The Environmental Defenders Office gives everyday people access to the justice system and empowers communities to find legal remedies for their environmental problems.

Law Reform

EDO lawyers and scientists are expert advocates for strong environmental laws to protect our communities and wildlife.  We are the respected and informed voice on the law as it relates to the environment in Australia and the Pacific. We advise governments and communities, and influence the development of critical legislation.

EDO regularly makes submissions on policy and legislation. Click here to see some of our past submissions.

Outreach

We aim to empower communities to participate effectively in decisions that affect them and the places they love.

Our legal information is delivered by lawyers who specialise in plain English communication and helps people have their say in public consultations, identify unlawful behaviour and challenge unwelcome or unhealthy developments.

Our outreach lawyers deliver community workshops and produce a range of written resources to demystify the law and help communities use the law to protect their environment.


Our special programs support our legal advice, court cases and policy development work. 

Aboriginal Engagement

Our Aboriginal Engagement Program delivers the full range of our legal services to Aboriginal peoples and communities, strengthening our relationship with existing Aboriginal clients, and helping to establish new relationships by promoting our services to Aboriginal communities.

Read more about our work in Aboriginal Engagement & cultural heritage.

International Program

Our International Program builds the capacity of lawyers in the South Pacific to protect the environment through the law.

We work with organisations in a number of Pacific countries – including Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – to tackle a range of issues such as climate change, threats to marine environments, forestry and mining. 

The objectives of the International Program are:

  • To enhance the capacity of local communities, individuals and organisations to achieve environmental conservation and sustainable development outcomes through legal mechanisms.
  • To raise the profile of environmental law at national and regional levels.
  • To promote the values of public participation and good governance and to empower the community to achieve better outcomes through the informed use of the law.
  • To build partnerships and networks for information-sharing and collaboration to maximise the effectiveness of capacity building work in the region.
  • To increase access to justice by working with diverse groups within the community, particularly women, disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
  • To increase understanding in Australia of the environmental and development law issues facing other countries in the region, and to develop support for and avenues for engagement in EDO NSW’s capacity-building activities among the Australian community.

Read about our history Solomon Islands bauxite mine case

Citizen Representation

The right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly is a fundamental principle of a liberal democracy, set out in several international human rights treaties.

EDO’s specialist citizen representation lawyers give people advice and information about the laws that regulate environmental protests.  Our lawyers can also provide representation to those who have been charged with criminal offences at protests. 

Scientific Program

In 2003, we established a scientific advisory service to provide objective scientific and technical advice to clients on public interest environmental law.

A key aim of the scientific advisory service is to increase public capacity to participate effectively in the environmental planning and development assessment process.

The scientific advisory service comprises:

  1. In-house environmental science advice, led by Scientific Director Dr. Megan Kessler.
  2. A Technical Advisory Panel of academic experts who provide strategic advice to EDO on scientific issues on a pro-bono basis. 
  3. An Expert Register, of over 150 scientific and technical experts in a range of fields who assist EDO from time to time on a pro-bono (volunteer) basis.

When to get scientific advice

Scientific and technical information plays a significant part in environmental law. For example, environmental planning relies on scientific information to determine where to best place development and where to best protect land, while environmental impact assessment relies on consultants and other technical specialists to predict and minimise the impacts of developments.

Examples of when scientific advice could help you include:

  • Investigating the impacts of a proposed development on the environment and preparing a submission to government on the adequacy of an environmental impact assessment.
  • Investigating compliance with conditions of approval for a development or with environmental legislation for an activity such as forestry operations or land clearing on private land.
  • Gathering information to support your views in relation to a development or to influence a change in environmental policy or law.
  • Considering Court proceedings for environmental cases.

Extensive scientific assistance will only be available for matters that meet our advice or casework guidelines e.g. It must be a public interest environmental issue involving a real threat to the environment. 

It’s important to come to us as early as possible, as it may take some time to work through key issues. However, you should note the expertise you require may not be covered by the Expert Register and that members of the register provide their time free of charge and may not always be available.

For more information on the scientific advisory service, please contact Megan Kessler, Scientific Director, on (61 2) 9262 6989 or at [email protected]