Bridging Issue #47

My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine. Such suffering. Such inhumanity. It is hard to sit down and reflect on the challenges of today’s leaders in water and the environment, and not start by reflecting on the courage displayed by the Ukraine people, and indeed all people living in regions of armed conflict. May they be safe.

From the Chief Executive Officer

Leaders of courage and speaking truth to power. These are two topics I often reflect on in thinking about the impact of the Peter Cullen Trust’s leadership programs.

If we travelled with Dr Who in the Tardis to June 2006 we would witness Peter Cullen present his paper “Science and Politics – Speaking Truth to Power” at the Benthological Society Conference in Anchorage

Peter was a great intellect, and an impactful communicator. In the 2006 paper he compared the differences in scientists seeking the truth, and being prepared for ideas to be contested, with the political processes in policy formulation often in a deluge of contested ideas and interests. Science seeking the truth and politics seeking consensus. Australia’s high-water mark in water policy was arguably the National Water Initiative signed by the Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and Premiers in 2004. Although, 18 years later, it is long past the time to renew Australia’s national agreement on water, as recommended by the recent Productivity Commission review. The principles agreed in 2004 are as relevant today and should remain the guiding light. A pity this is not always evident.

I can’t help but reflect on the additional layers of complexity that our leaders of today face from when Peter presented his paper “Science and Politics – Speaking Truth to Power”. What has not changed is the need for leaders of courage. Being clear on your why. An open mind, prepared to listen deeply, reflect and prepared to stand up for your beliefs. But not afraid to fail.

The Peter Cullen Trust Fellows Network has over 200 leaders across most sectors of the contested space of water science, policy, and practice. Their challenge is to give voice to evidence-based decision making. To empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders voices in water policy and practice. To listen to the voice of our communities. No small challenge.

I believe that the Peter Cullen Trust is at an inflection point now with a significant cohort of Fellows stepping up as leaders beyond their career role. To support these leaders, we have established a new role of Fellows Network Coordinator and established a Reconciliation Action Plan Committee. However, it is also up to Fellows to work with the Trust regarding how best to support their leadership in speaking truth to power.

Our website has been refreshed and that has allowed this newsletter to be more accessible on-line. I hope you like the look and feel of the new format. Please give us feedback on ways we can improve our communication with you, our Friends and Fellows.

Programs Update

By PCT Programs Director, Dr Bek Christensen

It has been a real pleasure to start this year with a return to face-to-face Program activities. To lead off, we hosted the second workshop for the Water Services Association of Australia Young Utility Leaders Program (WSAA YUL) in Brisbane. This cohort have done the first 6 months of their program online and had already formed strong connections during that time. It was great to see these connections supercharged through time spent with each other in-person, as we explored topics around communication, influencing, and leading others. A bonus was having WSAA CEO Adam Lovell with us for part of the day – thank you Adam for taking time to invest in the growth and development of the sector’s future leaders.

(From L-R) WSAA CEO Adam Lovell with WSAA YULs Samantha Rinortner, Chantal Keane, Jackson McEwen, Ali Ahmadi, Marzieh Lotfollahi, and PCT Programs Director Bek Christensen.

Of course, the big news is the successful delivery of Session 1 of the 2022 Science to Policy Leadership Program. This is the first Science to Policy Leadership Program we have been able to run since 2019, and we are so pleased that the week went off without a hitch and with all participants staying safe and healthy. The success of Session 1 is due in large part to the excellent program direction offered by Leith Boully, in concert with the outstanding facilitation and services of our longstanding partners at Outback Initiatives.

The 2022 Science to Policy Leadership Program group at Session 1 in March 2022.

In a first for a PCT Program, this cohort created a verbal group contract together that was sealed through a ceremony led by the indigenous members of the cohort before departing on the final day of Session 1. We hope that the group will be able to share more about this process and experience with other Fellows in future – a good reason to come along to their project presentation and graduation on May 19 (see details elsewhere in this edition)!

The readers with a penchant for detail will notice that there has been a change of plans with regards to the 2022 Women in Water Leadership Program. We had intended to deliver that Program in the first half of this year, alongside the Science to Policy Leadership Program. However, with the continuing COVID uncertainties and (until recently) state border closures, we decided to defer the Program until the second half of this year. While this is disappointing, it’s a decision that was understood by participants and sponsors.

The final event of interest to our community is the upcoming OzWater ’22 Conference from 10-12 May in Brisbane. PCT is hosting a great debate on Tuesday 10 May on the topic ‘We need MORE people experts and LESS technical experts to ensure a brighter water future for us all.’ The debate will feature this year’s WSAA YUL group working alongside PCT Fellows Brad Moggridge, Andrew O’Neill, Deena Rigby, and Kirsten Shelly. It’s sure to be a thought-provoking and entertaining event, so if you’re at OzWater be sure to come along to the session.

