November in Canberra has traditionally been a special time for the Trust. Meeting new Fellows at the Leadership Program Graduation and reconnecting with the family of Fellows and the wider Peter Cullen community is inspiring, regenerative and an opportunity for personal reflection. Peter would have been very proud of the leaders supported in his name.
1. From the Chief Executive Officer
Our face-to-face graduation on Thursday 18 November for the 2022 Women in Water Leadership Program celebrated an incredible cohort, with self-believe, destined to have impact, across Australia and beyond. The Graduation Address by Leith Boully (read more below) set a challenge, shared a recipe for success, and critically passed the baton to our Programs Director, Bek Christensen, to continue to evolve the Trust’s transformative leadership programs to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
Our host for the Graduation, Trust Director and founding Friend, Andrew Campbell, shared our history; how the Trust was established as a legacy to Peter, with funding of $1 million from the National Water Commission and support from the then Water Minister, the Hon Senator Penny Wong. Senator Wong was recently briefed on the impact of that investment and commended the work of the Board in the charitable organisation’s achievements.
The Trust’s Annual Report, distributed to those attending all events across the week, reflects the quality and diversity of the Trust’s impact and the vision and strength of its governing body. The Annual Report can be viewed HERE.
On behalf of the Trust, I would particularly like to thank you Andrew, for your leadership in the establishment of the Trust, and your service as an active Director and champion over the past five years. Your retirement from the Board at the AGM on 19 November leaves a big hole for us to fill.
Our Patron, and scholarship sponsor, Vicky Cullen, attended the Graduation and celebrated with the Women in Water graduates. We are deeply honoured by Vicky’s ongoing support, which extends to the sponsorship of an Indigenous candidate on the 2023 Science to Policy Leadership Program. Peter had a very special relationship with Indigenous leaders, especially through his work in the Lake Eyre Basin and the Kimberley. Vicky continues his legacy through the Vicky Cullen Scholarship. Thank you so much Vicky, your support continues to influence so many lives, careers and conversations.
The week was full of other activities for the Fellows community with the biannual Fellows Professional Development Day, and the Reconnect, Reflect and Renew workshop for the 2021 Women in Water Leadership Program (more on both events below).
On Wednesday, we were honoured to have Rachel Connell present the annual Peter Cullen Lecture (read more below). We are very grateful for the opportunity to present the Lecture through a partnership with the University of Canberra (Institute for Applied Ecology) and Griffith University (Australian Rivers Institute). The Lecture is a fitting collaboration between the Trust and two world renowned academic institutions so dear to Peter’s heart.
The incredible week was engineered by our tireless team of Bek Christensen, Lesley Ryall and Linda Cumming, and hosted by the wonderfully talented and highly professional team at the Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome. Thank you.
Reported elsewhere, the Hon Karlene Maywald, Chairperson of the Board, and former Director Mark Wootton attended COP27. In this issue, we have published a brief teaser of their contribution to COP27, and in the new year we will look more closely at COP27 in a network-wide panel conversation with Karlene, Mark, Fellows and Friends.
Enjoy the last days of 2022, and have a safe, relaxing and refreshing time with your loved ones over the festive season. We’ll be downing tools in the Trust office from 23 December to 9 January.
Best wishes on achieving your goals in 2023.
2. Programs Update
2022 and Beyond – By PCT Programs Director, Dr Bek Christensen
Programs Director, Dr Bek Christensen, reflects on the completion of the 2022 PCT Leadership Programs and looks ahead with optimism to a year filled with new ideas and opportunities.
We’ve just wrapped up the 2022 Women in Water Leadership Program, with 13 women from around the country graduating to become our newest PCT Fellows. Through their project, the group tackled the challenges of changing the system to achieve a bold and positive vision for our environmental future. Their final presentation both inspired and challenged the audience at the Shine Dome and our online audience watching at home. I know the group are committed to pursuing this vision through their connection with the PCT Fellows Network, as well as in their own communities and workplaces – I look forward to seeing their continued progress on this journey.
Program graduation week is layered with many other PCT activities including the Peter Cullen Lecture, Fellows PD Day, and the 12-month Reconnect-Reflect-Renew workshop for the previous year’s program cohort. (See PCT Updates for more on these events.) When I reflect on this week of activity, the words that come to mind are energy and momentum. There is a distinctly new and enlivened energy around our PCT community, with new ideas, relationships, and initiatives forming. And this is resulting in a growing momentum of action across our Fellows Network, and within the PCT staff team and Board too. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this community, and I look forward to seeing where 2023 takes us.
On the topic of 2023, we have just selected the successful candidates for the 2023 Science to Policy Leadership Program. We have a group of 17 people from across Australia, and one third of that group come from organisations that haven’t engaged with a PCT Program before. I think that’s an exciting sign of the continuing need and interest in our work, and a challenge for us to continue expanding our community to embrace more and more of our water and environment community.
The 2023 Science to Policy Program will kick off in March, and prior to that in February we will also be delivering a customised program for the leadership group of the new OneBasin CRC. We are encouraged to see this commitment to investing in and nurturing leadership within the CRC, and it’s our pleasure to partner with the CRC to support their development.
I hope that you all have safe and happy holiday periods, which include real opportunities for rest and recovery – an important thing for all leaders to have! Thank you all for your continued engagement and support throughout 2022, and I look forward to working with you in 2023.
Collaboration, leadership and influence – theGraduation Address and leadership challenge by Leith Boully
It was inspiring to hear Leith Boully’s address at the 2022 Women in Water Graduation.
