The Social Licence – a pathway or stumbling block to meeting Australia’s Energy needs?

Sign on dirt road


More Information

A social licence to operate is often seen as an essential component to good business conduct, a requirement that cannot be ignored.

This webinar is a follow up on the recent Social licence and unconventional gas: a solution to, or component of, conflict? article by Professor Fiona Haines from the University of Melbourne and Professors Sara Bice and Helen Sullivan from the Australian National University, and will discuss the messy reality behind a social licence drawing on recent research that shows how it can be drawn into conflicts between companies and communities. While a social licence may sometimes ease tensions, in other cases it exacerbates them. As part of this tension, it can be viewed as primarily aimed to reassure investors rather than change business behaviour, and as either essential or inimical to democracy.

A panel of researchers and community members will attempt to make sense of a social licence, and how it can play an important role in enabling a necessary but difficult conversation within and between communities, energy companies and government.


Sara Bice, Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Futures Scheme Senior Fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University

Colette Einfeld, PhD Candidate, The Australian National University

Fiona Haines, Professor of Criminology, School of Social and Political Sciences, The University of Melbourne; Honorary Professor, The Regulatory Institutions Network, The Australian National University; and Fellow, The Academy of Social Sciences in Australia

Bronwyn Lay, Co-ordinator Ecological Justice, Jesuit Social Services; and Climate Justice Lead, The Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria

Richard Parsons, Social Impact Assessment Specialist, Planning and Assessment, Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, New South Wales Government

Helen Sullivan, Professor and Director, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University


Michael Brear, Director, Melbourne Energy Institute

Professor Sara Bice, The Australian National University

Sara Bice is Professor and Vice-Chancellor’s Futures Scheme Senior Fellow at the Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University, Australia’s leading public policy school. Sara is Foundation Director, Institute for Infrastructure in Society, where she leads the Next Generation Engagement program, Australia’s largest study into community engagement in infrastructure. She is a past President of the International Association for Impact Assessment, the world’s leading organisation for impact assessment practitioners, researchers and clients, representing almost 7,000 members in 120 different countries. Sara is Professor (Special International Guest) at the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing. She is an award-winning author and Associate Editor for Public Administration. She loves to surf, has been known to swim with sharks and never met a gelato she didn’t like.

Professor Michael Brear, The University of Melbourne

Michael Brear is a mechanical engineer and the Director of the Melbourne Energy Institute (MEI) at the University of Melbourne. MEI facilitates the University’s research on the technical, economic, environmental and social impacts of energy.

Michael is also a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, the Combustion Institute, Engineers Australia and the Australian Institute of Energy. He previously established the University’s multi-disciplinary degree, the Master of Energy Systems.

Dr Bronwyn Lay, Jesuit Social Services; The Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria

Bronwyn Lay is the Co-ordinator of Ecological Justice with Jesuit Social Services and the Climate Justice Lead at the Federation of Community Legal Centres Victoria. With a background in criminal and family law she completed her PhD on international land governance and environmental law at the European Graduate School. She subsequently worked as a legal consultant for international NGO’s and expert organisations on environmental crime, was the Director of the Caux Dialogue on Land and Security in Geneva and is published in a wide variety of forums on the subject of ecological justice.

Professor Fiona Haines, The University of Melbourne

Fiona Haines is Professor of Criminology in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, Honorary Professor at the Regulatory Institutions Network at ANU and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. Her research centres on business regulation, white collar and corporate crime. She has undertaken research encompassing industrial disasters, environmental harm, human rights abuse by multi-national businesses, cartel conduct, financial crime and energy transitions. Through this diverse work she explores the way context and place affect the nature and effectiveness of regulation to resolve business harm.

Dr Richard Parsons, The New South Wales Government

Richard Parsons is a researcher and practitioner specialising in social impact assessment (SIA), social licence, and community and stakeholder engagement. Working with governments and industry, his overall objective is to improve community, social, and cultural wellbeing through effective frameworks for action. Since 2016, he has been leading the NSW Government’s program for improving SIA, firstly for extractive industries and more recently for all development sectors. He has written extensively for academic and professional publications.

Professor Helen Sullivan, The Australian National University

Helen Sullivan is Professor and Director of the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy, Asia-Pacific’s leading public policy school.

A political sociologist, Helen's scholarship explores the changing nature of state-society relationships in contemporary governance.  Helen’s career is defined by a long-term commitment to bridging the gap between research and policy and she has led and supported numerous successful innovations across the world.

Receive the latest in energy news from across the University Subscribe here