Frequently Asked Questions
The Transforming Australia 2020 Update provides a quantitative assessment, based on trends and a 2030 target value, of Australia’s progress on a select number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) indicators. The indicators have been selected based on their relevance for the recovery from COVID-19, the availability of recent robust data and their ability to tell a story about Australia’s progress against the SDGs. This is the second Transforming Australia report. The first report was released in 2018 and can be accessed under the About section of this website.
This updated assessment of Australia’s progress on the SDGs covers a select set of targets and indicators only. These were selected for inclusion based on the following set of criteria:
- Relevance for Australia’s COVID-19 recovery
- Availability of updated time series data since the TA 2018 assessment
- Potential for the indicator to tell a compelling story
- Balance of economic, social, environmental issues
- Availability of target/benchmark values
- Relevance for key SDG transformations¹ identified by experts
An important advancement for this assessment is the proposal of 2030 target or benchmark values for Australia for all indicators.
In all cases, target and benchmark values were selected based on available evidence and the following decision process (in order of preference):
- Numerical SDG targets from the official SDG framework;
- Existing national targets, for example from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) or national strategies;
- Targets set by the National Sustainable Development Council (NSDC) for the 2018 assessment;
- Targets/benchmarks sourced from other global and regional assessments of the SDGs, including the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s global SDG index or United Nations publications;
- Targets/benchmarks based on a comparison with top-performing peer countries (e.g. an average of OECD top five performing countries) or optimal historical performance;
- Benchmarks set based on a steady improvement on the 2015 baseline value of 1% per annum to 2030 (using a compound annual growth rate).
Additional information on the methodology can be found under the Analysis - Methodology section of this website
We understand that many of these target values could be the subject of debate and different views. As with the 2018 report, a primary objective of this report is to stimulate public conversation about Australia’s future.
For each indicator that is being assessed a target or benchmark value has been identified and progress has been assessed, with the findings represented by a traffic light symbol highlighting whether Australia is ‘On Track’ (), ‘Needs Improvement’, (), ‘Off Track’ () or ‘Breakthrough Needed’ ().
The quantitative method for assessing progress against the target or benchmark value combines an analysis of time series data and 2030 target values for each indicator and compares Australia’s actual progress and the progress that would be needed to reach the 2030 target, expressed as a percentage of progress.
The assessment of trends is based on the ‘compound annual growth rate’ (CAGR) formula, which assesses the pace and direction of the evolution of an indicator. This formula uses the data from the first and the last years of the analysed time series to calculate an average annual compounded rate of change (%). To assess progress, the actual rate of change of the indicator based on the observed CAGR (1) is compared against the desired rate of change that would be required to meet the specified target value in 2030. This comparison calculates a ratio (R) by dividing the observed rate (CAGRO) by the desired rate (CAGRD) (2).
Further information on methodology can be found under the Analysis - Methodology section of this website.
The SDGs were adopted unanimously by all countries, including Australia, at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 (A/RES/70/1). The SDGs comprise of 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators.
They are a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. All countries agreed to implement the agenda—taking into account national priorities and capacities—and to report on progress made against the targets over their 15-year lifetime to 2030. An initial set of 232 official indicators was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2017.
The SDGs apply to all countries, including Australia. Australia helped to shape the Goals, and committed to achieving them along with all other countries at the United Nations in September 2015.
The SDGs as relevant for Australia because:
- they offer a framework for approaching the big challenges Australia faces, such as population growth, the future of work, climate change and inequality;
- Underpinning the Goals is the belief that no one should be left behind, which is consistent with the Australian value of ‘a fair go for all’
While the SDGs were signed up to by national governments, they are applicable to everyone, including businesses, non-government organisations, research institutes and individual citizens.
The UN SDG site provides more information on the SDGs - https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/.
No. This progress update has been prepared by Monash Sustainable Development Institute with the support of the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation. Experts in specific SDGs were consulted. The official Australian government website on the SDGs can be found at sdgdata.gov.au.
The UN produces an annual stocktaking report on progress across the 17 SDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals Report, provides an overview of the world’s implementation efforts to date, using the latest data and estimates. The reports are prepared by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, with input from international and regional organizations and the United Nations system of agencies, funds and programmes. The report can be found here, https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2020/
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung produce an annual SDG Index and Dashboards for all UN member states. This year’s edition, “The Sustainable Development Report 2020”, was published by Cambridge University Press. The report provides up-to-date data to track and rank the performance of all UN member states on the SDGs. The report can be found here, https://www.sdgindex.org/
- Australian Government site on SDGs, https://www.dfat.gov.au/aid/topics/development-issues/2030-agenda/Pages/default
- Australian government site on data for the SDG Indicators, sdgdata.gov.au
- https://sdgs.org.au/ a platform that showcases action being taken across government, business, civil society and academia to advance the SDGs in the Australian context
- "The Melbourne Experiment", an interdisciplinary research collaboration studying the effects of COVID-19 on the functions of a city and an international model for post-COVID-19 urban recovery and renewal.
- https://www.unaa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UNAA-RMIT-ASX-150-SDG-Report.pdf, Partnership between RMIT University and UNAA looking at SDG measurement and disclosure by the top 150 Australian publicly-listed companies (ASX150)
- https://www.unaa.org.au/sdg/ United Nations Association of Australia, the peak body for promoting the United Nations (UN) in Australia
¹ SACHS, J. D., SCHMIDT-TRAUB, G., MAZZUCATO, M., MESSNER, D., NAKICENOVIC, N. & ROCKSTRÖM, J. 2019. Six transformations to achieve the sustainable development goals. Nature Sustainability, 2, 805-814. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0352-9