Who we are

Environmental Justice Australia is nature’s legal team. We use our technical expertise and practical understanding of the legal system to protect nature and defend the rights of communities to a healthy environment. 

We also work at the systemic level to develop and argue for the laws and policies essential for a sustainable future.

We act as advisers and legal representatives to the environment movement.   We work with community based environment groups, regional and state environmental organisations and larger environmental NGOs, providing strategic and legal advice to support their campaigns. 

We take cases to court, providing expert legal representation in cases that protect the environment and the health of communities, that test the boundaries of existing laws and support environmental campaigns.

We don’t just look to appeal rights under existing environmental laws.  We also seek out new and innovative ways to tackle environmental problems.

We also recognise that achieving change through the courts has its limitations.  That’s why we campaign to improve our legal system.   Through our research, report writing, and participation in public debate we seek to defend current environmental protections, improve their implementation, and to make the case for new legal solutions to environmental problems.

Environmental Justice Australia was formerly the Environment Defenders Office (Vic)

Our Mission

We will use the law to protect and restore Australia’s environment. We will work to achieve better environmental laws that truly protect our environment, for the benefit of all Australians. We will make sure communities have a real say in decisions that affect their environment.

Read our constitution (PDF, 168KB)

Our Team

Brendan Sydes

When Brendan joined what was then the Environmental Defenders Office (Victoria) as CEO in 2004, there was just one staff member: him. Since then he’s overseen a transition to a legal fighting force with fourteen staff members and a clear vision to be the environment’s legal team.

Brendan holds a University of Melbourne law degree and an MA in Environmental Science. He lectures in environmental law at Melbourne University and is President of Connecting Country, a landscape restoration initiative.

A keen birdwatcher, Brendan built his own straw brick eco-house outside Castlemaine.

Brendan leads the team at Environmental Justice Australia, a not-for-profit legal practice dedicated to justice for people and the planet. Under Brendan’s leadership, EJA has grown to become an effective force for change, contributing legal and strategic expertise to the environment movement and grassroots campaigns on issues ranging from air pollution to nature conservation and corporate accountability. 

With deep roots in the community legal centre movement since his university days and as a former chair of Victoria’s Federation of Community Legal Centres, Brendan has a strong commitment to combining social justice and environmental advocacy.

Nicola Rivers

Nicola is our Director of Advocacy and Research, working to improve environmental laws.

Her work on our clean air campaign has seen her engaging with grassroots environment groups and local communities around Australia to protect our right to clean air. She has also lead our advocacy on a range of issues such as Victorian climate and water law, and national biodiversity laws.

Prior to joining our team, she worked as a senior lawyer with the Environment Department of Western Australia. She has also worked for the Federal Attorney General’s department and as a policy officer for the Federal Environment Department. Nicola is a Fellow of the Centre for Sustainability Leadership. Not content with being named after rivers, in her spare time, Nicola heads up the Riparian Project, which uses art as a communication tool to raise awareness about river health. LinkedIn

Bruce Lindsay

Lawyer Bruce researches and writes on topics from environmental offsets, water law and native vegetation clearing. He also engages with community members and stakeholders on our campaigns, and leads our Yarra River Protection Act campaign.

As well as his law degree, Bruce holds a PhD in Administrative Law, a BA (Hons) in Political Science & Government, and a Masters of Environmental Science. He has previously worked as a student advocate, a project officer at Trust for Nature and a lecturer in Law at Deakin University.

He’s involved in several community initiatives in his hometown of Geelong, including running the local Field Naturalists Club and coaching the under 10 YMCA basketball team.


Ariane Wilkinson

As a lawyer for Environmental Justice Australia, Ariane uses her legal expertise to advise and act for communities impacted by fossil fuel extraction and the impacts of climate change, and advocates to reform Australia’s laws to make sure they protect the right of all Australians to clean air, clean water and a safe climate future. 

Before joining our team, Ariane practiced law in the not-for-profit legal sector in Queensland, advising clients on environmental and human rights law, and representing traditional owners in native title negotiations with energy and resources companies.  She also worked in private practice for top-tier law firms as a planning and environment lawyer and legal researcher in environmental litigation and major project approvals.  She was also a judge’s associate in the Supreme Court of Queensland and the Planning and Environment Court of Queensland. Ariane holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and a Bachelor of Science (Environment) and in 2013 was the Griffith Law School nominee for the Griffith Arts, Education and Law Outstanding Young Alumnus of the Year. LinkedIn

David Barnden

David is a lawyer specialising in issues relating to finance and climate. He is an experienced litigator following six years prosecuting successful shareholder and consumer class actions at Maurice Blackburn. Previously he was employed by the Financial Services Authority (UK) and BankTrack (Netherlands). In addition, David spent two years at the Centre for Human Rights and Environment (Argentina) working on both public and private finance issues for the Uruguayan pulp mill case.

