Go to top of page

Environmental improvement initiatives and review


Exercise TALISMAN SABRE is a major combined training exercise involving Australian and international armed forces held biennially in Australia. The most recent iteration, Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2019 (TS19), was conducted in July 2019. TS19 was planned and operated within a robust environmental management framework designed to avoid or mitigate environmental impacts and meet EPBC Act obligations.

Remediation programs

Defence is undertaking ongoing contamination and explosive ordnance waste assessments and remediation across priority areas on the Defence estate, and has completed a three-year program of contamination assessments that has resulted in the closure of 650 records of contamination across the estate. Defence has also completed targeted environmental remediation works at Maribyrnong in Victoria and remediation of explosive ordnance waste at multiple air weapons ranges across the estate.

Heritage management on the Defence estate

Defence manages heritage values on the Defence estate consistent with the principles and requirements of Commonwealth heritage legislation, including identification and management of risks to heritage assets during planning, development and operation of Defence facilities. Defence continues to progress heritage assessments and development of heritage management plans in accordance with the Defence Estate Heritage Strategy and legislative requirements. This has included consultation with Traditional Owners on country to develop appropriate
cultural heritage conservation and management of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage sites and areas on the estate. The development of heritage management plans also fosters stronger collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, which supports a range of outcomes under the Defence Reconciliation Action Plan and legislative requirements.

Defence has successfully managed historic archaeological discoveries during works at Anglesea Barracks in Hobart and Victoria Barracks in Sydney. These discoveries have been carefully recorded, and design options to protect the finds have been integrated into works programs.

During 2019–20, Defence worked with Government agencies and community groups regarding the provision of statutory heritage protection post disposal by the Commonwealth for a range of sites currently in the property disposal planning process.

Pollution prevention program

Defence is progressing activities to address high-priority pollutants and polluting activities, including the ongoing use of firefighting foams. Defence has conducted testing and trials of environmental aspects of possible fluorine-free replacement foams for use in firefighting vehicles.


In September 2018, Defence signed a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (now the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications) to contribute to the biodiversity offset requirements for the Western Sydney Airport project. The memorandum commits Defence to improving the condition of 900 hectares of Cumberland Plain Woodland at Defence Establishment Orchard Hills (located in Western Sydney) for a period of 20 years. Defence can continue to undertake activities within the offset area that do not impact on the achievement of conservation outcomes. At the
end of the 20-year term Defence will be required to maintain the improved environmental conditions.

Ecologically sustainable development

In 2019–20, a program of ecologically sustainable development activities delivered energy and water efficiency projects to improve the sustainability of the Defence estate and reduce whole-of-life costs. Projects included installation of rooftop solar photovoltaic, lighting upgrades and water-efficient fittings. The total net whole-of-life savings over the past five years of the program is estimated to be $15 million.

Defence is improving its ability to monitor and report on energy and water consumption and waste disposal. The Resource Data Management System (RDMS) currently collates electricity, water and gas meter data as well as waste volumetric data. The RDMS assists in the identification of cost-saving opportunities through increased efficiency in electricity, gas and water use. To date the RDMS has identified over $1.6 million in potential energy and water savings.

Defence’s Smart Infrastructure Handbook sets minimum requirements covering energy, water, waste, materials, climate adaptation, smart procurement and pollution prevention.


In 2018–191 total energy consumption decreased by 11 per cent compared with 2017–18. This decrease can be largely attributed to a 10 per cent decrease in operational diesel use. Stationary energy consumption (electricity, gas and LPG) remained stable in 2018–19.

Defence has committed to a 10-year Defence renewable energy and energy security program to install large-scale renewable energy and energy storage systems across the Defence estate. There is more than 3.5 megawatts of renewable energy installed on the Defence estate, and more than 15 megawatts in development and delivery.1


Defence spent $38.2 million (including GST) on water and sewage at Defence-owned facilities in 2018–192. Defence has installed hundreds of water meters to monitor water use at major Defence facilities.2

Climate adaptation

Defence continues to assess climate risks to the Defence estate and plan appropriate adaptation responses.


  1. 1. Figures for energy consumption are calculated and cross-checked using billing data. This data is unavailable for 2019–20 at the time of print. As in previous years, updated figures will be provided to Government through Senate estimates in October 2020.
  2. 2. Figures for water consumption are calculated and cross-checked using billing data. This data is unavailable for 2019–20 at the time of print. As in previous years, updated figures will be provided to Government through Senate estimates in October 2020.