Watershed court victory against VicForests

There were emotional scenes inside the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal this week as environment groups gathered to hear the judgement in their latest legal fight against VicForests.

In November 2022, VicForests was found to have been logging in breach of environmental protections in a landmark court win by Environment East Gippsland and Kinglake Friends of the Forest.

These decisions halted logging in large swathes of Gippsland and the Central Highlands, where endangered Greater Gliders and Yellow-Bellied Gliders live.

With state resources behind it, VicForests appealed the ruling that it had breached Victorian legislation by endangering Greater Gliders and Yellow-Bellied Gliders in its logging practices.

With so much hinging on the outcome of the appeal, the court room was packed with citizen scientists, conservationists, campaigners and journalists.

In the end, the delivery of the judgement took just a few minutes. There were tears and cheers in the courtroom as the Judges dismissed the appeal, upheld the original verdict, and awarded costs to the community groups. 

The community groups were represented by Barrister Jonathan Korman and Oakwood Legal.


The full judgement is available online but in essence, the Court upheld the findings of the trial judge that VicForests’ logging practices did not comply with the precautionary principle and its reckless logging practices threatened the gliders’ survival. 

The precautionary principle means that scientific uncertainty should not be relied upon as a reason to postpone efforts to reduce threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage. The Court ultimately found that VicForests‘ application of the precautionary principle fell “well short” of what was required to protect gliders from harm, having regard to the science. 

“For decades, VicForests has tried to write their own rules, but today’s decision shows they’re not above the law.”

— Jill Redwood, Coordinator of Environment East Gippsland

Mushrooms on a branch

Strategic litigation

Along with increasingly severe bushfires, these and other court cases by community groups were a key factor in the Victorian Government’s decision to bring forward the end of native forest logging to 1 January 2024.   

Cases were also run by Gippsland Environment Group, Wildlife of the Central Highlands, Warburton Environment, Friends of the Leadbeater Possum and the Flora and Fauna Research Collective Inc. 

The coordinator of Environment East Gippsland, Jill Redwood, said the court win had been decades in the making. 

“Litigation is an expensive and risky undertaking for small community groups, but our decision to turn to the law has been vindicated, “she said.  

“The end of native forest logging has brought with it a sense of relief, but also grief, anger, and sadness for all that has been senselessly lost.” 


President of Kinglake Friends of the Forest, Sue McKinnon, said the court win vindicated the efforts of citizen scientists who conducted night surveys for gliders in areas that were about to be logged.

“We told the regulator, the Department of Environment, that VicForests was breaking the law,” Ms McKinnon explained.

“The regulator did not believe us or refused to regulate, so we took it to court. The court agreed with us. They have been breaking the law over these two vast areas.”


Despite the win, environmental groups were quick to point out that Victoria’s forests are still at risk from logging.

Just this week, the state logging agency announced the addition of 184 new coupes in their Timber Release Plan to ‘allow for flexibility’. There are also concerns VicForests will keep logging under the guise of ‘fire management.’ and ‘community forestry’.

‘We are determined to keep fighting for the forests that are still on the chopping block so places like the Wombat Forest and Mount Cole can’t be cut down by VicForests in the name of fire management,” Ms Redwood said. 

While we celebrate this remarkable court win, Environmental Justice Australia will keep working on behalf of our clients to make sure the forests are protected until the end of native forest logging and beyond.

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