In his introduction, Board Director Andrew Campbell said: “It’s an absolute pleasure for me to introduce our Graduation Address speaker tonight – Darryl tells me that it took some arm twisting! But Leith Boully should need no introduction to any of the Fellows of the Trust because she has been the Program Director from the very first leadership program in 2010, right through to the 2022 Science to Policy Leadership Program who’ve graduated in May this year. Leith was a very good friend of Peter. He’s had innumerable leadership roles in the water sector, I think was the inaugural Chair of the community advisory mechanisms for the Murray-Darling Basin. She’s been on the Boards of many companies and statutory bodies, CRCs and other things that have influenced many, many people in her career, as did Peter. So it’s wonderful to have you with us this evening to give the graduation address. Thank you.”
We’re pleased to share the Graduation Address HERE.
Not content with speaking to us, Leith issued a challenge to the PCT Fellows Network to enter the debate, influence the revised National Water Initiative and, when you’re done, go and speak truth to power. You can hear more on this from Leith at the link above or read her summary here.
At the 2022 Women in Water graduation, I offered a challenge to the Fellows Network. It was irresistible to provide for the first time an unambiguous but complex topic for debate that goes to the heart of Australian Water Policy. I look forward to hearing stories about your success in influencing the revised National Water Initiative through a collaborative process to:
Identify the big issues for a refreshed National Water Initiative.
Determine if there is a compelling case for a new National Water Commission, and advise on its mandate
Speak truth to power as Peter Cullen would have done.
How might you go about this? A suggestion in the form of a Peter Cullen-inspired “recipe for leadership” might help.
Close your eyes and envisage a large pot in the middle of a catchment.
Fill the pot with the fresh, pure, clear water of undiluted human spirit and curiosity.
Take special care not to contaminate with preconceived ideas, or to pollute with excess control.
Fill slowly; notice that the pot only fills from the bottom up. It’s impossible to fill it from the top down!
Stir in equal parts of people focus and pride in good work.
Bring to boil and blend in a liberal portion of diversity, one part self-esteem, and one part tolerance.
Fold in accountability and courage.
Simmer until smooth and thick, stirring in shared goals.
Season with a dash of humour and a pinch of adventure.
Let cool, then garnish with a topping of core values.
Serve to all in the Fellows Network and their extended networks. Notice how the magical powers of the combined ingredients break down silos, inspire action and provide hope for the future.
Leith Boully: Honouring the Legacy – by PCT CEO, Darryl Day
The contribution that Leith Boully has made to the Peter Cullen Trust and the development of our Fellows is the stuff of legend. How do we honour that gift and the tireless, dedicated work that it represents?
Inaugural Life Membership Awarded
In the early days of the Peter Cullen Trust, Leith Boully was approached by the then Chair, the Hon. John Thwaites, to develop the concept for a flagship leadership program. Leith Boully (Warragal Pty Ltd) designed and delivered the first Science to Policy Leadership Program, as Program Director, in 2010.
In August this year, the Board awarded Leith Boully the first lifetime Honorary Membership of the Trust. This status recognises her inspiration, design, delivery and advocacy for the Trust’s flagship leadership programs and her work mentoring staff and facilitators to ensure the aspirations and reputation of the Trust’s Programs have been maintained over the past 12 years.
Leith Boully Leadership Award
The new Leith Boully Leadership Award, announced in November, will recognise the most meritorious graduate who has displayed courage, curiosity and compassion during a flagship leadership program.
The Hon. Karlene Maywald announced the Leith Boully Leadership Award at the 2022 Women in Water Leadership Program Graduation on 17 November at the Shine Dome. Karlene, Chair of the Peter Cullen Environment and Water Trust, said the award was established in recognition of Leith Boully’s amazing contribution as Program Director for 16 flagship leadership programs with over 230 graduates.
The selection of the award winner will consider the courage and performance of Fellows during the program before graduation, in the 12 months post-graduation and at the Reconnect, Reflect, Renew session 12 months after graduation.
The bar will be appropriately high, and no award will be made if no graduate is considered to meet the Leith Boully “standard”.
3. Upcoming PCT Events and Opportunities
At the end of another challenging year, a shout out to the Fellows Committee, City Leads and all those who have planned, coordinated, supported and delivered an outstanding program of events across the year.
For the last time in 2022, get together with your fellow Fellows for informal drinks at Melbourne’s very funky Arbory Afloat, on the banks of the Yarra. All Fellows, local and visiting, welcome.
Fellows Networking Event – Melbourne
Informal Christmas drinks and a welcome to our newest Fellows.
The 2022 Peter Cullen Lecture – The Case for Water Reform: Being Prepared for Extreme Extremes
How do we design the next National Water Initiative to set us up to deal effectively with the “extreme extremes” of the future? In presenting the 2022 Peter Cullen Lecture, Rachel Connell posed questions, challenges and highlighted key priorities for national water reform.
Over 100 Fellows, Friends and colleagues registered to attend the annual Peter Cullen Trust Lecture at the Shine Dome in Canberra on 16 November. The Lecture is presented annually, with a break over the last two years with the COVID-19 constraints, by the University of Canberra, Griffith University and Peter Cullen Trust.
Rachel Connell, Head of Division, Water Reform Taskforce, with the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water and Deputy Chair of the Murray-Darling Basin Officials Committee delivered an authentic, reflective lecture, which highlighted priorities for national water reform. The National Water Initiative, Australia’s water reform roadmap, is now more than 18 years old.
The Lecture honoured Peter Cullen’s legacy, especially the role he played in the national water policy debate, political engagement and advocacy for rivers, the environment and Indigenous people in the establishment of the 2004 National Water Initiative. In reflecting on Peter’s contribution, Rachel said:
“Peter showed us the power of good science communication and evidenced based policy. As a policymaker, working in the area of natural resource management for two decades, I know from experience – good and bad – that this combination, together with a solid implementation plan, is how you make change in the public interest.
