Bridging Issue #51

Best wishes to all leaders for a productive 2023. May your leadership inspire, speak truth to power and pay it forward. Already this year is shaping as a critical year for your voice.

1. From the Chief Executive Officer


This issue of Bridging has a focus on land and water.  Many contributions from Fellows and Friends inform the reading in this issue, but the key contribution is a tour de force from the Fellows Network, which has enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to contribute to the national water reform (NWR) conversation through our NWR Challenge.  Early reflections from the Challenge workshop on 31 January follow in this edition of Bridging.

A huge thank you to the dozen Fellows who formed the NWR Organising Committee, and the fifty who contributed, and particularly to Dr Kath Broderick (2014) who enriched this experience through her leadership, and guided, coached and facilitated us so generously.  A special thank you to Lesley Ryall, for bringing together the Fellows Network to discuss the NWR priorities, and further preparation for the roundtable.

Image courtesy of Fellow Tanya Doody

Your voice needs to be heard in critical conversations, not only in the NWR challenge, but more broadly. As we saw from the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27), water was not prominent in the high level discussions, only spoken about in the communique in terms of adaptation. But there is so much more to the challenge and opportunity in addressing water, the aquatic environment, and their catchments. To that end, the Trust will focus our next national conversation on reflections from COP 27. Stay tuned for an announcement shortly on the details.

Australia’s post-COP15 adoption of a domestic target to protect 30 per cent of our land and 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030 is another critical topic for Friends and Fellows of the Trust, and will be our Bridging focus for our next, April edition.

Before I close, a note in celebration of leadership.

Whilst noting the conflict that the day itself raises, I was nevertheless delighted that two incredible leaders, Tom Mollenkopf AO and the late Chris Davis AM, were recognised in the recent Australia Day Awards. There is a story on both Tom and Chris and their impact elsewhere in Bridging. The recognition is well deserved, and has been celebrated not only in Australia, but internationally.

However, there were very few awards for contributions from leaders working in water and the environment (I believe Tom and Chris were the only two recognised predominantly for their work in water).  Yet there are so many people working in the science, policy and practice of water and the environment who also deserve recognition. The challenge is yours. Put forward nominations for the leaders you admire. Transformative leaders that have inspired you. Leaders that we can celebrate, and who will use the award to shine a light on critical conversations on water.

We hope you are inspired and enjoy the read in the first Bridging for 2023.

2. In This Issue:  Land and Water


The NWR Challenge was posed by Leith Boully at the November 2022 Graduation Event. The day prior, at the 2022 Peter Cullen Lecture, Rachel Connell, Head of Division, Water Reform Taskforce, with the Commonwealth Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and Deputy Chair of the Murray-Darling Basin Officials Committee issued an invitation for PCT to have input to the conversation on national water reform

At DCCEEW’s subsequent invitation, we accepted the concept of a roundtable in Canberra in March-April for Fellows and departmental representatives, in the Chatham House Rule spirit of fearless advice in a safe environment.  And in response, we set out to give voice to our entire Fellows Network.

The response from Fellows has been extraordinary. A 12-person NWR Organising Committee, convened over the Christmas/New Year period, identified six key priority areas: Trusted Science; Better Groundwater Management; First Nations Peoples’ Rights; Safe and Secure Water; Regional, Local Economies and Consumptive Use; Water Accounting, Planning and Allocation.  Registrations were invited with over 70 Fellows putting their names down, and over 50 exploring these themes at a National Workshop of Fellows on 31 January.

The rich and diverse conversations are being summarised, first to be shared back to the Fellows Network and ultimately as input to the roundtable. The National Workshop highlighted the incredible depth and breadth of the Fellows Network, and the value in national conversations. Many Fellows reached out to continue thematic conversations amongst their peers.

The Workshop also identified integrated themes including actively planning for the impact of climate change; a future with less, or more, water; the need to look at a system level approach; and the broader systems implications.  In parallel, other overarching themes included Indigenous knowledge, engagement and participation; water literacy and the impact of under investment in science capacity; and access to drinking water for regional and remote communities.

Thank you to the NWR Organising Committee. Stay tuned for updates on the Challenge.


By Declan Page (2014)

PCT Fellow, Declan Page, was recently accepted into the Churchill Trust Policy Impact Program to investigate the policy barriers to adoption of water banking in the Murray Darling Basin.

Declan Page (6th from left) in parliament house for the Churchill Trust Policy Impact Program launch on the 30/11/2022

Despite the heavy rains in many parts of Australia recently, another drought is just around the corner. Water banking is a tool that could improve Australia’s drought preparedness and resilience for the future. But there are some easily addressed policy barriers that need to be overcome using pioneering demonstration schemes prior to wider adoption.



