NICNASís Existing Chemicals Assessment (EC) Program is being reviewed to enhance its flexibility and responsiveness to the needs and concern of all stakeholders. A ten-member EC Program Review Steering Committee (RSC) comprising representatives from the community, worker safety, industry and government sets the framework for the review and oversees its activities. Details of the RSC are included at Appendix 04.

In November 2005, focus group consultations were held in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth with members of the community, industry and government to provide an opportunity for NICNAS to capture issues that may not have been identified during the working group meetings.

Following consultation, the discussion paper Promoting safer chemical use: towards better regulation of chemicals in Australia , which proposes a new model for the NICNAS EC Program, was released for public comment on the NICNAS website on 27 April 2006 for an eight-week period. The paper was sent to over 600 contacts established in early 2006.

Between 15 May and 2 June 2006, 21 public engagement forums on the proposals in the discussion paper, led by the CEF, were conducted by NICNAS in eleven locations in Australia , comprising all capital cities and three regional centres.

A total of 170 people attended the forums, comprising 35 per cent from the community, 20 per cent from industry, 33 per cent from government and 12 per cent from other organisations such as educational institutions. Very strong interest was demonstrated from the general public and special interest community groups, a factor to be addressed in shaping the revised existing chemicals program and future NICNAS reform initiatives.

The forums enabled NICNAS and the RSC to gather public comment on the proposals for consideration in the Final Report and Recommendations, which will be sent by the RSC to the Director NICNAS for approval and implementation of agreed reforms. The public forums represented an important part of NICNASís commitment to community engagement to ensure better communication and better policy and decision-making, leading to safer chemical use in Australia .

To the end of June 2006, 26 written submissions had been received by NICNAS on the proposals in the discussion paper.