When groups of people come together to work on common problems, sharing resources, knowledge and experience comes naturally. Indeed, common problems cannot be solved without bringing people together to share their stories. As a group of Australian wildlife officers discovered in 2000, creating opportunities for people to meet with the express purpose of building better relationships between agencies results in tangible benefits for both practitioners and the regulatory craft.
A series of highly successful wildlife officers meetings and conferences led to the creation of a grassroots movement that focused on cooperation across borders. In turn, this grassroots movement led to the creation of AELERT in 2003. AELERT’s very first Mission Statement outlined AELERT’s aims:
The raising of professional standards and efficacy in the execution of monitoring, investigation, implementation and enforcement of environmental law to achieve best practice by promoting intra-agency and inter-agency cooperation and the facilitation of the exchange of information and expertise both within and across jurisdictional boundaries.
In many ways, AELERT’s mission remains the same.
In 2004, AELERT's inaugural Conference took place in Melbourne and was attended by 167 participants. AELERT was formally established as a network immediately after that Conference with five founding member agencies.
The first AELERT Charter was developed in 2004-05 as were AELERT’s earliest Cluster groups – or sub-committees – as they were known then.
AELERT held yearly Conferences from 2005 to 2011 before deciding to hold the Conference biennially beginning in 2011. In 2007 the AELERT Secretariat was formed which allowed the Network to expand its duties and deliverables. In 2009 the Council of Australian Governments Environment Protection and Heritage Standing Committee endorsed AELERT to operate under the auspices of the Committee and its overarching Council.AELERT remains responsive to relevant Minister’s Councils as they are constituted from time to time.
By November 2010, AELERT’s membership had grown to include over 75 member agencies. Membership at that time became truly representative as it included, and continues to include, members drawn from all three levels of government, each of the eight Australian jurisdictions and both levels of government in New Zealand. Having withstood a variety of institutional and government changes across the environmental regulatory sector, AELERT’s enduring relevance can be attributed to the strong participation of its grassroots membership base.