On 13 March 2018, the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), SDSN Australia/Pacific and the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA) co-hosted Australia’s second high-level multi-stakeholder forum to advance national implementation of the SDGs.
The SDGs represent a crucial opportunity for the world and Australia to end poverty, protect the planet, and work in partnership to achieve peace and prosperity. In September 2016, ACFID, ACOSS, GCNA and SDSN Australia/Pacific held the inaugural Australian SDGs Summit. That Summit created a great energy and clear suggestions for what will help Australia advance in the implementation of the SDGs.
A year and a half on, the Australian SDGs Summit 2018 brought together over 260 leaders and decision makers from over 200 government, business, civil society, academia and youth organisations from across Australia to assess where we are and discuss how we can further advance action.
2018 is a critical year for Australia to build on the momentum being created by Australia’s Voluntary National Review (VNR) to the UN, and the Senate Inquiry on the SDGs. Both have significantly raised the profile and interest in the SDGs across all sectors, and the Summit aimed to ensure action continues to happen beyond these processes.
The Summit started with a high level session reflecting on why the SDGs are important for Australia and why we have come together to discuss them. This included an introduction from the Summit Chairs, Sam Mostyn and John Thwaites on why we are here, followed by cross-sectoral perspectives from Cr Cathy Oke of the City of Melbourne; Susan Pascoe AM, ACFID President; Rod Fehring, CEO of Frasers Property Australia; and Major General Michael G Smith AO (retd), National President of UNAA.
The session concluded with a keynote address from Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, which discussed the Australian Government commitment to supporting the implementation of the SDGs, and some of the major initiatives they are undertaking. The Minister noted that while those in the room understand the benefit of the SDGs, the challenge is to bring the Australian public on board.
Session 2 brought together a high-level cross sectoral panel for a spirited discussion on the SDG challenges facing Australia and how Australia is progressing in addressing them. The panel included Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific and Jason McDonald, Chief Adviser at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, who provided perspectives on the Australian Government’s implementation of the 2030 Agenda, including preparations for the VNR; John Thwaites, Chair of the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, who announced the SDG Transforming Australia project to create a baseline for how Australia is progressing on the SDGs; Marc Purcell, CEO of ACFID, who discussed Australia’s international engagement and the SDGs ; Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, who discussed how Australia is going in addressing ‘Leave no one behind’ ; and Catherine Hunter, Chair of GCNA, who discussed the role of business.
Session 3 looked at how different sectors in Australia are starting to the SDGs as a catalyst for going “beyond business as usual”, with inspiring case studies from the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability in Victoria, Australia Post, SDSN Youth, Cbus Super Fund, Western Sydney University, WWF Australia, and the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
In Session 4 we broke out into groups to discuss and plan for how we can advance action on the SDGs in Australia, specifically on:
In the final session, The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Australia’s Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for National Security, reflected on the importance of the SDGs, and particularly SDG 16, peace justice and strong institutions.
In beginning the Summit wrap up, Cameron Cross, the CEO and Founder of uBegin, described a new “Opportunity Mapping” initiative to keep the momentum from the Summit going. The initiative invited Summit participants to enter their SDG-related projects, skills and interests into uBegin’s online collaboration platform. This data will be used to create a visual map highlighting opportunities for ongoing collaboration, action and aligning resources to project needs.
Finally, a number of participants briefly reflected on the day and what they want to see going forward. A strong theme in these reflections was the opportunities that the SDGs can bring to addressing Australia’s existing sustainable development challenges, including a final reminder from Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), of the SDGs alignment with the need to “close the gap” for Australia’s Indigenous communities.
The Summit was an exciting and energising day, and the organisers are working to put together the Outcomes Report and videos of the day to share with those who were not there.