Peter’s accomplishments in defining and testing many of the early science communication principles we know of widely today is, in my opinion, one of the most important gifts Peter gave us.”
Rachel reflected that Peter’s leadership in communicating complex science is never more important than during the “extreme extremes” we are experiencing today, and the need for renewal of the national water policy to address a future impacted by climate change.
Rachel outlined her view of key priorities for national water reform in the face of a rapidly changing climate:
Coordinated, strategic, clear and trusted science
A strategic approach to better groundwater management
Facilitating First Nations peoples’ rights and interests in water
Ensuring access to safe and secure drinking water.
In presenting the Lecture, Rachel invited input into the national conversation. The Trust accepts this invitation and will facilitate input from Fellows. More details will be announced shortly.
University of Canberra signs on for five more years as Host of the Trust
Immediately prior to the Lecture, Professor Ross Thompson (2014) announced a new, five-year host agreement between the University of Canberra and the Peter Cullen Trust.
Under the new agreement the Trust will relocate from Building 15 to newly refurbished offices in the Institute for Applied Ecology, providing an opportunity for closer engagement with many Fellows and Friends on the campus, and through our programs.
The University of Canberra is proud of Peter’s legacy, and incredibly supportive of the Trust’s investment in water and environment leaders, facilitating conversations and seeking system wide impacts. We could not achieve the impact we do without such long-term support from our host partner.
Thank you, Professor Paddy Nixon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra, and Professor Ross Thompson, for your unwavering support.
Fellows Professional Development Day
We had a brilliant time at the PD Day.
By Paul Frazier (2012)
The day started with the Fellows Committee AGM, and Trent Wallis (2017) ran us through how the FC is redeveloping and what we have been actively doing. It was great to see the energy and commitment of the FC put up front.
Simone Stewart (2021) interviewed our PCT CEO Darryl Day. This was fascinating as we got to understand Darryl a lot better through his history and motivation and we got to know Simone better as she deftly probed for deeper context and feelings behind the career decisions and outcomes.
We then launched into the networking catalyst. Meeting new and familiar fellows and sharing stories in 7-minute bursts. As convener it was great to see the enthusiasm and it was very difficult to break up the conversations – everyone was so eager.
Next up Lisa Ehrenfried (2014) and Francis Pamminger ran us through regenerative thinking theory and application. Then we went on to an application and group sessions. This challenged us all to think differently and better! I am still unpicking this session and trying to weave it into my work and life. (You can read more from Francis in his follow up piece in this issue of Bridging.)
Our last session was a panel with Ailsa Kerswell (2016), Brad Moggridge (2018) and Michael Wrathall (2016) sharing their leadership journeys and fielding some tough questions. Learning from each other is always going to be amazing and it was.
Lastly, we shared morning and afternoon tea and lunch together. Meeting fellows is where it is at! Networking, meeting and chatting will help us all to work together to make a difference. The more we do that, the bigger the difference we make.
Thanks everyone for contributing. I can’t wait for May 2023. CU there.
PD Day – Regenerative thinking and why we need it
What are the biggest challenges of our generation – and how can regenerative thinking help?
By Francis Pamminger
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” This quote from Charles Dickens in 1859 could well be describing the challenges we face today as we benefit from the advances of civilisation yet struggle to address the issues of climate change and biodiversity decline.
Dickens presents a dichotomy which sits comfortably with our present predominant western paradigm of separating each unique element. He draws upon a reductionist and mechanistic paradigm. Paradigms are important because how we think frames the solutions we see. But that is not how nature operates. So – what can we learn from nature? How can we see different possibilities?
When I think of nature, I see a unique web of life that is beautiful and rich in colour and – just like a tapestry – is made up of many individual strands. Each strand represents a unique living element of plants and animals. Woven together, they provide us with the building blocks of life including oxygen, food and water.
Each extinction removes a strand. Since the advent of agriculture, we have destroyed 83% of all wild animals and half of all plants. It is against such a framing that the UN convention on biodiversity, which Australia has signed, has proposed that we need to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030 – an important step in ensuring our future.
This is not separate from the need to address climate change. Our present climate change predicament is caused by an imbalance of carbon. Carbon is linked to all life, in soil, grass, trees and animals. It is not a long bow to postulate that we cannot be carbon neutral without also being nature positive.
Environmental degradation is the largest challenge that our generation faces. The magnitude is so large that unaddressed it could leave a fingerprint of geological proportions in the history of time. Such geological records are normally measured in hundreds of million years, not in single generations.
Climate change and biodiversity decline are not accidents. They directly correlate to past decisions. To change this outcome, we must now change how we make our future decisions.
I propose that we need to move from thinking of everything as being separate from each other, towards thinking of their interconnections. We need to think like we are part of nature, not separate from it. We need to think of how our decisions align with life’s principles. How they add to life rather than destroy it.
We need to adopt ‘regenerative thinking’.
An organisation that adopts ‘regenerative thinking’ not only adds value to the external environment, but also cultivates life’s affirming conditions for all employees. In doing so, such an organisation also addresses the second and third biggest challenges of our generation. How do we become more inclusive for women? How do we achieve social equity? Both represent structural paradigms and are deeply embedded in our cultural, social and economic roots. Both are human constructs. Each is self-serving those of privilege and manifest themselves in hegemony amongst those in power.
Adopting regenerative thinking provides us with a paradigm change that opens a pathway to address three of our biggest global challenges: environmental degradation, inclusivity for women and an equitable society. Each of these is material enough to be recorded in history as the questionable, unsustainable things our generation did in the twentieth and twenty-first century.
That is not how nature works. That is not regenerative. And, I would argue, that is not achieving the best community outcome.