From Andrew O’Neill (2017)

PCT Fellow Andrew O’Neill was one of over 400 delegates who attended the 25th International Riversymposium in Vienna in November 2022.  In this report, Andrew provides an overview of the three key themes and the insights that he took away from the meeting, particularly the call to action; how to mobilise finance for the environment; and innovative mechanisms for collaboration, across cultures and generations.

Andrew O’Neill (2017) presenting at the 25th International Riversymposium


From Jamie Pittock, Friend of the Trust

Photo Caption: High flows watering red gum forest in Barmah National Park, Vic. Yorta Yorta country © J Pittock 2022

In this paper, we map the location of environmental water delivered by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO) against different jurisdictions of Indigenous nations in the Basin. CEWO is, of course, required by law to deliver water to meet environmental priorities informed by western science, and has limited capacity to deliver water in many valleys.

The research shows that the floodplain country of many Indigenous nations is receiving little or no environmental water. This research makes the point that if there is to be justice for each of the Indigenous nations – who currently control less than 0.2% of issued water entitlements in the Basin – then water additional to that managed by the CEWO will need to be acquired to meet cultural needs.


From Jamie Pittock, Friend of the Trust

In this conservation triage paper, we ask how should societies and managers chose which wetland ecosystems in the Murray-Darling Basin to write off given high ongoing levels of water extraction and declining river inflows with a changing climate?

In many cases, managers are formally (VIC) or informally (NSW) already making these triage decisions when allocating limited environmental water.

We propose a decision making framework for codifying these decisions.


From Jamie Pittock, Friend of the Trust

Photo Caption: Three story high regulator on Barber’s Creek, NSW, part of the Koodrook-Pericoota Living Murray Project. The efficacy of using such engineering approaches to environmental watering is contested.  © J Pittock 2022

This paper on water offsetting, looks at the ~$1 billion in existing and proposed engineering projects in the Basin that are intended by 2024 to conserve wetland biodiversity with less water, known as the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism (SDLAM) ‘down water’ projects.

In essence, this is the world’s biggest proposed environmental water off-setting scheme.

We critique the legislated method for evaluation of the SDLAM and the suitability of the process for evaluating whether equivalent environmental outcomes have been achieved. We found that the SDLAM evaluation method is not scientifically rigorous. It excludes residual risks, Basin-wide impacts and climate change. The evaluation timeline is biased towards measuring infrastructure outputs rather than environmental outcomes and impacts. Flaws in the SDLAM evaluation processes mean that environmental benefits are likely to be overstated, risking further reductions in allocations of water for the environment.

Improved evaluation, including empirical data on outputs, outcomes and impacts, is needed to ensure that conservation objectives can be met for wetlands subject to SDLAM projects.


From Dr Neil Sims (2016)

My research background is in the use of Earth observation (EO) remote sensing tools with a focus on floodplains and wetlands, where the land connects to the water.  The transition between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems makes these areas structurally complex and changeable, and amongst the most biologically diverse, and EO is a great tool for observing how they change across space and over time

Neil Sims at GEO Week in Accra, where he received an award for Individual Excellence.  Neil now carries this name card around with him and puts it out at cafés and stuff.


3. On Leadership


From Dr Bek Christensen, PCT Programs Director

Introducing the Peter Cullen Trust Leadership Program

At its meeting in May 2022, the PCT Board determined that future leadership programs be delivered under the single banner of ‘Peter Cullen Trust Leadership Program’, ensuring consistency of content and experience across all delivery platforms.  The change is in name only, with all program content and structure retained. The change will take effect from March 2023, when we open recruitment for the 2023 Peter Cullen Trust Leadership Program (Women).

As well as providing consistency in the presentation of our leadership programs, this change will enable us to exercise our own adaptive leadership and better respond to opportunities and needs as they arise.  This includes future programs exclusively for women, as well as extending the model to other targeted groups in our sector.

One thing is for sure: PCT Leadership Programs will continue to set the standard for leadership in our sector, fostering courageous leaders who will drive the sustainable and equitable management of Australia’s waterways and natural environments.

Image courtesy of Fellow Tanya Doody

One Basin CRC

PCT Programs are off to a flying start in 2023, with the One Basin CRC Leaders Program running from 6-10 February in Canberra. This is a tailored program for the leadership group of the new One Basin CRC, which was first announced in May 2022. With a 10-year horizon of operations, a $50 million Commonwealth grant, co-investment from 85+ partners, and a focus on productive, resilient, and sustainable Irrigation Regions, the CRC is in a unique position to deliver solutions to underpin future management of the Murray-Darling Basin. At the outset of their journey, the CRC has recognised the importance of investing in their leaders both as individuals, and as a team. We’re pleased they’ve called on us to partner with them in challenging and growing their people.

