Skip navigation

The Independent Review of Victoria’s Wildlife Act 1975

On 20 October 2020, the Victorian Government released a Directions Paper setting out 12 high-level proposals for a new animal welfare Act for public feedback. The new Act will replace the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 (POCTA Act) which over 30 years had become outdated and complex. Many of the proposals set out in the Directions Paper aim to improve existing provisions under the POCTA Act. Some would introduce new features into Victoria’s main animal welfare legislation.

The Animal Justice Party contributed a 42-page submission to this consultation and provided 61 recommendations.

Summary of Recommendations

  1. The Act should acknowledge the Biodiversity Emergency and protect and conserve wildlife.
  2. The Act should reflect contemporary attitudes to wildlife.
  3. The purposes of the Act should not conflict with one another.
  4. The body of the Act should not erode the purposes of the Act.
  5. The Act should encourage peaceful, respectful coexistence between humans and wildlife, rather than a culture of destroying or displacing wildlife.
  6. Where there is conflict between the interests and expectations of different community groups, the guiding principle should be protection of wildlife first and foremost.
  7. Retain purposes (a)(i) and (ii)
  8. Exploitation of wildlife, currently covered by purpose (a)(iii), should be removed from this Act, since it conflicts with the main purpose. Wildlife exploitation is not acceptable; if it is allowed, it should be described in an Act designed for that purpose.
  9. To further clarify the intent of the Act, and to support and strengthen purposes (a)(i) and (ii), add (iii) to improve the level of community awareness about wildlife.
  10. Consult with Traditional Custodians of Victoria to determine any parts of the Act that conflict with - or undermine - First Nations law (chthonic law)
  11. Reserve the ‘use of and access to wildlife’ for First Nations People to ensure such activities are conducted according to their laws
  12. Remove use of and access to indigenous animals from the Wildlife Act and integrate them into the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010
  13. The recognition of culturally significant animals under the law.
  14. The Act should have a duty of care, which could include a ranked series of responses:
    • Compassionate coexistence - demonstrate steps taken
    • Consultation with Traditional Custodians - demonstrate steps taken
    • Non-harming methods - detail methods used
    • Non-lethal methods - detail methods used
    • Lethal methods - detail methods used
  15. Retain definitions for animals that ensure consistency across all legislation
  16. Ensure that key terms that appear frequently within the Act are clearly defined and lack ambiguity or the ability to be misinterpreted.
  17. All indigenous wildlife (living here before 1788) to be protected wildlife
  18. Licenses to be issued for destroying (etc.) protected wildlife only for compassionate reasons
  19. The Minister cannot unprotect protected wildlife; only a new Act can do so.
  20. Definitions such as ‘threatened’ wildlife to be in addition to ‘protected wildlife’, effectively adding another layer of protection
  21. Ensure that indigenous wildlife are protected and those protections cannot be eroded by other legislation
  22. Where there is a gap or a conflict in legislation, apply the guiding principle that protection of wildlife comes first.
  23. Where conflicts exist between different legislations or where there is a gap, apply the legislation that affords the highest level of protection to wildlife.
  24. Ensure the Act recognises that preserving wildlife habitat is crucial to protecting wildlife and preventing extinction
  25. Ensure that the effects of climate change on wildlife habitat are recognised within the Act and there are management plans included to mitigate this effect.
  26. Landowners have a duty of care to protect wildlife, wildlife habitat and biodiversity on their property; the Act should record this duty
  27. Mandatory minimum standards to conserve wildlife habitat should be applied to activities that impact wildlife habitat
  28. Recognise the sentience of all wildlife under the Act.
  29. Recognise the rights of wildlife to live their lives free from the influences of humans.
  30. Ensure that new legislation and amendments to current legislation take into account the impact on sentient wildlife.
  31. The Act should include guiding principles and clearly defined criteria and priorities to guide members of the public and regulators, with regards to interacting with wildlife.
  32. The Act should include provisions for community consultation on any matters relating to wildlife that occur within their community (such as proposed kills, development that affects wildlife habitat, changes to licensing), or that impact on wildlife that move through or near their community.
  33. Community consultations must ensure advertising to the community via a variety of methods, with different means of submitting a response and adequate time frames allowing all those who want to comment to have the opportunity.
  34. The Act must contain provisions for wildlife management plans that cover the full range of circumstances relating to wildlife such as bushfires, drought, preservation of habitat, conservation of threatened species.
  35. Immediately stop Authority to Control Wildlife permits until the application process and regulatory framework is revised.
  36. Licensing regulations should adequately reflect the regulatory processes required to protect wildlife.
  37. Principles of coexistence with wildlife should be outlined in the Act and a framework established for guidance; coexistence with wildlife should be expected.
  38. The Act must totally revamp the ATCW system, ensuring transparency, accountability and that appropriate regulatory requirements exist; ATCWs should be a last resort and only issued in extreme circumstances when all other options have been seriously attempted and demonstrated, including coexistence and translocation.
  39. Licensing fees should adequately reflect the costs of monitoring and regulating an activity.
  40. Money raised from licensing fees should be directly channeled to regulating the activity.
  41. The Act must contain provisions for mandating codes, standards and guidelines that are relevant and appropriate.
  42. The Act must contain a transparent reporting system that permits public access.
  43. The reporting system should record adequate and appropriate information to be accountable for wildlife, including who was consulted, which stakeholders were involved and why, what information was considered, what information was discarded and why, and how decisions were reached.
  44. The Act should establish an independent scientific advisory committee acting for the protection and conservation of wildlife, to reduce bias and conflict of interest.
  45. The Act should remove offences that restrict or prohibit the activities of those who seek to protect and conserve wildlife
  46. The Act should create offences for those who influence or coerce others into contravening the Act
  47. The Act should prohibit humans from forcing an animal to act contrary to their natural behaviours
  48. The Act should prohibit actions which disregard the sentience of wildlife
  49. The Act should create an offence for those who facilitate or assist in the illegal trading of wildlife
  50. The Act must apply proportional penalties to all offences.
  51. Penalties for crimes against wildlife must reflect and respect the lost life, and be in line with community expectations.
  52. Remove and ban gun and game licences of repeat offenders, particulalry if convicted of any violent crime, including aggravated animal cruelty.
  53. The Act should contain provisions for additional offences and penalties against those who harm wildlife to remove them from future opportunities to reoffend
  54. Penalties for harming wildlife must take into account the intention of the accused, the number of animals harmed, the length of time they suffered, the potential for the actions to cause future harm to other wildlife or animals, and the steps taken towards reparation as well as the probability of reoffending.
  55. The Act should contain provisions for community-impact statements to be provided in matters relating to wildlife crimes.
  56. The Act should contain additional provisions for civil penalties.
  57. There needs to be greater recognition of the seriousness of crimes against wildlife within the Act and therefore greater motivation by authorised officers to pursue perpetrators of these crimes.
  58. There needs to be greater collaboration between GMA and other enforcement units.
  59. Serious crimes should be investigated together with a Wildlife Crimes Division within Victoria Police (as suggested by Environmental Justice Australia).
  60. The Act should allow for third party civil enforcement where there exists community groups in a position to monitor and assist authorities with information and evidence gathering.
  61. An Independent Animal Protection Agency should be established

Continue Reading

Read More