Mapping the Gaps: Building Capacity to Improve Legal Frameworks for Environmental Crime in Australia

We are a team of interdisciplinary researchers in Australia and the Netherlands in the fields of law, criminology and biological sciences and are investigating the regulation of environmental crime, including the deliberate destruction of natural environments and illegal trade in wildlife.

Shipping routes: T Hengel

Image credit: T. Hengel

Pangolin: David Brossard

Image credit: David Brossard

These crimes are increasing at a global level and pose a growing threat to Australia’s rich diversity of threatened and endemic species, as well as its natural ecosystems and agricultural industries, which are critical for local and regional food security.

Environmental crimes are characterised by complexity and uncertainty, and existing laws have consistently failed to effectively deter and punish environmental crimes in Australia and around the world. Legal frameworks, including environmental criminal laws, are inherently complex. These laws, like the crimes that they seek to regulate, are interconnected across scales and actors, ranging from international conventions through to local planning schemes, and across a wide range of legislation including for conservation, animal welfare, wildlife and land management, regional management and biosecurity.

This project is a collaboration between Adelaide Law School scholars and Professor Phill Cassey, as part of his Australian Research Council Industry Laureate. The project is building a unique Australian body of interdisciplinary research expertise, to drive and inform changes to improve the design, implementation, resourcing and enforcement of laws about environmental crime, and to protect Australia’s rich natural heritage for a more sustainable future.

  • Project researchers

    The University of Adelaide:

    External collaborator and 2024 University of Adelaide International Fellow:

    This project receives funding from the Australian Government through Professor Cassey’s Australian Research Council Industry Laureate, and from The University of Adelaide through its Sustainability FAME Strategy grant scheme and International Fellowship scheme.

Red eyed crocodile skink: Adam Toomes

Image credit: Adam Toomes

Project outputs

This project has the following four complementary core objectives, which will support the development of solutions that deliver sustainability:

  • build an interdisciplinary (science-law-humanities) team to increase impact and attract external funding;
  • create a criminal law-specific research agenda to underpin competitive external grant applications;
  • embed new teaching content in the law degree program to foster future research expertise; and
  • deliver outputs that directly inform law-making, maximising research translation to policy impact.

The project will achieve these objectives through outputs such as:

  • a national industry roundtable, and related workshops;
  • public events;
  • academic articles, research reports and research briefing papers;
  • supervision of honours, postgraduate and postdoctoral research projects;
  • policy briefs to policymakers and industry stakeholders; and
  • law reform submissions to the South Australian and Commonwealth governments.