Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer

Australia is taking the lead on environmental biosecurity with the appointment of Ian Thompson as Australia’s first Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer (CEBO) in October 2018. He is the primary representative and advisor to the Australian Government on environmental biosecurity risks.


  • ensures environmental biosecurity issues remain central to discussions
  • works with government, industry, communities and environmental groups to protect Australia from pests and diseases that affect the environment
  • takes a strategic and transparent approach to national environmental biosecurity preparedness, prevention, surveillance, diagnostics/identification, response, communication and investment
  • works closely with the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Threatened Species Commissioner.

What’s at risk

Pests and diseases pose a significant risk to our environment, communities and way of life. They also threaten our economy, including our position as an iconic tourist destination.

The costs are significant. For example, red imported fire ants have the capacity to cause havoc in our environment and would cost an estimated $1.5 billion per year if they became established.

Progress to date

Some of the key activities to date include

  1. raising awareness of environmental biosecurity - through three environmental biosecurity roundtables; participation in the National Biosecurity Symposium; increased social media presence; and many meetings with non-government and government stakeholders.
  2. strengthening networks – establishing formal working arrangements with the Department of Environment and Energy. Linkages are being built with experts and key stakeholders outside the Department as well as interested community stakeholders including Natural Resources Management groups and private land managers.
  3. the release of and consultation about the Interim National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests and Diseases.
  4. strengthening surveillance capacity -  including working towards incorporating environmental priorities into surveillance systems for plants including forests. Investments in improvements to Wildlife Health Australia’s (WHA) wildlife health surveillance systems. On-going work to strengthen general surveillance for environmental biosecurity including investment in a peri-urban pilot and on-going conversations with citizen science networks on how their data could benefit environmental biosecurity. IBIS and foresighting systems now include environmental priorities.
  5. on-going response and preparedness improvements  - including coordinating the implementation of the National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan at Commonwealth level, progressing InvasivePlan, investing in new recording systems; collating lessons from experience with environmental biosecurity incidents to improve response arrangements; and contributing to the review of National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA).

About Ian Thompson

Ian Thompson started as Australia’s Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer in October 2018.  He was previously head of the Sustainable Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Division in the Department of Agriculture with responsibility for community and Indigenous engagement, as well as fisheries, forestry, agvet chemicals and the National Landcare Programme.

Ian’s previous experience has been in:

  • biosecurity policy and emergency response
  • plant industry policy
  • drought management
  • rural adjustment
  • rural leadership
  • water reform. 

This is a national leadership role like the:

Media statement

Inaugural Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer appointment announced.

Last reviewed: 5 December 2019
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