Driving dialogue on sustainability

Oxfam Australia CEO Helen Szoke speaking at a panel on opportunities for Australia from implementing the SDGs

Oxfam Australia CEO Helen Szoke speaking at a panel on opportunities for Australia from implementing the SDGs

A major workshop organised by the Monash Sustainability Institute (MSI) and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Australia/Pacific branch has called on the Australian Government to initiate a national dialogue on the United Nation’s soon-to-be-finalised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Australia.

The national workshop, on Implementing the SDGs in Australia’, involved almost 100 leaders and experts from academia, business, civil society, and federal, state, and local government. A statement drafted by workshop participants is calling on all sectors of Australian society to embrace the principles of sustainable development and support the implementation of the goals nationally and internationally.

Held in Melbourne in May, the workshop was part of a three-year initiative run by the SDSN Australia/Pacific and MSI to determine how the SDGs should apply in Australia. SDSN is a global network of universities and other organisations that mobilises scientific and technical expertise in support of sustainable development. Monash University, through MSI, was chosen in 2012 to host the SDSN Australia/Pacific.

Participants discussed the relevance of the SDGs for Australia and how they could be communicated broadly, opportunities for Australia from implementing the SDGs, the roles and responsibilities of different sectors in implementation, and what concrete next steps Australia needs to take. Participants also heard from many leading national and international thinkers, including Professor Jeffrey Sachs who heads up the global SDSN group. The statement recognises the relevance of the SDGs to the development challenges facing Australia and in particular to its Indigenous communities.

MSI Chair and former Victorian Deputy Premier, Professor John Thwaites, said the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – which will replace the UN’s Millennium Development Goals from 1 January 2016 – would provide Australia with an opportunity to build a thriving, long-term future and lead the way as a good international citizen.

“Monash academics have played a key role in identifying Australia-specific targets for the Sustainable Development Goals and in choosing appropriate indicators to monitor progress,” Professor Thwaites said.

The workshop follows an event earlier in the year on how Australian businesses can engage with the SDGs, which SDSN Australia/Pacific and MSI organised jointly with the UN Global Compact Network Australia in February 2015.

“[Monash] have really shown the way as to how the SDSN can help to set the SDGs at the national (and metropolitan) level in each country,” Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the UN SDSN said. “We are promoting inception sessions in many places… [and] drawing inspiration and guidance from your work.”

Download the full workshop statement (PDF 131kb) at the MSI website.