About

The Commissioner is an independent statutory position established by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993.

Our Vision: An environmentally sustainable ACT, region and Australia.

Our Mission: To act as an independent voice for the environment and sustainability in the ACT, and promote community engagement.

Our Values: Transparency, integrity, independence, research, rigour, inclusion.

The Commissioner is an independent statutory position established by the Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment Act 1993. The Commissioner undertakes the following functions and activities:

  • Investigating complaints about  the management of the environment by the Territory or a territory authority; and issues relating to ecologically sustainable development in the ACT;
  • Conduct investigations as directed by the Minister;
  • Conduct on the Commissioner’s own initiative, investigations into actions of an agency where those actions would have a substantial impact on the environment of the ACT; and
  • Deliver state of the environment reports (SoER).

State of the environment reporting has been one of the main roles of the Commissioner. SoERs have been prepared every four years since 1993.

Read our strategic plan.

The Commissioner must take into account the objects of the Act. These are to:

  • ensure regular and consistent reporting on matters relating to the condition and management of the environment in the Territory; and
  • ensure regular reporting on progress towards ecologically sustainable development by the Territory and Territory authorities; and
  • encourage decision making that facilitates ecologically sustainable development; and
  • enhance knowledge and understanding of issues relating to ecologically sustainable development and the environment; and
  • encourage sound environmental practices and procedures to be adopted by the Territory and Territory authorities as a basis for ecologically sustainable development.

Dr Sophie Lewis

Dr Sophie Lewis was appointed as the ACT Commissioner for Sustainability and the Environment on 1 May 2020.

Her most recent role was as a climate scientist at the University of NSW Canberra. She was also a lead author on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which are used worldwide to develop policies around climate change.

Dr Lewis was named 2019 ACT Scientist of the Year in recognition of her research, particularly on weather extremes and how climate change contributes to events such as bushfires and droughts.  In 2015 she was presented with the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS) Early Career Researcher Award for her work in climate science.

Her experience will bring a strong focus on climate change given her research background in this field, and her strong knowledge and connection to Canberra.

Previous Commissioners

  • Professor Kate Auty
  • Ms Ann Lyons Wright
  • Mr Robert Neil
  • Dr Maxine Cooper
  • Mr Darro Stinson
  • Dr Rosemary Purdie
  • Dr Joe Baker AO OBE

Our Staff

Alongside our full time Commissioner, there is a small team of professional and dedicated staff employed by the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate.

Sean Grimes

Director (Environmental Assessments and Reporting)

Sean brings a wealth of experience in public environmental reporting and assessments. He has produced State of the Environment reports for the ACT, Victoria, NSW and south-east England. Sean was also responsible for producing Victoria’s 2008 State of the Forests report.

Sean has a background in aquatic ecology, with many years’ experience researching and monitoring the rivers and wetlands of the ACT and NSW. He has an Honours degree in Applied Science.

Miranda Gardner

Director (Complaints and Investigations)

Miranda is interested in anything and everything to do with the natural world. She has worked in the area of environmental sustainability in the ACT for the past eleven years, and before that in the UK. Her experience includes the government, private and not-for-profit sectors and has covered catchment and natural resource management, sustainable farming, water policy, volunteer and citizen scientist support, and most recently bushfire recovery.

Miranda believes that the whole community has a role to play in protecting the environment, having had her first experience of volunteering at a UK nature reserve at the age of sixteen. As well as many hours spent removing weeds, building trails and managing woodlands, for sixteen years she has also volunteered behind the scenes helping to run the organisations that support on-ground volunteers.

Vanessa Lavis

A/g Assistant Director

Vanessa is passionate about cultivating positive environmental change through community engagement. A lover of the outdoors with a background in environmental anthropology, Vanessa is particularly interested in the differing ways key groups interpret and assign value to the natural world, and how this can impact approaches to conservation, land management and environmental policy.

Vanessa has undertaken further study with the Australian Earth Laws Alliance and volunteered for Women’s Environmental Leadership Australia. She is excited to use her skills in both traditional and creative media to communicate ideas to diverse audiences, with a particular view towards community environmental education.

Megan Reichstein

Office Manager

Megan Reichstein serves as the OCSE Office Manager. She provides an invaluable contribution to the office, organising Sophie and the team.

Megan has worked for the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate in a range of roles.  She has also worked in the Commonwealth and has had extensive experience in the private sector.

Ankita Unnikrishnan

Youth Advisor

Ankita is a final year undergraduate at ANU pursuing a double degree in Bachelor of Science (Sustainability Studies and Earth Science) and Bachelor of Design. With a keen interest in environmental policy and science communication, she explores the intersection between design and environmental science, aiming to enhance sustainability practices for her generation. Ankita is able to effectively communicate scientific concepts through visual graphics, designs, and interactive workshops, reflecting her commitment to bridging the gap between complex ideas and broader audiences.

Ankita has actively engaged in community sustainability initiatives, having conducted workshops for children and youth through the Canberra Environment Centre, and leading weekly kitchen garden workshops for students at the ANU Kitchen Garden. Ankita seeks to contribute positively to OSCE by blending her expertise in science and design to support a more sustainable future for our planet and future generations.