Who we are

Environmental Justice Australia are the environment’s legal team. We use our technical expertise and practical understanding of the legal system to protect nature and defend the rights of communities to a healthy environment. 

We also work at the systemic level to develop and argue for the laws and policies essential for a sustainable future.

We act as advisers and legal representatives to the environment movement.   We work with community based environment groups, regional and state environmental organisations and larger environmental NGOs, providing strategic and legal advice to support their campaigns. 

We take cases to court, providing expert legal representation in cases that protect the environment and the health of communities, that test the boundaries of existing laws and support environmental campaigns.

We don’t just look to appeal rights under existing environmental laws.  We also seek out new and innovative ways to tackle environmental problems.

We also recognise that achieving change through the courts has its limitations.  That’s why we campaign to improve our legal system.   Through our research, report writing, and participation in public debate we seek to defend current environmental protections, improve their implementation, and to make the case for new legal solutions to environmental problems.

Environmental Justice Australia was formerly the Environment Defenders Office (Vic)


 

Our Mission

We will use the law to protect and restore Australia’s environment. We will work to achieve better environmental laws that truly protect our environment, for the benefit of all Australians. We will ensure that our communities can have a real say in decisions about our environment.

Read our constitution (PDF, 168KB)


 

Our Team

Brendan Sydes

When Brendan joined what was then the Environmental Defenders Office (Victoria) as CEO in 2004, there was just one staff member: him. Since then he’s overseen a transition to a legal fighting force with eight staff members and a clear vision to be the environment’s legal team.

Brendan holds a University of Melbourne law degree and an MA in Environmental Science. He lectures in environmental law at Melbourne University, is on the board of the Victoria Law Foundation. He is President of Connecting Country, a landscape restoration initiative.

A keen birdwatcher, Brendan also built his own straw brick eco-house outside Castlemaine.

Brendan leads the team at Environmental Justice Australia, a not-for-profit legal practice dedicated to justice for people and the planet.  Under Brendan’s leadership, Environmental Justice Australia has grown to become an effective force for change, contributing legal and strategic expertise to the environment movement and grassroots campaigns on issues ranging from air pollution to nature conservation and corporate accountability. 

With deep roots in the community legal centre movement since his university days and as a former chair of Victoria’s Federation of Community Legal Centres, Brendan has a strong commitment to combining social justice and environmental advocacy.   

Brendan holds a University of Melbourne law degree and an MA in Environmental Science. He lectures in environmental law at Melbourne University, is on the board of the Victoria Law Foundation. He is President of Connecting Country, a landscape restoration initiative.

 


Nicola Rivers

Nicola is our Director of Advocacy and Research, working to improve environmental laws.

Her work on our clean air campaign has seen her engaging with grassroots environment groups and local communities around Australia to protect our right to clean air. She has also lead our advocacy on a range of issues such as Victorian climate and water law, and national biodiversity laws.

Prior to joining our team, she worked as a senior lawyer with the Environment Department of Western Australia. She has also worked for the Federal Attorney General’s department and as a policy officer for the Federal Environment Department. Nicola is a Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership.

Not content with being named after rivers, in her spare time, Nicola heads up the Riparian Project, which uses art as a communication tool to raise awareness about river health. LinkedIn

 


 

Bruce Lindsay

Lawyer Bruce researches and writes on topics from environmental offsets, water law and native vegetation clearing. He also engages with community members and stakeholders on our campaigns, and leads our Yarra River Protection Act campaign.

As well as his law degree, Bruce holds a PhD in Administrative Law, a BA (Hons) in Political Science & Government, and a Masters of Environmental Science. He has previously worked as a student advocate, a project officer at Trust for Nature and a lecturer in Law at Deakin University.

He’s involved in several community initiatives in his hometown of Geelong, including running the local Field Naturalists Club and coaching the under 10 YMCA basketball team.

 

 


 

Ariane Wilkinson

As a lawyer for Environmental Justice Australia, Ariane uses her legal expertise to advise and act for communities impacted by fossil fuel extraction and the impacts of climate change, and advocates to reform Australia’s laws to make sure they protect the right of all Australians to clean air, clean water and a safe climate future. 

Before joining our team, Ariane practiced law in the not-for-profit legal sector in Queensland, advising clients on environmental and human rights law, and representing traditional owners in native title negotiations with energy and resources companies.  She also worked in private practice for top-tier law firms as a planning and environment lawyer and legal researcher in environmental litigation and major project approvals.  She was also a judge’s associate in the Supreme Court of Queensland and the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland. 

Ariane holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Bachelor of Science (Environment) and in 2013 was the Griffith Law School nominee for the Griffith Arts, Education and Law Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year. LinkedIn

 


 

David Barnden

David is a lawyer specialising in issues relating to finance and climate. He is an experienced litigator following six years prosecuting successful shareholder and consumer class actions at Maurice Blackburn. Previously he was employed by the Financial Services Authority (UK) and BankTrack (Netherlands). In addition, David spent two years at the Centre for Human Rights and Environment (Argentina) working on both public and private finance issues for the Uruguayan pulp mill case.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management).

 

 

 


 

James Whelan

James Whelan is an activist educator committed to building powerful social movements that bring about social and environmental justice. James has worked with small and large civil society organisations including Greenpeace, Amnesty International and the Wilderness Society on campaigns to protect forests, promote clean air and uphold human rights. He has also been a researcher, research manager and lecturer at several Australian universities, publishing widely on popular education and social movements, participatory democracy and environmental politics. He has spoken at national and international conferences.

James’ community and academic passions blend in his work as director of the Change Agency, a not-for-profit which provides education, training, facilitation and action research support for social change groups in Australia and the Pacific. James has facilitated campaign planning, decision-making and evaluation workshops and meetings with hundreds of social movement organisations in the Australia-Pacific region, working with groups of up 1000. He lives in Newcastle, on the land of the Awabakal people.

 


 

James Murray

Fundraising & Development

James’ role at Environmental Justice sees him managing fundraising and development, including regular appeals, regular giving, membership and philanthropic relations.  He is a strong advocate of using fundraising not only to raise funds, but as a tool of engagement and broader organisational support.

Previously, James has worked within the Fundraising & Marketing Team at Bush Heritage Australia, overseeing the Supporter Relation Team. In a past life, he worked as an economic analyst.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics), a Post Graduate Diploma (Commerce), and a Masters of Environment (Environmental Governance, Policy and Communication).

 


 

Sarah Brugler

Sarah is an environmental lawyer specialising in implementation and reform of nature protection laws. She is currently working to improve nature protection laws in Victoria, as well as engaging with a network of organisations focusing on nature protection laws across Australia.

Prior to joining EJA Sarah worked for ClientEarth, a European environmental law organisation. Sarah was part of ClientEarth’s biodiversity program, based in London. She monitored the implementation of European nature protection laws in the UK, with a specific focus on whale and dolphin conservation and the designation and management of marine protected areas.

Sarah began her legal career as a commercial lawyer with Henry Davis York (Sydney) and then with Eversheds LLP (Cambridge).

Growing up in near the ocean in Sydney, Sarah is passionate about protecting the biodiversity of Australia’s marine environment and Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

 


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