He holds a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Applied Science (Environmental Management).



James Whelan

Dr James Whelan is a researcher and community organiser with Environmental Justice Australia. James has been a non-government advocate on air quality issues since the mid 1990s. He represented environment groups in the development of the National Environment Protection Measures for Ambient Air Quality and the National Pollutant Inventory and has been a member of several advisory groups overseeing air quality management strategies and regulations. James convenes the Hunter Dust and Health Committee.




Bronya Lipski

Bronya’s work as an environmental lawyer focusses on pollution and environmental public interest advocacy. Born and raised in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, she is passionate about legal empowerment of the community and has a diverse background that includes activism, youth work and filmmaking.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and a Bachelor of Laws (Hons).




Sarah Brugler

Sarah is an environmental lawyer specialising in implementation and reform of nature protection laws. She works to improve nature protection laws in Victoria and engages with a network of organisations to strengthen nature protection laws across Australia.

Prior to joining EJA Sarah worked for ClientEarth, a European environmental law organisation. Sarah was part of ClientEarth’s biodiversity program, based in London. She monitored the implementation of European nature protection laws in the UK, with a specific focus on whale and dolphin conservation and the designation and management of marine protected areas. Sarah began her legal career as a commercial lawyer with Henry Davis York (Sydney) and then with Eversheds LLP (Cambridge).

Growing up in near the ocean in Sydney, Sarah is passionate about protecting the biodiversity of Australia’s marine environment and Australia’s unique flora and fauna.

Chris Atmore

Dr Chris Atmore is an environmental lawyer working with local groups in Melbourne’s west to achieve genuine community participation in environmental decision making, especially around the impact of landfills. Before joining EJA, Chris was Senior Policy Adviser at the Federation of Community Legal Centres (Vic) where she specialised in family violence, sexual assault and coronial policy and law reform. Even further back, Chris was a social science academic.

When not at EJA, Chris wears a second hat as Policy Advocate with CASA Forum, and spends her free time following her passion for the surf coast and bush .

Danya Jacobs

Danya is a senior lawyer working on biodiversity and nature protection, with a focus on public land, forests and threatened species.

Her legal practice includes six years litigating on behalf of community groups in State and Federal Courts against government entities and corporations. She has particular expertise in threatened species law, civil enforcement, administrative law (regulation and review of government decisions), freedom of information, defamation and intellectual property. 

Danya regularly advises and appears for environment groups, from large ENGOs to local regional groups. She also acts in criminal law matters for individuals charged while protesting against logging in Victoria’s native forests.

Danya holds a Bachelor of Laws (Hons) and Bachelor of Arts (Geography). Before coming to the law, Danya worked for environment and human rights organisations in Australia and overseas.

Mandy Johnson

Operations & Publications

Mandy Johnson keeps the office running and ensures our publications speak directly to people who need to understand legal issues in protecting the environment.

Mandy has been working with not-for-profit organisations since 1996, principally environmental. Before starting with EJA in 2005, Mandy worked for a firm providing legal and consulting services tailored for not-for-profits. She previously spent seven years at one of Australia's largest national conservation organisations, BirdLife Australia, including three years as Supporter Services Manager.

Mandy holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing. She is an Accredited Editor with the Institute of Professional Editors, one of only 311 nationally. Outside work Mandy enjoys a spot of camping.

James Murray

Fundraising & Development

James manages EJA's fundraising and development, which includes regular appeals, regular giving, membership and philanthropic relations.  He is a strong advocate of using fundraising not only to raise funds, but as a tool of engagement and broader organisational support.

Previously, James has worked within the Fundraising & Marketing Team at Bush Heritage Australia, overseeing the Supporter Relation Team. In a past life, he worked as an economic analyst.

He holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Economics), a Post Graduate Diploma (Commerce), and a Masters of Environment (Environmental Governance, Policy and Communication).

Madeleine Egan

Events & Supporters

Madeleine works to engage supporters and the wider community in the work we do. She is passionate about grassroots participation in democratic politics.

Before joining our team, Madeleine worked in communications and as a community organiser for grassroots environmental and social justice organisations.

Josh Meadows

Media & Communication

Josh gets Environmental Justice Australia in the media and looks after EJA’s media releases, eBulletins, Twitter, Facebook and the website.

Before he came to EJA, Josh was the Australian Conservation Foundation’s senior media adviser.

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