Australian Environment Foundation

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.

The Australian Environment Foundation is a front group founded by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), a conservative Melbourne-based think tank.

The director of the environment unit of the IPA, Jennifer Marohasy was the founding Chairwoman and is listed as a Director in the organisation's documents with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC). Mahorasy is also the listed registrant of the group's website, although the address and phone number for the website registration are identical to the address and phone number for the Victorian office of the logging industry front group, Timber Communities Australia. [1] [2]

In July 2005, the month after AEF's official launch, it was announced that former television celebrity Don Burke had been appointed chairman. [3]

ASIC documents also listed Mike Nahan, the former Executive Director of the IPA, as one of the other founding directors. The documents also listed AEF's registered place of business as the IPA office. (Nahan was ED of the IPA until mid-2005). Pdf copy of ASIC registration - 11kb

In a column by Nahan in the Herald-Sun, he described AEF as "pro-biotechnology, pro-nuclear power, pro-modern farming, pro-economic growth, pro-business and pro-environment." [4]

AEF managed to jump the queue for Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) Status awarded to not for profit charities who’s purpose is to help save the environment. This status was awarded by the Department of Environment and Heritage (DEH) and approved by the Federal Liberal Environment Minister. DGR Status entitles donors to a tax deduction at their marginal rate of tax for every dollar donated. The head of the AEF admitted that it is a group set up to protect timber interests and stop resources being taken away from the industry in an interview on ABC Radio station Triple J's Hack program


The AEF was formally launched on World Environment Day (June 5 2005) in the northern New South Wales town of Tenterfield. "This new group will be vastly different to the established environment organisations that have had the ear of governments for some time. The AEF’s focus will be on making decisions based on science and what is good for both the environment and for people," the group stated in its press release.[5]

The formation of the AEF was first mooted at the 'The Institute of Public Affairs Eureka Forum' organised in December 2004 by the Institute of Public Affairs.

The Australian Environment Foundation was registered by Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC)as a business in February, 2005. Its formation was also announced during the May 2005 Annual conference in Launceston of Timber Communities Australia, a timber industry front group.

AEF was officially launched on World Environment Day, 5th June, 2005. Jennifer Marohasy, who is the IPA's environment director, is a key player. On her blog Marohasy boasted that "The Australian Environment Foundation (AEF) has just formed and embraced the following 6 values based on my five principles." [6]

Reporting on the AEF's launch, the Melbourne broadsheet newspaper, 'The Age' reported that Marohasy is the group’s chairwoman. "Dr Marohasy said she acted as the group's leader as an individual and not part of the IPA," the Age reported. [7]

The launch was covered on Michael Duffy's conservative ABC radio show, ‘Counterpoint’ on the 6th of June in a story called ‘Putting People First’. Ironically, this phrase was the name of a (now defunct) wise-use group that operated in the US. The piece is on the ABC website. [8]



Other personnel

Former Directors

  • Barry Cohen Inaugural Chairman of AEF, former ALP Environment Minister

Contact details

PO Box 274,
Deakin West, ACT 2600
Email: mail AT

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


External resources

External articles

AEF Media Releases

General articles