4613.0 - Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends, 2007  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/01/2008   
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Contents >> Introduction

Image: waratahINTRODUCTION


Many current approaches used when discussing issues on the environment divide environment into component areas of concern, e.g. biodiversity, land, water, air. While this approach is intuitive and useful, and largely mirrors the way in which environmental welfare is publicly administered, its success is partly dependent on the extent to which information can be re-integrated to provide a cohesive picture of Australia's environment and environmental trends. Certainly, when policy makers, environmental practitioners or researchers seek information, their focus is on complex environmental issues which often cut across such areas. For example, to usefully inform on an issue such as salinity, a researcher would need to bring together data relating to soils, agricultural activities, water, biodiversity, and vegetation; and data on drinking and irrigation water may also be relevant. Thus, Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends aims to bring together data from a wide range of statistical collections, and to present these data from an issue and trends driven perspective. More specifically, Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends aims to:
  • Inform decision-making, research and discussion on environmental conditions in Australia, environmental issues of current and ongoing concern, environmental pressures of interest, and changes in these over time – by drawing together up-to-date environmental data and analysis from both ABS and other official sources, and incorporating readily understood commentary about the statistics.
  • Support the monitoring and review of progress towards environmental goals, changes in environmental conditions, and levels of environmental pressures and responses – by presenting a range of issues and trends on a regular basis.


Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends 2007 comprises two main parts, a feature article (the issue) and trends. The first part, a feature article, explores an issue of environmental concern. The issue chosen for this year is water. Articles aim to provide relevant statistical facts surrounding the issue, together with context and explanation through highlighting relevant environmental developments. It is the intention that the topic will change every edition, with some topics refreshed as new data become available. Thus, each edition will remain responsive to contemporary concerns and a more comprehensive picture of Australian environmental conditions will accumulate across editions.

The second part, the trends section, is broken into five discrete areas that encapsulate major environmental indicators of interest to Australians. These are: Population and urban trends, Human activity trends, Atmosphere trends, Water trends, and Landscape trends. The main data sources used in the trends sections are included at the bottom of the tables and graphs or referenced at the bottom of each page.

A key aspect of the publication is its readability. Information is deliberately presented in non-technical language that can be readily understood by the general reader. Statistics are organised to illustrate specific issues and to highlight the meaning behind the data, and the main patterns and exceptions.

Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends complements the ABS publication, Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP, cat. no. 1370.0). MAP presents a suite of indicators for reporting on economic, social and environmental progress and considers the interrelationships between these aspects of life. MAP 2006 used six headline indicators across three headline dimensions to discuss progress in the health of the environment: the natural landscape (biodiversity, land, water), air and atmosphere, and oceans and estuaries. In addition, MAP presents a number of supplementary and other indicators.

It should be noted that there is no definitive set of indicators that encapsulate progress in the environmental domain. Any suite cannot fully reveal the total picture of Australia's environment. Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends extends both the breadth and depth of the environmental investigation presented in MAP.

Looking at indicators is useful for the following:
  • evaluating conditions and trends
  • comparing places and situations
  • offering early alert information
  • anticipating future conditions and trends
  • evaluating conditions in relation to certain policy goals.

The indicators included in Australia's Environment: Issues and Trends 2007 have been chosen to strike a balance between considerations of approachability, technical precision and the availability and quality of data. The indicators used in this publication have been selected on the basis that, as far as possible, they should be:
  • relevant
  • supported by timely data of good quality
  • available preferably as a time series to see if changes are significant over time
  • summary in nature
  • preferably capable of disaggregation by, say, geography or population group
  • intelligible and easily interpreted by the general reader.

Data gaps and data inconsistency present problems in many areas of environment analysis. For example, water quality is measured in many states and territories, but not on a comparable basis.

Where data have not been kept current or updated in the past five years, generally they have been omitted for this year's publication, but may be re-introduced in a later edition if the data are updated and available as a time series.

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