Failing our wildlife

Why Victoria’s wildlife protection laws need to be modernised

The challenges facing Victoria’s native wildlife are immense. Our wildlife are in the gun-sights of rapidly accumulating extinction and climate crises. Our laws are hindering and enabling the problem, not confronting it or overcoming it.

The Victorian Environment Minister announced there will be a review of the Wildlife Act 1975 (Vic) in 2021. This announcement occurs in the context of egregious incidents of the killing of protected native wildlife and controversy over the effectiveness of the Act.

The Wildlife Act has not previously been reviewed. The Act is the product of incremental, ad hoc changes to laws governing both native and non-indigenous fauna over the past century. It has its origins in very old laws governing hunting, with concerns over conservation and care for native species built into the scheme since 1975.

Generally, the law is outdated, not driven by clear policy or science, and its administration is mired more in obscurity than good

Establishing a clear critique of the existing Wildlife Act is necessary in order to move to what should replace it, including what wildlife law should be aiming to do and the means by which it undertakes that task.

The main areas on which this report focuses are:

  • why we need new wildlife laws, reflecting contemporary circumstances, attitudes and knowledge;
  • the manner in which the Act manages destruction and ‘take’ of large numbers of protected native wildlife;
  • anomalies in the meaning of ‘wildlife’ under the Act;
  • ambiguity in the legal status of wildlife under the Act;
  • the unhelpful structure and language of the Act;
  • shortcomings in regulatory arrangements for wildlife and habitat protection under the Act;
  • the absence of strong scientific foundations and transparency in decision-making;
  • the absence of an effective regulator under the Act; and
  • outdated arrangements for sanction and compliance under the Act.