Communities across Australia have frequently been let down by governments and companies when it comes to monitoring and responding to pollution risks, with serious consequences for the health of people and ecosystems. Accountability and rigour in the management of pollution depends on the strong demands and tireless attention of impacted communities. We believe that all local communities are made up of people with a wide range of knowledge, skills and creativity that can be used to investigate pollution and standing-up for better outcomes.
Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM) is a grassroots association of activist makers, scientists, journalists, academics, artists, designers and much more, brought together by our refusal to accept harmful government and industrial practices polluting the places where we live. Our team come from a range of backgrounds including activism, science, data analysis, art and environmental journalism.
We are an Incorporated association in New South Wales under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009, registered June 2020 (INC2000633).
Our initial group came together through community opposition to the short-sighted and ecologically disastrous WestConnex toll-road project which began in 2012 and is still under construction in 2023. Disappointed by the lack of rigour and accountability in WestConnex’s engagement with air pollution and other environmental impacts of its construction and design and the inadequacy of consultation processes, we began researching and reporting on its environmental and social impacts.
We discovered that there is very limited air pollution monitoring taking place across Sydney, particularly around the impacts of construction and roads, and so we began building and distributing low-cost air pollution monitors drawing on the open source designs and infrastructure built by similar activists in Germany. We joined the Sensor.Community. Over the last five years we have built and installed almost 70 low-cost particulate pollution monitors across Sydney.
Since these beginnings our group has expanded and developed broader approaches. We’ve learned about how difficult it is for communities to navigate Australia’s frustrating system of planning and environmental regulation and responsibility when it comes to holding polluters accountable. Accordingly, we have begun working with communities impacted by pollution to make sense of and engage environmental regulation and governance. In particular we reporting on the shocking impacts to Minchinberry and nearby suburbs from months of failing odour controls at Bingo Industry’s Eastern Creek Recycling and Landfill Facility and decoding the NSW Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Planning, Industry and Environment complex processes to assist them in holding these regulators accountable.