The Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group was established in February 2023 and provides advice to the Australian Government on the transition to a more circular economy.
The Advisory Group provides advice through the Minister for the Environment and Water on:
- opportunities associated with Australia’s circular economy transition (nationally, and within specific sectors)
- regulatory, commercial and other barriers to a more circular economy
- best practice initiatives that show promise for adoption and/or expansion in Australia
- circular economy research, development and innovation needs
- effective measurement and communication about progress towards Australia’s circular economy.
The Advisory Group is taking an evidence-based approach to its advice, with recommendations grounded in research and consultation.
The Advisory Group consults widely ahead of each meeting to ensure it understands the relevant barriers, trends and opportunities for Australia’s transition. For example, stakeholder roundtables have been held with the building and construction industry and the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors.
The Advisory Group also seeks advice from independent experts, invites topical experts to attend meetings, and welcomes and considers submissions ahead of each meeting.
Submissions to the Advisory Group
The Advisory Group welcomes submissions from stakeholders summarising the barriers, trends, and opportunities relevant to each topic in its workplan. Succinct, big picture, solutions-based input with supporting evidence will be most impactful.
The Advisory Group especially welcomes examples of Australian innovation and excellence.
Submissions can be provided at any time via the secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prior to each meeting, the Advisory Group considers contemporary research on relevant topics. The group has also commissioned several studies to inform its advice to government. Examples include reports on:
- The carbon benefits of a circular Australian economy
Will identify circular economy opportunities with the strongest potential to reduce carbon emissions in Australia.
- Australia’s comparative and competitive advantages in transitioning to a circular economy
A report identifying Australia’s advantages and opportunities in the workforce, industry, research and innovation; and Australia’s international partners who complement and increase circularity of our material supply chains.
- Critical minerals in the circular economy
A report examining international policy developments, identifying opportunities and challenges for Australia’s critical minerals industries, and considerations for policymakers to create a domestic circular economy for critical minerals.
Advisory Group meetings
The Advisory Group’s workplan encompasses sectors and cross cutting issues that are the biggest opportunities for driving Australia towards a circular economy. The workplan is up to the end of 2024, when the Advisory Group finishes its tenure.
The Advisory Group provides recommendations to the Minister for Environment and Water after each meeting. These focus on opportunities requiring direct and immediate intervention.
The Advisory Group workplan:
For its inaugural meeting, the Advisory Group identified priorities and developed a forward workplan. The Advisory Group also discussed the major challenges and opportunities facing Australia’s circular economy.
At its second meeting, the Advisory Group held discussions on opportunities and issues focussing on circular design and the consumption of products. With an estimated 80% of a product’s environmental impacts locked in at the design stage, design was identified as a critical intervention point for the group to consider.
Key topics considered by the Advisory Group included:
- Product design not accounting for environmental impacts.
- Challenges for consumers when making sustainable product choices.
- The skills and workforce implications of the transition and how to support greater circularity of businesses more broadly.
- Australia needs an ecosystem of enablers to support circularity.
The 2022 Global Circularity Gap Report modelled that 70% of emissions are associated with the way we make and use products, materials and food. A circular economy helps avoid a portion of these emissions by keeping existing materials in use and cutting waste. The Advisory Group looked at the circular economy opportunities to support net zero with a particular focus on our buildings and infrastructure, which are both material intensive and carbon intensive sectors.
A roundtable with building stakeholders and a survey were conducted in the lead up to the meeting to support the discussion.
Key topics considered by the Advisory Group were:
- How the circular economy can support net zero in Australia.
- The key barriers for circularity in buildings and infrastructure including unclear roles and responsibilities, market failures on both the supply and demand side and barriers in planning and procurement.
- The opportunities such as retaining and reusing existing structures, refurbishment and building efficiently.
At its 9 October 2023 meeting, the Advisory Group considered indicators to measure circular economy in Australia and the broad economic settings needed to support circularity.
The discussion in the meeting was informed by a roundtable with superannuation organisations held in the lead up to the meeting and submissions from economists and investors working on the circular economy.
Key topics considered by the Advisory Group were:
- Targets and indicators Australia needs to drive uptake in circularity and measure progress over time.
- The economic growth opportunity of a circular economy for Australia.
- The investment settings needed and the business risks circular economy can address.
Transitioning to a circular economy will require innovation including in new products and materials, business models and recovery approaches. Support to develop research and upscale existing innovations are needed for the transition to a circular economy.
It will also require new skills and upskilling. Identifying opportunities to position Australia to be competitive in emerging jobs and skills markets is a key consideration.
Australia’s food and resources sectors are two of our largest and each represent significant use of materials. The Advisory Group will look at the opportunities in both sectors to support greater circularity.
This meeting will also take a systems approach, considering opportunities holistically by regions including opportunities in urban and regional areas. Some regions in Australia are already taking this approach and adopting circular economy plans that boost local productivity and address local environmental issues around waste, land and water use.
This meeting will address gaps that have been identified in each of the previous meetings.
The Advisory Group provides recommendations to the Minister for the Environment and Water following each meeting. These recommendations are informed by the expertise of Advisory Group members and are shaped by evidence-based research and input from stakeholders. This advice will be consolidated into a final report in 2024.
Advisory Group members
Members are appointed by the Minister for the Environment and Water based on their individual expertise, rather than as representatives of organisations. Members include:
Professor Thwaites is a Professorial Fellow, Monash University, Chair of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Chair of the Climateworks Centre and Chair of The McKinnon Institute for political leadership. John is Chair of Melbourne Water and a Director of FairTrade Australia New Zealand.
