Twenty years later: lessons for governance from Australia’s Oceans Policy process

Dr Joanna Vince1

1University Of Tasmania, LAUNCESTON, Australia, 2Centre for Marine Socio-ecology, Hobart, Australia


In 1998 the Australian Commonwealth government released Australia’s Oceans Policy. At first, the government’s aim was to develop a policy that would achieve ‘full’ integration across sectors dealing with oceans issues; vertical jurisdictional integration between state, territory and Commonwealth governments; and horizontal, ‘whole of government’ processes across Commonwealth departments. The oceans policy was a policy experiment that attempted new and untried methods of policy implementation through ecosystem based management approaches. Since Australia was one of the first countries to attempt this, the policy was initially highly regarded by the international community and it became a focus for policy transfer and learning. However, the goal to achieve full integration was never achieved. This paper examines the lessons learned from this complex and historically significant policy process that spanned over a decade. It reveals that despite the attempt at a holistic policy approach, the challenges to reconcile the jurisdictional issues that are entrenched in Australian oceans governance contributed to the policy’s demise. These issues continue to shape ocean and marine resources management in Australia and given the timely event of the twenty year anniversary of the launch of the policy the question is asked – what is the way for forward for Australian oceans governance?


Dr Joanna Vince is a Senior Lecturer in the Politics and International Relations Program, School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania. Her research interests include governance and public policy; international and domestic ocean governance with a focus on Australian ocean and marine resource management, marine debris (local and global), comparative oceans governance, and third party certification. Dr Vince is co-author of the book Oceans Governance in the Twenty-First Century: Managing the Blue Planet (Edward Elgar Publishers, 2008) and co-editor of Marine Resources Management (Lexis/Nexis Butterworths, 2011). She has published in top international journals such as Marine Policy, Environmental Science & Policy, Ocean and Coastal Management, Policy Sciences, Journal of Environmental Management and Coastal Management; and other key marine based journals such as Ocean Yearbook and the Australian Journal of Maritime and Ocean Affairs. She is also an Editorial Board member of the Australian Journal of Maritime and Ocean Affairs and a Scientific Board member of the journal Policy Design and Practice.