The future of social impact assessment in NSW

This event brings together a panel of experts to discuss the implications of changes to New South Wales’ Social Impact Assessment (SIA) Guideline, and some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the practice of SIA more broadly.

Social Impact Assessments (SIA) are supposed to tell us what social impacts matter when it comes to proposed developments, where the impacts will be felt, by whom and how. SIA should also deal with how impacts will be managed, or, indeed, if they can be managed at all. At the heart of SIA is the idea that planning authorities should be making informed decisions about developments, and that the public good – and indeed, those most vulnerable – should be protected. At the very least, SIA should ensure that social inequalities are not made worse and in the best of worlds, SIA should, in fact, contribute to the reduction in social inequalities.

SIAs, and the planning decisions that follow, should be informed by who and how people will be affected by a new mine; if a new light rail corridor will benefit some whilst adversely impacting others; and what kinds of social benefits and impacts can we expect from a new school or hospital. SIA is not about convincing a community or the public that a development is, or is not, in their best interest. It is about transparently, independently and robustly assessing the social facts so that everybody can participate in, or contribute to, the decision making process on an informed basis.

The NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, (DPIE) has recently released its new SIA Guideline, which will now apply to all State Significant Projects (and not just resource projects). This means that the number of social impact assessments being required by DPIE will increase significantly, and the standard for the way these SIAs will be assessed is now formalised.

This online event will bring together a panel of leading SIA experts to discuss the implications of DPIEs SIA Guideline, and some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the practice of SIA more generally.

This event was presented in person and online on Thursday 19 November 2020.


  • Rebecca Lawrence has worked in the field of Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for over 15 years as both an academic and SIA practitioner. 
  • Fiona Miller is a human geographer who conducts research on the social equity dimensions of environmental change.
  • Susan Park (Chair) is Professor of Global Governance at the University of Sydney. She focuses on how state and non-state actors use formal and informal influence to make the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) greener and more accountable. 
  • Richard Parsons works to build community, social, and cultural wellbeing through sound research and effective frameworks for action. Since 2016, he has been leading the NSW Government’s development and implementation of social impact assessment (SIA). 
  • Alison Ziller PhD is a consultant social planner specialising in social impact assessment (SIA).