On March 13, 2018, the SDSN Australia/Pacific, in partnership with the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Global Compact Network Australia (GCNA), and the United Nations Association of Australia (UNAA), hosted the country’s second SDG Summit. Nearly 300 representatives of government, civil society, academia, and business gathered to discuss how to unlock the opportunities of the SDGs.
Ron Jones, Wurundjeri Elder, opened the meeting with the Welcome to Country. In a session on cross-sectoral perspectives on the SDGs, UNAA National President Major General Michael G. Smith AO (retired) applauded civil society groups for their rapid adoption and championing of the goals, and called on the government to support the development of a shared national vision and the appropriation of a budget to implement the SDGs. Following Smith, Senator the Honorable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for International Development and the Pacific, highlighted what the Australian government is doing on the SDGs, including a new project on water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) to be implemented in 19 countries. The Minister also said that the government’s work to reduce poverty and inequality abroad is a key part of supporting stability in the region.
In a panel on Australian SDG progress, Jason McDonald, Chief Advisor to the Domestic Policy Group in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, shared what Australia is doing to prepare their Voluntary National Review (VNR), which will be presented at the United Nations in July, 2018. Different government agencies have been assigned to each of the 17 SDGs, and the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are facilitating the work overall. John Thwaites, Chair of the SDSN Australia/Pacific, announced a new initiative, the SDG Transforming Australia Project, to track Australia’s progress on the SDGs. Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, said the SDGs were another opportunity to work with Indigenous leaders. Marc Purcell, CEO of ACFID, said that the best way Australia could contribute to global SDG achievement was to be an example of successful implementation at home.
In another panel, GCNA Acting Director Cate Harris highlighted some useful tools for SDG implementation, including Getting Started with the SDGs in Universities and an ACFID Toolkit. Gillian Sparkes, Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability, discussed the upcoming 2018 State of the Environment Victoria report, which will look at state-level indicators and a framework for SDG implementation. Susan Mizrahi, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Australia Post, discussed an impressive array of SDG-related projects, including an upcoming SDG stamp series, achievement of wage parity within her organization, the installation of rooftop solar, development of reusable mail packaging with Nespresso, and white papers on how small businesses can be more sustainable and digital inclusion. Dermot O’Gorman, CEO of WWF Australia, presented an interesting solution using blockchain technology to support increased traceability and data collection in the tuna value chain. Gary Oliver, CEO of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, described the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in Australia, and called on non-Aboriginal people to “walk with” them.
In the afternoon, participants divided into breakout sessions. One session looked at how to best communicate the SDGs, exploring different audiences to be engaged, and which arguments will be most effective. A second session explored what “leaving no one behind” meant in the Australian context, with an emphasis on Indigenous communities. The third session explored which SDGs Australia was performing well on, as well as where the greatest progress needed to be made, and aimed to set priorities for SDG implementation.
The day concluded with a high-level segment. Mark Dreyfus QC MP, the Shadow Attorney General, highlighted the importance of SDG 16, saying that corruption, tax evasion, and bribery cost economies trillions of dollars that could be spent on SDG implementation. He also said that violence and the lack of justice in some countries are antithetical to the values of Australians and the aims of the SDGs. Cameron Cross, CEO & Founder of uBegin, announced an online collaborative platform to help conference participants network beyond the event. Finally, John Thwaites and Sam Mostyn, co-chairs of the meeting, took final comments from the floor before closing out the day.
After the event, a statement was released by the SDSN Australia/Pacific summarizing how the Australian university sector is engaging with and contributing to SDG implementation in Australia, in support of the Australian Government’s Voluntary National Review process.