John was previously Chair of the National Sustainability Council appointed by the Australian Government, which produced the Sustainable Australia Report in 2013. He has previously been Chair of the Australian Building Codes Board, President of the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and a director of the Australian Green Building Council.
He is a Co-Chair of the Leadership Council of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (“SDSN”) launched by the Secretary General of the United Nations to provide expert advice and support to the development and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also the Chair of the SDSN Association, which operates the SDSN network around the world.
John Thwaites was Deputy Premier of Victoria from 1999 until his retirement in 2007. During this period, he held various Ministerial portfolios including Minister of Health, Minister of Environment and was Victoria’s first Minister for Climate Change. Prior to being elected to Parliament, he was a barrister and Mayor of South Melbourne.
Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM became Australia's ninth Chief Scientist in January 2021 after an extensive career at Australia's national science agency, including as the agency's Chief Scientist. Dr Foley's scientific excellence and influential leadership have been recognised with numerous awards and fellowships, including election to the Australian Academy of Science in 2020, and an Order of Australia for service to research science and to the advancement of women in physics.
Mr Gertsakis is an Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Sustainable Futures, and a Director of the Product Stewardship Centre of Excellence.
Dr. Dominique Hes is an award-winning author, consultant, collaborator, researcher and academic working in the areas of regenerative development, placemaking, biophilia, urban greenery, sustainable development and all areas that look at using human ingenuity to address the messy, complex problems in our cities. With degrees in Botany, Engineering and Architecture, Dominique brings an interdisciplinary approach, built projects, and governance experience to all her work. She was a founding Board member of the Living Future Institute of Australia (LFIA) serving from 2012 until 2015, she served as trustee at Trust for Nature board, was formerly the Zero Carbon Buildings Lead in the City of Melbourne, and is now the Chair of the Board of Greenfleet.
Mr Jackson is general manager for Strategic Development for Road Services at Downer, a leading provider of integrated services in Australia and New Zealand. He is also President of the Australian Council of Recycling.
Mr Klymenko has worked in fostering sustainability in Australia for over 35 years. In 1987 he co-founded Australian Ethical, Australia’s first socially responsible investment manager with now over $8b under management. He co-founded Planet Ark in 1992, and is presently a Board Member and Chief Sustainability Advisor. He is the key instigator of the new Australian Circular Economy Hub which aims to inspire the transition to Circular Economy in Australia.
Ms Kneller is the Managing Director of WRAP Asia Pacific, a not for profit focussed on the transition to a circular economy, especially for our food, clothing and plastic packaging. She also works with Fight Food Waste, the organisation leading the delivery of Australia’s halving food waste target.
Mr Levitzke is the former Chief Executive of Zero Waste SA and Green Industries SA for over 17 years and is Chair of Circular360 based in Adelaide. He introduced the first assessment of the benefits of a circular economy to South Australia in 2017 and has developed and implemented four 5-year waste strategies.
Romilly Madew is CEO of Engineers Australia. Previously Romilly was CEO of Infrastructure Australia (IA), before joining IA, Ms Madew was CEO of the Green Building Council of Australia for 13 years. In acknowledgment of her contribution to Australia’s sustainable building movement, she was awarded an Order of Australia in 2019. In her capacity as CEO of Engineers Australia, she sits on the STEM Champions of Change committee. Romilly is an active surf life saver.
Dr Larry Marshall was Chief Executive of CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, from 2015 to 2023. Larry is a scientist, technology innovator and business leader with a wealth of experience in creating new value and impact with science. He has a PhD in Physics and has led six companies in biotechnology, telecommunications, semiconductors, and venture capital. He is a passionate supporter of Australian innovation, and the power of science and technology to drive Australia’s economic recovery and resilience to future challenges.
Lisa McLean is Managing Director and CEO of Circular Australia, an independent circular economy peak body leading the transition to a zero-carbon circular economy in Australia. Lisa has been successfully working to catalyse new markets and policy frameworks to enable the circular zero-carbon economy for the past 25 years in Australia and abroad.
Professor Quiggin is a member of the Wiradyuri nation, and has practised as a solicitor, advisor and academic on legal, compliance and policy areas of relevance to Indigenous Australians.
Mr Rawson is a leading specialist in waste, recycling and resource management. With a background in chemical engineering, Mark has been practicing in the area of waste, recycling and resource management for over 20 years. Prior to establishing waste consulting company Rawtec in 2007, he was the Regional Manager for Cleanaway for SA/NT. Mark has been National Vice President and Board Member of the Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia since 2020.
Ms Read is CEO of Chemistry Australia. Her career spans more than 30 years across the chemicals, plastics, renewable fuels, automotive and steel industries. Previously, Samantha was CEO of the Biofuels Association of Australia and an Executive Director of GM Holden Ltd. Her non-executive and external advisory roles have included universities, scientific, government, regulatory, governance, health and skills organisations.
Professor Spoehr was formerly the Pro Vice Chancellor – Research Impact at Flinders University, and Director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute. He is also founding Director of the Factory of the Future at Tonsley Innovation District.
The Advisory Group is supported by a Secretariat team within the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. Enquiries about the Advisory Group should be directed to CircularEconomy@dcceew.gov.au
- Expert group guiding Australia to a circular economy - media release