The Ripple Award 2022
On behalf of the Peter Cullen Trust, and as recommended by the Fellows Committee, Trust Director Chris Arnott (2010) presented the two deserving winners of the 2022 Ripple Award – Associate Professor Bradley Moggridge (2018) and Dr Paul Frazier (2012).
Associate Professor Bradley Moggridge – 2018 Fellow
Nominated by: the 17 graduates of the 2021 Science to Policy Leadership Program
A Descendant of the Kamilaroi Nation, Senior Researcher at Centre for Applied Water Science and Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra, Brad was the lead author of ‘Inland Water for the State of the Environment Report 2021’ which provides a critically important contribution toward addressing the exclusion of Indigenous people from water management frameworks, strengthening the understanding of how traditional ecological knowledge can work alongside western science.
Brad is in the unique situation of being trained in western science hydrogeology with at least 60,000 years of water knowledge behind him. Brad tirelessly uses this position to challenge the status quo, create space for Traditional Owner voices and influence water management practices. His impact within Australia has been significant; his scope of impact is ever increasing on the international stage as well.
He has supported online panel discussions for ‘Embracing Indigenous Knowledges in STEM’ in NAIDOC week in 2022, presented with the Academy of Science during world water week in 2022, was the Indigenous Liaison Officer for Threatened Species Recovery Hub – NESP between 2016 and 2021 and was a panel member at the 2022 World Water Congress plenary on ‘Empowering Communities to Shape Sustainable Water Solutions – Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge’. He holds a legacy of internationally recognised publications.
No summary can do justice to the contribution Brad has made to improving water and environmental management, demonstrating the clear role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in water and environmental management in this country and for Indigenous people across the world.
Brad is an inspiring individual, and extremely generous in sharing his time and knowledge. Brad has made a huge contribution to the water sector and personally influenced and enhanced the PCT journey for many.
Dr Paul Frazier – 2012 Fellow
Nominated by: Kaye Cavanagh
Dr Paul Frazier is a Director of 2Rog Consulting with over 30 years’ experience in scientific research and consulting. He loves problem solving in the space between science and people. He works with stakeholders, community and clients to help forge better outcomes. The ideas might come thick and fast but Paul is committed to working through them to find the best options in a complex and dynamic environment.
Paul was an early adopter of the PCT Leadership Program in 2012. Since then, he has played a key role in many PCT committees and events, including a term as a PCT Board Director from 2014-2017. He was an inaugural member of the National Fellows Network and has coordinated guest speakers or facilitated activities himself. Paul was the ideas person behind the PCT Masterclasses and led the way in getting this initiative up and running, including providing sponsorship.
Most recently, Paul has been the prime mover and shaker behind today’s successful PD Day. When Paul travels he regularly reaches out to the Fellows interstate and is always willing and keen to catch up.
Paul embodies the attributes that we aspire to within our Fellowship – he is a leader, a listener, an advocate and a change maker. He is skilled, qualified and approachable, friendly and fearless in equal measure, and a person who gives of his time and expertise with generosity and humility.
Paul is a positive advocate for the Trust and the water industry, and a deserving recipient of the 2022 Ripple Award.
On behalf of the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust, congratulations Paul Frazier.
The Ripple Effects of Reconnection – a 2021 WiW RRR reflection
By Tamara Jackson (2021)
Despite floods and flight delays, the 2021 cohort of the Women in Water program came together in Canberra in November to Reconnect, Reflect and Renew.
Ably facilitated by Zoe Routh, we spent the day reflecting on our learnings from our time in the PCT, and how these have been applied in the past year.
It was clear that our experiences have literally been life changing for our group in so many ways. The ripple effects are being felt far beyond our work life. The chance to reconnect and reflect helped us recommit to doing things better, where we had slipped into old habits.
And in the one week since our reconnection, many of us have used our renewed commitment in difficult work settings and had a real impact on our workplaces.
On behalf of our cohort, I thank the Trust for providing this opportunity to reignite our passion to lead more effectively. The influence of our experience is flowing out into the world, one courageous step at a time – whatever that looks like for us as individuals.
Lunch with a Leader Series
In a welcome return to in person gatherings, lunches with leaders were held in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide through October and early November this year.
Adelaide Lunch with a Leader – Jeremy Conway, Chief Executive, Infrastructure SA (ISA)
By Dan Mollison (2022) and Kate Holland (2018)
Find the right time for an idea and other leadership insights
On Melbourne Cup Day 2022, Fellows and Friends of the Peter Cullen Trust sat down for the inaugural South Australian PCT Lunch with a Leader with Jeremy Conway, Chief Executive, Infrastructure SA (ISA). There was no mention of the horses or fashions on the field, but instead Jeremy shared his insights from working across various private and public roles before taking the reins of Infrastructure SA to lead development of the State’s first 20-year infrastructure strategy. We enjoyed his ‘plain speaking’ delivery style. A key insight he shared was ‘to find the right time for an idea’ – his advice was to always keep good ideas ready in your back pocket or in the bottom drawer waiting for the right time, as often the windows of opportunity are small. It was a rich and insightful conversation and one that has already inspired some follow up conversations across the group.
Our fearless hosts Dan and Rachel sheltered us in the local Jacobs office from the inclement weather, at one stage it looked like snow was falling in the main street of Adelaide, but it turned out to be pollen from the plane trees. Jeremy shared his appreciation for the value of exploring diverse experiences along our career journey, including a job where he started a new role from a blank sheet of paper and was told to create his role statement. It was great to hear about Jeremy’s varied leadership journey and then to speak openly about the challenges and opportunities that we all face in seeking positive and collaborative outcomes for communities in the context of the water, environment, and infrastructure sectors. We hope Jeremy finds a place to hang his copy of the artwork created by the 2022 PCT S2P Fellows.
