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Operating environment

Our estate is vast and remote, with varied land and seascapes and dynamic country and culture. As such, the Parks Australia operating environment is subject to unique external and internal factors that influence the way we work.

External factors

  • Operating in remote natural areas often presents specific safety and logistical challenges in delivering our programs.
  • The social and economic well-being of Indigenous people in a joint management context is a priority. We respect the cultural and spiritual responsibilities of Traditional Owners in managing land and sea country and continue to strengthen our relationship to protect and enhance the natural and cultural values of country.
  • Pressure on Australia’s terrestrial and marine biodiversity persists from land use change, habitat degradation, invasive species, pollution, wildfire, illegal fishing and marine debris. Climate change further exacerbates these threats and introduces new challenges in maintaining biodiversity. Threat mitigation and climate change adaptation remain a priority for the Director.
  • Responding to government priorities and community expectations remains a focus for our organisation. Many of our programs are long-term and may take many years to fully realise outcomes.
  • We must be accountable for investment of public funds in our parks and gardens, demonstrated through responsiveness to the motivation and demands of visitors to our parks and gardens.
  • This year, specific events had significant impacts on Parks Australia operations:
    • Bushfires and hailstorms forced the closure of Booderee National Park and the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
    • Machinery of Government changes resulted in the Parks Australia Division becoming part of the newly formed Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
    • The COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of jointly managed parks, restricted travel and visitation, and resulted in many Parks Australia staff working from home for several months.

Internal factors

  • A proactive approach to risk management and a shared responsibility for Work Health and Safety (WHS) are vital to how we manage the well-being of our staff, contractors and visitors in our places. Fully implementing policies, safe operating procedures, improving staff capacity and WHS management systems are ongoing priorities.
  • This year, the Parks Australia Division was merged into the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. As part of these changes, enabling services (including corporate services, human and financial resource and information technology) are undergoing changes.
  • Within Parks Australia, improvements to our Information Communication and Technology capabilities continue. These improvements support our purposes, reduce inefficiencies and keep pace with the changing needs of our organisation.
  • In June 2019, the ANAO tabled a report on the Director of National Parks Performance Framework, finding the framework lacked in relevance, reliability and completeness. As a result, a new Performance Framework will be implemented from 1 July 2020. This Annual Report provides the last update of the audited Performance Framework.
  • Management of our natural values relies on high-quality scientific research and application. The Parks Australia Science Direction Statement 2018–2022 guides decision making and informs management of the natural, cultural, heritage and socioeconomic values of our parks and gardens.
  • We continue to pursue collaborative ways of working with Indigenous communities that improve livelihoods, enable Traditional Owners to contribute to park management, and facilitate the intergenerational transfer of knowledge. Our Indigenous Employment Pathways Project has developed an Indigenous Employment Capability Framework to be implemented in the coming year.
  • Delivering quality and timely programs consistently and efficiently in an operating environment where costs are increasing is an ongoing challenge.