initiatives on vital pieces of environmental legislation and policy.

It will also include our legal outreach and education work, critical for developing the next generation of environmental defenders, and providing key legal resources to empower local communities and other professionals to use the law to create positive environmental change at a grassroots level and beyond.

Key Personnel

Elaine Johnson – Director

Brendan Dobbie – Managing Lawyer, Safe Climate (Gas and Corporate)

Sean Ryan – Managing Lawyer, Safe Climate (Coal and Human Rights)

Andrew Kwan – Managing Lawyer, Biodiversity

Dr Emma Carmody – Managing Lawyer, Freshwater

BJ Kim – Managing Lawyer, International Program

Rachel Walmsley – Head of Policy & Law Reform

Jemilah Hallinan – Head of Legal Education

First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program

EDO recognises that a key part of achieving environmental justice in Australia is the central place of First Nations and Indigenous Peoples across all facets of the organisation’s work. EDO aims to support First Nations and Indigenous Peoples to protect their Country/Land, and centre understanding of and respect for their perspectives in our work.

EDO is regionally-focussed, working in the Australia-Pacific region, and partners with local organisations in the Pacific to advocate for the rights of local and Indigenous communities in the environmental context. The Program is intended to work across the region, and we have used Indigenous Peoples to refer to our work in the Pacific and First Nations to refer to the Australian context.

To advise on the achievement of that goal we have issued an invitation to tender to suitably qualified people, a collective of people or an organisation to assist in the program design of our First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program. Our First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program Working Group will guide this work while the Program is in development.

First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program Working Group

Fleur Ramsay – Chair

David Morris – CEO

Nicole Sommer – Director, Healthy Environment and Justice

Kirstiana Ward – Managing Lawyer, Cairns

Lauren Butterly – Senior Solicitor

Wotna Mori – Solicitor

Daniel Thompson – Paralegal

We look forward to providing an update on the development of that crucial program as it moves forward.

Working alongside the Systemic Change Program, the Healthy Environment & Justice Program and the First Nations and Indigenous Peoples Program will be the national Science & Expert Advisory Program, directed by Megan Kessler.

For a complete list of staff and roles, visit the Our People page of the EDO website.