The ISA team is responsible for providing independent advice to the South Australian Government on infrastructure projects and prioritisation. This includes projects where water supply is a critical issue and needs evidence-led decision making to make informed decisions that are cognisant of the risks. The ISA team are currently leading a business case for investment in new and sustainable water supply for the far north and Upper Spencer Gulf to support regional communities and industries now and into the future. Their role is cross-sector, going beyond just infrastructure to also consider water, environment, culture and other factors.
The group discussion and Q&A was wide ranging, touching on how early engagement and co-design of projects can lead to planned and unexpected outcomes that deliver benefits across sectors and how independent advice supported by evidence can provide assurance for decision makers. We also shared our various consultation experiences, including where it didn’t go to plan and how we can learn from these experiences. The discussion looped back to a discussion at the start around drinking water supplies for remote communities ahead of the launch of the ‘Closing the Water for People and Communities Gap’. This discussion explored the importance of early and meaningful collaboration and co-design with communities, across sectors and organisations in the context of large-scale infrastructure investment in ensuring the provision of safe drinking water for all communities.
Other exciting opportunities we discussed included transitioning infrastructure and investment prioritisation to an outcomes-based approach; resetting the agenda to go beyond avoiding adverse impacts to seek environmental benefits; the imperative to have a more holistic and connected state-wide water strategy; and to build natural capital and restore ecosystems services in what are now degraded ecosystems. A reminder from Jeremy to always have good ideas ready to roll for when it’s their time to shine and to back yourself in bringing them to the front.
It was great catching up with new, upcoming (and some older fellows) and friends of the Trust, and fabulous seeing the leadership legacy that Peter created as a scientist who worked tirelessly to transfer that knowledge into science is entrusted with such a great bunch of people.
Brisbane Lunch with a Leader – Di Tarte, Director, Marine Ecosystem Policy Advisors
By Kim Markwell (2015)
In October, a number of the Brisbane PCT Fellows sat down with Di Tarte over lunch alongside the Brisbane River at Patina at Customs House.
Di shared her personal experiences and key mantras which led to some fascinating and interesting lunchtime conversations. We learnt how her key mantra, ‘science informing good management’, has guided her through a diverse and successful career.
She spoke of the importance of having good scientific data in her first role as a local advocate for improved water quality in our local rivers. As she progressed to a national, and then international role in environmental protection, she reflected how important it is to understand the different environmental and socio-political settings you are working in to be able to effectively communicate and advocate for positive change.
The time went by quickly, but it was so enriching. Some key take-away messages that will stay with me include:
know when you have reached your ‘best before date’ in a role
measure what you manage
get your toes dirty and make sure you experience the rhythms of the natural setting you are working in
recognise the gains you have made
understand ‘busy work’ vs ‘ímportant work’
Thanks to Di Tarte for being our leader and to Matthew Fullerton for organising the lunch.
Perth Lunch with a Leader – Professor Debbie Silvester-Dean, Professor of Chemistry, ARC Future Fellow, School of Molecular and Life Sciences, Curtin University
By Stacey Hamilton (2018)
In which Professor Debbie Silvester-Dean shared the challenges of navigating academia, research, teaching, family life and being female.
The WA Chapter held their second in person Lunch with a Leader 2022 event in October with Professor Debbie Silvester-Dean after having to reschedule the original lunch in August due to lack of numbers. A few weeks out from the event it was looking to be heading down the same path with lack of numbers which made me question was it because everyone was busy or were people not interested. Instead of getting frustrated and being in my “shadow self” I put an action plan together and networked with some Fellows and Friends to reach out to a wider audience within our companies (advertising the event on LinkedIn and Facebook) and in the end we ended up with 9 attendees. As a scientific nerd myself, I was genuinely looking forward to hearing about Debbie’s experience as the youngest Professor of Chemistry in Australia (within the Department of Chemistry from Curtin University). Debbie works in a niche area of electrochemistry, building sensors for toxic gases / explosives which are the size of a fingernail and more sensitive than the current hand-held sensors we use today.
Debbie spoke to the group (who happened to all be female) on the challenges of being in academia as well as a working parent. To give some context of just how impressive it is that Debbie is a Professor (under 40), I want to show a graph of the progression of females in academia in Australia (snapshot from 2011, taken from Chemistry in Australia 2016 Changing the Gender Landscape of Science Academia).
Debbie was made professor in her late thirties and as the graph shows (known as the “scissor effect”) this is pretty impressive considering the disproportion of appointments after a PhD. Debbie spoke about the challenges of academia – the “publish or perish” mentality, teaching requirements as well as service to the community/field of research. And for anyone who knows anyone in academia you know what challenges this creates. Debbie was essentially on non-permanent contracts for 10 years, continuously having to prove that she was good enough for a permanent role.
This all changed after Debbie was awarded 2 prestigious ARC Fellowship grants, which then led to various other awards such as the University Researcher of the year, WiTWA, and just recently the 2022 Tajima Prize from the International Society of Chemistry. Debbie was able to work flexibly with her ARC Discovery Grant and fit two stints of maternity leave in during this time. As Debbie explained, to get more funding academics need to apply for awards (for recognition in the field of research), but also have to teach and do research which leads to having to be organised, planned and with good time management. Throw family and life in the mix and as we all know, it’s not easy!
It was great to hear about Debbie’s career path and progression, leading to a vigorous discussion with the group about our experiences. And as one Fellow asked Debbie at the end “What’s Next?” – we’ll have to watch this space and find out!
Thanks to Lijun Mo for taking the photos and to Susie Williams for assisting me with networking with the DWER crew.
The NextGen of Water Managers
Jason Wilson (2022) and colleagues from CEWO have been busy sharing stories and knowledge with young people who will be the future custodians of Australia’s natural resources.