Upcoming PCT Events

We are genuinely thrilled to open bookings for our upcoming face to face events to be held in conjunction with the Science to Policy Leadership graduation week in 17-20 May. The week’s events provide the first opportunity for PCT community to gather together in person since November 2019, and we would like to see as many Friends and Fellows there as possible. The Trust is delighted to offer these events FREE for Fellows and Friends. Event outlines are provided below together with registration links. The Trust also has some funds available to assist with the travel costs for Fellows who require it. If you wish to request travel assistance, you can contact the Trust office by email

Shaking the Foundations | Fellows Professional Development Day

Date: Thursday 19 May
Location: Fenner Room, ANU Campus, 141 Linnaeus Way, Acton, Canberra

On May 19 we are re-engaging, re-uniting and re-emerging. The PCT Fellows Network is large and we need new ways to learn, share and achieve together. We need to shake our foundation and evolve. Our political institutions seem impenetrable, they aren’t – we need to work together to find ways to speak truth to power. Our climate news seems increasingly grim, looking away won’t help, lets support each other to find solutions and get on with them.

PCT Fellows only.

PCT Fellows at the 2019 Fellows PD Day

Graduation Event

Date: Thursday 19 May 2022
Location: Shine Dome, 15 Gordon Street, Acton, Canberra

Please join us for the Graduation Presentation of the Peter Cullen Trust’s 2022 Science to Policy Leadership Program Fellows on Thursday 19 May at the Shine Dome in Canberra. This extra special event will also mark the graduation of our 2021 Women in Water Fellows who completed their Program online last November. It will be DOUBLE THE FUN as we welcome two cohorts to the PCT alumni. For those that cannot attend in person, this event will also be LIVESTREAMED.

Friends, Fellows and invited VIPS of the Trust only. 

PCT Friends and Fellows at the 2019 Science to Policy Leadership Graduation at Shine Dome

Fellows Networking Breakfast

Date: Friday 20 May
Location: QT Capital Bar and Grill, London Circuit, Acton, Canberra

The Fellows Networking Breakfast will bring Fellows together and also provide a warm welcome to our newest Fellows from the Science to Policy Program following their graduation the evening before. We will also take the opportunity to gather with graduates from the 2021 Women in Water Program. The Trust will cover the cost of the breakfast, however places are limited to 65 and with two cohorts attending you will need to jump in fast to secure your seat at the table.

PCT Fellows only.

Fellows and PCT Board Director, Andrew Campbell, at the PCT Fellows Networking Breakfast in 2019.

PCT Updates

Melbourne Lunch with Two Leaders

By Karen White, PCT Fellow 2021 and Melbourne Lunch Lead

On Tuesday 29th April, The Royal Society of Victoria (RSV) hosted a contingent of the PCT Fellows and  PCT CEO, Darryl Day for a tour of the RSV building and lunch with Mike Flattley (CEO Royal Society of Victoria) and Rob Gell (President) who are in the midst of transforming RSV to be the independent voice of science in Victoria.

We were given an excellent tour and history of the RSV building by Mike who regaled us with fascinating stories about the 1854 origins of the RSV who sponsored and organised the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860 and the legacy of past RSV presidents who spearheaded the establishment of the Museum Victoria, the State Library of Victoria and the Bureau of Meteorology’s weather station (still on-site) to mention a few! We learned that the RSV is one of the few knowledge-based societies in Australia to have its own building and Act in Parliament.

From left to right: Lunch attendees, PCT Fellow Ross Hardie, Trust CEO Darryl Day, PCT Fellows Allana Wright, Karen White, and Anna May

Against the backdrop of this impressive legacy, Rob and Mike spoke over lunch of their vision for the future of The Royal Society of Victoria to develop a network of organisation partnerships and connections with the science community to be a voice for advocacy and an independent source of advice to community and government. They highlighted the importance of building community trust in science and the need to translate scientific ideas and initiatives into accessible language.

Rob also spoke passionately about the plans for future fellow appointments and proposals to make Melbourne Australia’s science and technology capital. He reflected on the various environmental and conservation organisations he has been a part of over the years and the leadership learnings that he is now bringing to the RSV and his desire to attract other leaders to join RSV.

Darryl Day (PCT CEO) spoke of the potential synergies with the Peter Cullen Trust and the challenge that some fellows face when trying to advocate within a government organisation. Rob reflected this was a common sentiment he had heard through other organisations and sees the potential for the RSV to provide Victorian PCT Fellows with an alternative avenue for advocacy and contributing to independent advice.

It was a fascinating lunch and the 2 hours went by quickly as we witnessed leadership that aspires to be transformational for The Royal Society of Victoria. Thanks to Chris Arnott for lining up the speakers for this Lunch and to DELWP for their ongoing support and sponsorship of the Melbourne Leaders Lunch Series.

