Environmental equity: building policy and practice for the EPA, Victoria

14 Feb 2016

This report is based on a collaborative project between RMIT and the Environment Protection Authority Victoria. It draws on qualitative research conducted in two environmental ‘hotspots’ in Melbourne - Clayton South and the Brooklyn Region - by a team of researchers at RMIT University. A key aim of the project was to deepen our understanding of the experience of environmental pollution in areas that bear more than their share of the pollution of the Melbourne metropolitan area. We chose to undertake in depth qualitative research to supplement the extensive quantitative research that the EPA already conducts. Key findings included the fact that while residents live with environmental conditions that may be considered undesirable, they are often strongly attached to their neighbourhoods. Most participants in this study exhibited some level of concern over their health and wellbeing due to their proximity to landfills and pollution-emitting industries. Several of the study’s participants reported some manner of physical symptom. The participants of this study adapted their lives to changing local environmental conditions in a range of ways, often exhibiting significant degrees of resilience. While participants often spoke of ‘complaint fatigue’ when dealing with the current EPA complaint procedure several participants had devised their own way to collect and share data on the environment, including keeping records of their interactions with public authorities. The energy and inventiveness of these individuals could be harnessed, we believe, in ways that would be fruitful for monitoring and improving the quality of the environment, for instance through engaging them as ‘citizen scientists’.

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