Influential leaders and thinkers in water and environment who have contributed significantly to water and environmental science, policy and/or management through their careers or personal lives may be invited to become “Friends of the Peter Cullen Trust”. The Friends are a circle of influence, willing to lend their voices and their standing in support of the Trust’s purposes and principles and prepared to promote and otherwise assist the work of the Trust. The list of current Friends of the Trust can be found HERE.
Introducing our newest Friends
Welcome to Louise Dudley
Louise Dudley recently accepted our invitation to become a Friend of the Peter Cullen Trust. Louise is a widely acknowledged and transformative leader within the water sector and she is warmly welcomed as our newest Friend.
Louise Dudley is best known for her ten year tenure as CEO of Urban Utilities, a major Australian water utility, which transformed under her leadership to win widespread recognition for its innovation and sustainability. The organisation’s global accolades include being an international honouree as a Utility of the Future Today in 2019 and induction into the Leading Utilities of the World, including the Golden Tap award for utility performance, in 2018. National awards include Digital Utility (Water) of the Year at the 2020 Digital Utility Awards and being twice named in Australia’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies list in 2015 and 2017.
Louise herself was acknowledged in the Global Water Intelligence 2022 Women in Water Power List and she is known to many for her current roles as President and Chair of the Australian Water Association and as a Board member of both WaterAid Australia and WaterStart (Nevada USA).
In August 2022, Louise concluded her CEO role with Urban Utilities and she is now expanding her Board portfolio as a professional non-executive director. In addition to her current water sector roles, Louise is also a member of the Queensland State Advisory Committee for the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA) and a member of the Queensland chapter policy committee for Chief Executive Women (CEW). Her previous Boards include listed subsidiary AMP Super and LGIASuper, as well as serving as Chair and Director of the Water Services Association of Australia.
Before joining Urban Utilities, initially as Chief Financial Officer, Louise held senior management roles at Brisbane City Council, where she helped facilitate Australia’s largest water sector transformation which merged five local government water and sewerage businesses into the country’s fourth largest water retailer (Urban Utilities).
Louise is a Chartered Accountant by profession and holds a range of qualifications including a Bachelor of Commerce. She has completed INSEAD’s Executive Education Program and AICD’s Company Directors Program.
She is a member of Chief Executive Women and her contribution to the engineering profession was acknowledged with the Engineering Executive title, conferred by Engineers Australia in 2021.
5. Conferences and Seminars
The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27)
COP27 – a start on adaptation, but more focus needed
As COP27 drew to a close, UN secretary-general António Guterres concluded that the world was “on a highway to climate hell with our foot on the accelerator.”
Whilst COP27 delivered The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan, there is scant focus on water and its critical role in adaptation, with most country representatives and delegations drawn from sectors focused on mitigation, such as climate change and energy.
The talks made several trends clear, and achieved a major breakthrough for developing countries, but were left wanting on many fronts.
Karlene Maywald and Mark Wootton attended.
The Hon Karlene Maywald (PCT Chair) and Mark Wootton AO (former PCT Director) attended COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in November, along with the Australian Delegation led by the Hon Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, and Senator the Hon Jenny McAllister, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy.
Mark was part of the National Farmers Federation and the Australian Forest Products Association group and spoke at three sessions as part of a broader group of international agriculture players, either farmers or representatives of their country’s farming organisations. Mark highlighted the role agriculture plays in providing food and fibre and how as an industry, agriculture must be part of the solution to climate change and not be part of the problem. Mark highlighted how Jigsaw Farms (a long time PCT scholarship provider) has moved to carbon neutrality in wool, beef and lamb production, using permanent revegetation and farm forestry as off sets, and how critical carbon reductions strategies are on feed efficiency and genetic selection.
Mark emphasised that planting trees is not seen as taking farmland out of production, but as actually lifting grazing production. Jigsaw Farms sees many benefits in trees and protected waterways, including future income from wood products, biosecurity-protection of stock from water-borne diseases, shelter for stock welfare and productivity, shelter to lift winter pasture production, contribution to climate-change mitigation and adaptation, habitat for wildlife (bird species increasing from 46 to 174 over the 26 years), prevention of nutrient build-up in waterways and control of salinity (all creeks and waterways at Jigsaw Farms are fenced-off with 65 ha being dedicated to wetlands and dams).
Mark reflected that:
“It is difficult to judge one’s own value in participating in what at times seemed like a zoo, but I think that to offer practical solutions that are available now in a COP that was themed ‘The Implementation COP’, seemed to be appreciated by those I spoke to. Perhaps it is better to be inside the Zoo rather than outside, where farming could become an endangered species.”
Karlene, and Phil Duncan (Alluvium) were on multiple panels organised by the Australian Water Partnership.
Karlene and Phil also contributed to panel discussions and presentations at the Australian Pavilion, the Water Pavilion and the Resilience Hub. The Australian Water Partnership (led by Katharine Cross and Lucía Gamarra) was a co-host of the Water Pavilion.
The DCCEEW presented a Panel Discussion on “The Murray-Darling Basin Plan as a Climate Adaptation Tool in a Cross-Boundary Context” at the Australian Pavilion. Moderated by Katharine Cross the diverse voices include:
Indigenous: Phil Duncan, Senior Indigenous Water Leader, Kamilaroi, Moree New South Wales
Community: The Hon Karlene Maywald, former South Australian Government Water Minister
Government: Mr Matt Dadswell, Head of Water Division, Department Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW)
Agriculture: Ms Mahani Taylor, Assistant Secretary International Strategy and Engagement, DCCEEW
The Sharm el-Sheikh Implementation Plan has only two specific water commitments:
Recognise “the critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring water systems and water-related ecosystems in delivering climate adaptation benefits and co-benefits, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards”
Emphasise “the importance of protecting, conserving and restoring water and water related ecosystems, including river basins, aquifers and lakes, and urges Parties to further integrate water into adaptation efforts”
The focus on water and water-supported ecosystems in the implementation plan is in adaptation. More voices from our sector are critical to highlight the impact of climate change on water security, and the role of water in mitigation and regenerative strategies.
