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A wildflower, representing an example of Australia's biodiversity

Diversity of perspectives increases confidence in environmental regulation

Australia’s natural environment and resources are unique. We live on one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth and rely on natural resources for an important part of the country's wealth and identity. It is vital that we responsibly manage the land and water we live on and around. The Department of the Environment and Energy is responsible for regulating the use of Australia’s natural environment to reduce harm, promote the conservation and sustainable use of Australia’s natural resources, and ensure community and industry energy needs are met.
Co-design workshop with a wide range of stakeholders

In 2016, an independent review of its regulatory maturity and capability identified that the Department lacked a consistent voice and coordinated approach. The review recommended the Department develop a framework to underpin its regulatory practice and describe its shared role and principles.

The Department asked ThinkPlace to help develop a Regulatory Framework to improve the understanding of what it regulates, its role in relation to others, its regulatory principles and approach, and how it will evaluate and improve.

We took a co-design, user-centred approach. Co-design enabled the Department to work with stakeholders from across government, industry, advocacy and community groups, acknowledging their role as important players in the regulatory system rather than passive spectators or commentators. We invited participants to create and refine the content that was most useful to them, reflecting their diverse perspectives and experience.

Including such a broad range of people within the design process was a change from the Department’s traditional consultation process. But we knew from experience that including them early would create a Framework that was well understood and developed with multiple perspectives in mind.

Working with the Core Design Team, we developed a common understanding of how and what the Department regulates. Taking a risk-based approach, we defined what matters most when making regulatory decisions. We developed clear roles for different government agencies and a plan for communicating with stakeholders.

Working alongside the Department, we tested versions of the Framework with internal and external reference groups, to ensure it made sense and met its intending purposes.

This iterative co-design process produced a Regulatory Framework that outlines how the Department will be an effective, responsive and trusted regulator. It describes how the Department does its regulatory work and guides how it communicates with the regulated community.

Including people from other government departments, industry, advocacy and community groups within the co-design process gave the Department confidence in the Framework’s ability to improve understanding of the Department’s role in environmental and energy regulation. The result is a document that reduces confusion and increases public confidence in regulatory decisions.

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