Further information about the future plans for the Royal Society of Victoria can be found

Conferences and Seminars

The 25th International River Symposium will be held in Vienna and online 27-30 November 2022. The International River Foundation is now calling for Abstract Submissions. If this is of interest you can learn more about the Symposium and submit your Abstract here


Jigsaw Farms Scholarship donors Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor made Officers of the Order of Australia (AO)

We both proud and delighted to announce that Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor were made Officers of the Order of Australia (AO) for “distinguished service to the community through philanthropic support for a range of organisations, and to the environment.” Mark was an enormously valued Director on the PCT Board from 2018 -2022 and together with Eve has funded the Jigsaw Farms Scholarship on PCT Programs every year since 2017. They remain valued supporters and Friends of the Trust. You can learn more about the incredible work Mark and Eve are doing at their Jigsaw Farms property integrating forestry, carbon and indigenous plantings with high-productivity grazing on a large scale. You can also listen to an fascinating interview with Mark Wootton and Eve Kantor with Virginia Trioli on ABC Radio here

PCT Fellow Bradley Moggridge (Fellow 2018), appointed to the Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee

A HUGE congratulations to Associate Professor Bradley Moggridge, Senior Research Fellow within the Centre for Applied Water Science at UC on being appointed by Minister Pitt to the Great Artesian Basin Stakeholder Advisory Committee.

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world, spanning almost 1.7 million square kilometres or one-fifth of the Australian continent. It is home to a rich Indigenous heritage and iconic Australian landscapes, waterscapes and biodiversity. The basin generates nearly $13 billion per year in income and supports 180,000 people, 7,600 businesses and 120 towns.

Brad will be heavily involved in advising government on policy and management matters affecting the Basin.

Well done Brad!!

PCT Fellow Anne Poelina (2011) appointed to the MDBA’s independent Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES).  

PCT Fellow Cissy Gore-Birch (2019) on left and Anne Poelina (2011) on right at the PCT Science to Policy Graduation event in Canberra 2019.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority is strengthening its First Nations science advice this year with the appointment of PCT Fellow (2011) Professor Anne Poelina to the MDBA’s independent Advisory Committee on Social, Economic and Environmental Sciences (ACSEES).  

MDBA Chair Sir Angus Houston said Professor Poelina’s appointment added a crucial dimension to ACSEES’ depth of expertise: “First Nation peoples’ knowledge and experience play an increasingly important role in the MDBA’s considerations of water management,” Sir Angus Houston said.  
“Professor Poelina’s immense talent and insight will help to ensure the MDBA’s work maintains scientific rigour and considers the quadruple bottom line of economic, social, cultural and environmental knowledge.”  

Professor Poelina is a Nyikina Warrwa woman from the Mardoowarra – the lower Fitzroy River in the Kimberley region. Over the past 30 years she has combined her passions for academia, community development, film-making and traditional ecological knowledge.   

“I am very pleased to be contributing my perspective and understanding to such a vital and complex area as water management in the Murray–Darling Basin. Striving towards a sustainable river system is a shared endeavour and the advisory role of ACSEES is more important than ever,” Professor Poelina said.  

Professor Poelina’s qualifications include doctorates in First Law and cultural determinants of Indigenous health and wellbeing. She also played a key role developing and implementing applied research projects that inform the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy’s Water Justice Hub, with a focus on Indigenous water valuation and resilient decision-making.  

The eight members of ACSEES together cover a breadth of water-related research and analysis, including economics, hydrology, climate, ecology, water governance and law, sociology, sustainable systems and First Nations knowledge.  The MDBA established ACSEES in 2012 as an advisory committee under Section 203 of the Water Act 2007.  

Read more here:

Articles and Publications

Principles for scientists working at the river science-policy interface

Ross M Thompson, Emily J Barbour, Corey J A Bradshaw, Sue Briggs, Neil Byron, Michael Grace, Barry T. Hart, Alison J. King, Gene E. Likens, Carmel A. Pollino, Fran Sheldon, Michael J Stewardson, Martin Thoms, Robyn J Watts, J Angus Webb

In the face of mounting environmental and political challenges in river management, accurate and timely scientific information is required to inform policy development and guide effective management of waterways. The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s largest river system by area and is the subject of a heavily contested series of water reforms relying comprehensively on river science. River scientists have specialised knowledge that is an important input into evidence-based decision-making for the management of the Murray–Darling Basin, but despite extensive literature on the interface between science and policy, there is little guidance on achieving policy relevance for practicing scientists. Here, we provide a set of important discussion points for water scientists to consider when engaging with policy-makers and environmental water managers. We place our considerations in the context of a broader literature discussing the role of natural-resource scientists engaging with policy and management. We then discuss the different roles for river scientists when engaging in this space, and the advantages and pitfalls of each. We illustrate the breadth of modes of engagement at the science-policy-management interface using the Murray–Darling Basin as an example. We emphasise the need for effective governance arrangements and data practices to protect scientists from accusations of operating as advocates when working to inform management and policy.

Read the full article co-authored by several PCT Fellows and Friends here

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