Media release

Australians’ right to a healthy environment at risk

Sunday, 7 April 2024

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Australians’ right to a healthy environment at risk if national nature law reform fails

With this year’s World Health Day theme “My Health, My Right”, BirdLife Australia, Australia’s leading bird conservation organisation and Doctors for the Environment are calling on the Albanese Government to recognise the critical link between effective environmental laws and human health.

Critically endangered Swift parrot perched on branch
Critically Endangered Swift Parrot. Image by John Barkla.

The Federal Government is in the process of reforming Australia’s Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC). BirdLife Australia and Doctors for the Environment are jointly calling on the Government to seize this opportunity to ensure Australia’s environmental legislation will lead to better protection and restoration of the environment which will deliver health benefits for the Australian community.

“In 2022 the United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone has a right to a healthy environment but right now Australia’s environment is not as healthy as it should be,” said BirdLife Australia National Public Affairs Manager Sean Dooley.

“The latest Threatened Bird Index revealed a 60% decline in threatened Australian bird populations in less than 40 years. Clearly, Australia’s nature laws are not working.”

“To turn that trajectory around we need to fix Australia’s nature laws in this term of government.”

“Birds are a barometer for the health of the environment that our health depends on. We also know that people feel happier in places where there is a greater diversity of birds. When birds and nature are doing well, we all benefit.”

Doctors for the Environment Executive Director, Dr Kate Wylie says that protecting nature protects us. A healthy environment is critical to the health of people and communities.

“Two years ago the United Nations declared that having a healthy environment was a human right. They called on states to step up efforts to tackle environmental degradation as one of the most pressing threats to humanity’s future.”

“We are increasingly hearing dire warnings about our environment, and yet there remains a lack of reflection on the consequences for human health. That inaction is costing the health of many Australians.”

“Weak nature laws affect our access to clean water, air and the healthy soils we need to grow our food. Healthy ecological systems protect us from pandemic zoonotic diseases, like Covid and Hendra viruses.”

“A healthy environment is also important for our mental wellbeing. We know that time in nature improves our mood and reduces anxiety, and also improves hypertension.”

“Together with Birdlife Australia, we acknowledge human dependence on nature and want to see nature laws that do the job of protecting the environment for the health of all Australians.”

BirdLife Australia Media Enquiries: Please contact James Johnson on 0423 659 324 or at media@birdlife.org.au.