In 2023, PCT will be facilitating a Fellows- and Friends-only panel discussion on reflections from COP27.
International Environmental Law and what it means for COP27
By Emma Carmody (2013), Co-Founder & Director of Legal & Partnerships, Restore Blue | International Environmental Lawyer
It’s been a big month or two in the world of international environmental law.
To help us to understand the legal framework and obligations that sit behind COP 27 of the UNFCCC, COP 14 of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, I’d like to share some information about the differences between domestic and international environmental law:
Domestic laws are generally enacted by governments (local, state, national); in Commonwealth countries, domestic law also includes what is known as common (or judge-made) law.
It’s worth noting that in some domestic jurisdictions, customary (Indigenous) laws are recognised and enforced.
By way of contrast, international law has four sources: treaties; customary international law; general principles of law; and judicial opinions and teachings.
The UNFCCC, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and the Convention on Biological Diversity are all examples of multilateral environmental treaties. The word ‘multilateral’ refers to the multiple parties that have signed and ratified the treaty.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the highest governance body of an environmental treaty. It is composed of the nation states that have signed and ratified the treaty. These bodies meet every 1 to 3 years (depending on the rules governing the treaty in question) and pass resolutions (generally by consensus).
Resolutions of the COP and other bodies that govern treaties are generally not legally binding UNLESS they crystalise into customary international law. However, they are an important indication of international intention (particularly where adopted on a consensus basis).
The interaction between domestic and international law varies from nation to nation. In some countries, international treaties are automatically incorporated into the domestic legal framework once they are signed and ratified. In others (such as Australia), they can only be given effect (or implemented) by statutes passed by parliament.
The way in which treaty obligations are interpreted can vary considerably between countries. This is partly because environmental treaties are framework conventions (that is, they are drafted in broad terms to reflect the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’).
Environmental treaties tend not to include enforcement mechanisms. This means that their effectiveness will ultimately depend on how they are implemented by each signatory nation state (noting that the capacity of each country to implement a treaty can and does vary – which is consistent with the aforementioned principle of common but differentiated responsibility).
In summary, the domestic ‘implementation question’ is really the crux of the matter.
Put differently, how does a particular nation give effect to the obligations contained in an environmental treaty, and to what extent does this result in the protection and restoration of local ecosystems, interconnected ecosystems and life on Earth?
6. Awards and Appointments
Fellows and Friends of PCT are widely acknowledged for their individual achievements on many fronts, including:
Michael Wrathall (2016) appointed to Senior Ministerial Advisor role
A water resources professional and leader with a wide range of experience in the public and private sectors over 2 decades, Michael was appointed to the role of Senior Advisor to Environment & Water Minister Tanya Plibersek in June this year.
Kathryn Silvester (2022) elected to the Board of eWater
Kathryn joined the Board of eWater in November, bringing her wealth of knowledge, her passion and commitment to the role.
Eric Vanweydeveld (2022) elected to the Australian Water Association Board
Another November appointment sees Eric elected to the AWA Board of Directors for the next two-year term, commencing in May 2023.
Stacey Hamilton (2018) awarded Churchill Scholarship
Recognised as one of “Australia’s best and brightest minds”, the Churchill Scholarship will support Stacey to visit Singapore and America to pursue a technical assessment of alternative treatment technologies for future water recycling schemes.
Madeleine Hartley (2017) reports on her Churchill Fellowship
Awarded in 2019 but Covid-delayed, Madeleine finally departed in October 2022 on a whirlwind 8-week international tour to explore international water law and policy for water security. Madeleine shares her initial learnings and the international lessons we can take into our own legal framework.
Jennifer McKay (Friend of the Trust) becomes a Fellow of the International Water Association
Jennifer was made a Fellow of the International Water Association in September, in recognition of her national and international contributions to water management law and policy. Jennifer continues to make an impact through her teaching which includes science to law students with respect to biodiversity and also water hydrology, and taking students on a New Colombo plan study tour to Fiji to look at climate change impacts in the Pacific.
Bradley Moggridge (2018) appointed to the NSW Environment Protection Authority
Associate Professor Bradley Moggridge – a proud Murri Man of the Kamilaroi Nation in Northern NSW – was appointed to the Board of NSW Environment Protection Authority. The Board Chair, Ms Rayne de Gruchy AM PSM, said “I am also pleased to see an Aboriginal understanding of the complex environment we live in is now an entrenched part of the EPA Board. It brings an important perspective to our work that comes from 65,000 years of environmental stewardship and deep knowledge of this land.” Ms de Gruchy also said “the combination of First Nations knowledge and environmental science would inevitably lead to more holistic decision making at Board level.”
2023 Great Artesian Basin Lynn Brake Scholarship Grant Program – Applications Open
The $20,000 annual Scholarship Grant will support new or continuing Postgraduate students to undertake new research it a field related to the Great Artesian Basin. Applications close on Monday 23 January. Click HERE for full details.
7. Articles and Publications
See links below to recent publications by PCT Fellows and Friends
Launch of WSAA Report: Closing the Water for People and Communities Gap
Eric Vanweydeveld (2022)
PCT Fellow, Eric Vanweydeveld, was contracted by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) to undertake a national review on remote water supplies, to provide some clarity around the management of water services in relation to First Nations communities. Through extensive research and engagement with stakeholders and the communities themselves, Eric has developed a review which maps the complex and opaque arrangements in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, highlighting the linkages, differences and legacies. The review focuses on water quality issues, water security, systemic issues around governance, funding and policies. The review took 18 months to complete and over 170 stakeholders were interviewed across the jurisdiction and the Commonwealth Government.
