About DEA Origin & History of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA)

Origin & History of Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA)

How DEA began… 

Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) arose as a branch of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment (ISDE), based in Switzerland, founded in 1990 and with member organisations in 38 countries, mainly Europe and the Americas. 

The aims of ISDE were to publicise the relationship between the condition of the environment and human health, promote environmentally friendly behaviour amongst physicians, patients, and the public, and to cooperate at all political levels in the reduction of harmful environmental influences on health. 

After initial contact between Professor David Shearman and ISDE, it was agreed that the most promising base for an Australian initiative was to explore becoming a branch of ISDE. David Shearman visited Geneva to discuss this option with Dr Siblerschmidt, Executive Officer of ISDE. The creation of an Australian branch of ISDE was agreed upon and Professor Shearman identified a potential chairperson in Dr Bill Castleden.

The call to action in Australia commenced with an Editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia by Tony McMichael and Charles Guest in November 1999 “Doctors and the “environment” a call to arms for medical practitioners in Australia. An advertisement for the formation of DEA was placed in the same issue of MJA and recruitment commenced in 2000. 

In April 2001 DEA was Incorporated in the State of South Australia and became a registered organisation. 

The Mornington Meeting –
October 2002 

At this inaugural meeting in 2002 the following key medical professionals joined David Shearman and Bill Castleden to plan the structure and vision of Doctors for the Environment Australia; 

  • Colin Butler, 
  • Grant Blashki, 
  • Kevin Chamberlin,
  • Roscoe Taylor.

This founding group of doctors determined the health aspects of climate change were DEA’s priority for action. There were concerns that the name Doctors for the Environment Australia did not include the word health so it was decided to have a subsidiary title “promoting health through care of the environment”. 

DEA’s fight against climate change and to promote health by caring for the environment had begun. 

Key Dates of Initiatives –
First Decade 

1999-2000 – Our Beginning

  • Decision to form an organisation of doctors for the environment in Australia
  • Advertisement of intent and invitation for members to join placed in the MJA

2001 – Incorporation & Establishment of Committee

  • Bill Castleden identified as potential chairperson
  • Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA) incorporated in the state of SA
  • Ad hoc Committee formed- David Shearman SA, Bill Castleden WA, Grant Blashki VIC, Colin Butler ACT, Roscoe Taylor QLD, and Kevin Chamberlin QLD

2002 – Inaugural Meeting & Policy Development

  • Inaugural meeting of DEA with agreed name Doctors for the Environment Australia; promoting health through care of the environment
  • Policy development commenced early 2002 when Tony McMichael, David Shearman and Colin Butler wrote a Position paper on climate change and human health

2003 – First AGM Held & Key Positions Elected.

  • First Annual General meeting (Canberra)
  • Bill Castleden elected Chair and David Shearman Secretary
  • Leading article in RACP News by Tony McMichael, Linda Selvey and David Shearman. “The Impact of Global Climate Change on Human Health” It concluded with an invitation to join DEA.

2004 – Gaining Momentum & Structure, Scientific Committee Established

  • First Annual Report
  • Commencement of briefing letters to all members of federal parliament
  • First submission to parliament; on USFTA and DEA appeared before the Committee
  • Renewable Energy, submission to parliament and appearance of Tony Michael before parliamentary committee in Canberra
  • Population policy
  • State committees established
  • Scientific Advisory committee formed
  • Establishment of “The DEA Fund” for tax deductible donations
  • Students became full members

2005 – Funding Received & Further Policies Developed

  • Funding from the Federal Environmental Education Research Grant Scheme for “Community environmental education using human health messages”, which was used to develop posters. The first was co-badged by the AMA
  • A Policy on Health and Forests
  • A draft Document for Children’s Environmental Health
  • An Energy Policy for Australia was initiated

2006 – Submissions & Education Materials

  • Submission to the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review July to Inquiry into a Sustainability Charter
  • Climate Change and Health poster distributed to over 20,000 doctors in late 2006 as a once off enterprise with the AMA

2007 – Establishing Relationships & Media Presence “Enough to make you sick”

  • Established a relationship with RACGP to distribute poster on Biodiversity and Health to 35,000 RACGP members
  • Bill Castleden and Grant Blashki appointed Al Gore Climate-Educators
  • Submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry and Resources. Inquiry into the development of Australia’s non-fossil fuel industry: Case study into selected renewable energy sectors
  • Public Transport and Green City Manifesto
  • Joint scientific meeting of DEA and Rural Health West
  • Half-page advertisement in the Weekend Australian on the health aspects of climate change entitled “Enough to make you Sick”

2008 – Climate Change Health Check 2020

  • Published Climate Change Health Check 2020
  • Poster “Less Drive Time, More Alive Time” distributed to all RACGP members in December 2008
  • GreenClinic Brochure, an initiative between the Australian Conservation Council and DEA
  • Collaboration between DEA and Medical Observer (MO) Magazine commenced
  • Submission to the Garnaut Review
  • Mail outs to all federal parliamentarians on (1) Community measures to reduce emissions and (2) Renewable energy

2009 – Students & Coal & Health Initiative

  • Initiative on Coal and Health commenced
  • Poola Challenge Grant
  • DEA Students participated in global health conference and video
  • DEA students form national student committee
  • Submissions to parliament on fossil fuels, the proposed Olympic dam expansion food production and the agricultural sector
  • Inaugural DEA student conference Melbourne, Newman College

2010 – Coal & Health Initiatives

  • Major activity on coal and health commenced
  • DEA developed a revised policy paper “A Sustainable Population for Australia” and a Population poster was produced and distributed
  • Commencement of DEA initiative on divestment by banks from coal mines
  • Jointly organised Sustainability and Health think-thank, “Prescriptions for a healthy planet”

2011 – Unconventional Gas & Students Code Green Initiative

  • Advocacy on the potential harms of the Unconventional gas industry commenced
  • Submissions made to the Senate and to the NSW parliament on unconventional gas
  • Policy and fact sheet on unconventional gas
  • Commencement of action on the proposed Dual Gas Demonstration Project, Morwell
  • Commencement of advocacy on reform of Health Impact Assessment processes
  • Advocacy on the need for wind farms
  • Inaugural student iDEA conference Sydney
  • Code green student activity

Further Resources

Click here for a detailed look into DEA’s first decade, written by co-founder David Shearman.

Click here for a complete history (up to 2015).

We would like to thank the Medical Journal of Australia for allowing us to reproduce the attached article from their archives.