The review, is a first step, and aims to establish a platform for advocacy across various levels of governments.
The full report was launched by Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, at Parliament House in November and can be downloaded HERE. The launch recording can be accessed HERE.
CLOSING THE – WATER FOR PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES – GAP: A review on the management of drinking water supplies in First Nations remote communities around Australia
“Many remote First Nations communities across Australia face challenges accessing safe and reliable sources of water. This is simply unacceptable. An adequate, safe supply of water is critical for so many aspects of life. It is essential for health, the environment and even culture. From drinking water, to cooking and cleaning, washing clothes and taking showers. And water has significant social and spiritual meaning for First Nations people – with many people believing that: If the water is healthy, Country is healthy. If Country is healthy then the people and culture will be healthy.” Minister Linda Burney (Parliament House – 7 November 2022)
The Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) recently published a review on the management of drinking water supplies in First Nations remote communities in the Northern Territory, Western Australian, South Australia and Queensland: CLOSING THE – WATER FOR PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES – GAP.
The report was developed and written by PCT Fellow Eric Vanweydeveld.
This report is the latest to detail the ongoing health crisis faced by First Nations remote communities. Water can be both unsafe to drink (unpotable) and unacceptable to drink due to taste, colour and feel (unpalatable).
WSAA initiated the review of remote water services to elevate these issues in the national conversation, and to recommend ways to close the gap in the delivery of safe drinking water including water quality (health and aesthetic aspects) and water security (reliability of water supply particularly in the face of climate change.
The major water quality issues reported by First Nations remote communities are associated with microbiological contamination, the highest water safety risk to public health, and naturally occurring chemical exceedances, such as nitrate and heavy metals. These exceedances are known to have severe and detrimental health impacts with prolonged exposure.
Drinking water in remote communities is predominantly supplied from groundwater sources. Many of these groundwater sources have high concentrations of naturally occurring minerals and chemical contaminants that affect water quality. Some are receiving drinking water with levels of uranium, arsenic, fluoride and nitrate that are above levels against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines. As a result, many remote communities report concerns about their water supplies – with taste, smell, odour, contamination.
This is backed up by evidence from various reputable health and epidemiological studies, plus water quality reports from utilities and service providers, which reveal that water quality issues are persistent and, in some cases, getting worse, by having water quality levels that repeatedly fail to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
Water quality monitoring in many areas is also inadequate… it is estimated that over 500 First Nations communities do not have regular water quality testing.
Independent audits of compliance in remote communities are relatively infrequent and often limited in scope. When they are undertaken, their findings are rarely publicly disclosed, and often fail to take into account local water needs, which may vary depending on cultural values and preferences.
There is no comprehensive national monitoring or reporting on water quality, water services or the condition of infrastructure in First Nations remote communities. The picture is incomplete within some State and Territory jurisdictions, and it is non-existent at a national level.
Delays in maintenance and poor customer service compound these issues, increasing the cost of living and leading to neglect. Communities report distrusting government, and that people in remote communities prefer to drink bottled water or soft drinks over tap water.
Water and wastewater assets in some remote communities are poorly maintained, routinely fail, or provide services at a standard below their intended design.
Through 15 case studies and extensive evidence-based research, the report aims to provide some insights about why water is undrinkable in many remote communities which cause significant knock-on effects for communities beyond drinking water. The reasons are multiple and interlinked. First Nations communities are subject to a maze of government players, legislation and regulation, much of it disconnected and ineffective.
The report finds that:
All states and territories should formalise the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines to ensure at least a minimum quality standard is met whether you live in Sydney, Shepparton or Yuendumu.
Ongoing significant investment is needed in both water quality monitoring and an innovation fund to develop new technologies that are resilient to climate change impacts, and ideally integrated with renewable energy and digital communications.
The Government should also invest further resources in the redevelopment of the Community Water Planner through the National Health and Medical Research Council, to give local communities a direct role in the provision and monitoring of safe drinking water services.
First Nations communities need a stronger voice in the services they receive. The stakeholder mind mapping, provided in the report, shows complex interactions across a myriad of agencies and unclear accountability.
All levels of government, including Commonwealth, state and territory and local government, must move quickly to invest more funding for water and sanitation systems for First Nations remote communities. WSAA estimates that the gap to uplift drinking water to meet the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines is in the order of $2.2 billion (not including operational and maintenance costs) across WA, NT, SA and Queensland.
WSAA is the peak body representing the urban water industry in Australia. Its members provide water and wastewater services to over 24 million customers in Australia and New Zealand, including many of Australia’s largest industrial and commercial enterprises.
All questions and queries can be emailed to WSAA (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to the author of the report, Eric Vanweydeveld (email@example.com)
Water Sensitive Urban Design videos set to improve the delivery of urban water management and water sensitive cities
Brett Dunn (2019)
Brett recently filmed a number of Water Sensitive Urban Design videos for New Water Ways, which aim to build the water sensitive urban design capacity of Government and industry in WA to improve the delivery of urban water management and water sensitive cities. Brett’s work can be viewed at www.youtube.com/@NewWAterWays/videos
Further recommended reading
MDBA – National Rural Press Club address by Andrew McConville, CEO of the MDBA
In his first address to the National Rural Press Club, Andrew reflects on the challenges facing Australia’s largest and most complex river system, as delivery of the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan nears its legislated deadline.
The State of the Climate Report is presented every two years by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. The 2022 report, released on 23 November, has found changes to weather and climate extremes are happening at an increased pace across Australia.