WSAA Young Utility Leaders

We then have the next workshop of this year’s WSAA Young Utility Leader’s Program in Perth – and yes I’m hoping to see some of our WA community in person while I’m there!

2023 Science to Policy (S2P) Leadership Program

The 2023 Science to Policy (S2P) Leadership Program begins in late March, and will be the last PCT Program to carry the “Science to Policy” name. The 2023 S2P cohort includes people from almost all states and territories, and a range of organisations including NRM bodies, utilities, government agencies, private industry, and irrigation councils. We look forward to introducing the PCT community to this group of exceptional leaders at their program graduation in May.

2023 Peter Cullen Leadership Program (Women)

Recruitment for the 2023 Peter Cullen Leadership Program (Women) will open in March, with Session 1 in Queensland in early September, and Session 2 – also in Queensland – in mid-November.  Full details and dates will be announced shortly.


Fellows and Friends of the PCT are widely acknowledged for their individual achievements and contributions on many fronts, including:

Professor David Pannell (Friend of the Trust) awarded prestigious US Fellowship

Friend of the Trust, Professor David Pannell, has been selected as a 2023 Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in the United States, an honour rarely conferred on those living outside the US.

Fellows are selected based on their continuous contribution to the advancement of agricultural or applied economics through research, outreach, teaching, extension, administration and additional contributions.

Professor David Pannell, 2023 Fellow of the US Agricultural and Applied Economics Association

Dr Diana Day (Friend of the Trust)

Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust, has been appointed member of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Audit and Compliance Committee.

A highly experienced independent company director of multi-sectoral boards, Diana has strong experience of R&D innovation partnerships, shareholder relationships and regulatory compliance.  In addition to her many other commitments, Diana is a volunteer mentor for the Peter Cullen Trust.

Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust and volunteer mentor


Tom Mollenkopf, AO

Former Trust CEO, Tom Mollenkopf

Former Trust CEO, Tom Mollenkopf, has been recognised in the Australia Day 2023 Honours List, with his appointment as an Officer of the Order of Australia. Tom has been recognised for his “distinguished service to business, particularly through the essential services industry, and to the community”.

In congratulating Tom, Trust CEO, Darryl Day said that the award is well-deserved recognition of Tom’s inspirational leadership, and “paying it forward” in support of other leaders in water, aquatic environments and their catchments. Tom’s legacy as CEO of the Australian Water Association from 2007-2013 and as CEO of The Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust from 2013-2021 endures within both organisations, and the people he has touched. Tom’s contribution to water continues in his current role as President of the International Water Association, and the many other hats he continues to wear with distinction.

Chris Davis, AM

Chris Davis, AM

The Trust was delighted that the late Chris Davis was also recognised in the Australian Honours List, as a Member of the Order of Australia. Chris was commended for his significant service to water management, with his contributions felt here in Australia and internationally. The Award pays tribute to Chris’ vision, influence and transformative leadership as CEO of the Australian Water Association from 1999 to 2007. AWA recognised his contribution with Life Membership in 2008 and the 2016 AWA Exceptional Service Award in 2016. His many leadership roles included as the Chair, Independent Water Advisory Panel, Metropolitan Water Directorate, New South Wales, 2006-2017, and Water Commissioner on the National Water Commission, 2007-2012.

Trust CEO Darryl Day said “Chris was an inspirational leader in water, not only as the voice and face of AWA for 15 years, but leading the water debate on sustainability, community education, diversity and water reform. He challenged water professionals to make a difference. Chris was a leader of passion, commitment, and intellect. Chris left a legacy through the people he inspired and would be humbled by the recognition.” 

4. Network News and Views


In December 2022, representatives from 188 governments gathered for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), to strike a landmark agreement to guide global actions on biodiversity through to 2030.

On the final day, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) was adopted;  the plan commits to a 30/30 outcome – 30% of the planet and 30 per cent of degraded ecosystems under protection by 2030.

The Global Biodiversity Framework is adopted at COP 15. Photo by CBD

Here’s the chilling reality – as a result of human activity, the planet is experiencing its largest loss of life since the dinosaurs.  One million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction in our life times.



Our next National Conversation will be open to all Fellows and Friends, framed as a “report back” from the 27th United Nations, Sharm el-Sheikh, Climate Change Conference (COP 27). In Bridging Issue #50 late last year, we provided a brief overview of the experience, through the eyes of PCT Chair, the Hon Karlene Maywald and Mark Wootton AO (former PCT Director). The Australian Water Partnership played a key role supporting Australian participation, collaborated with International Partner FAO and participated in three sessions. Lucía Gamarra (Senior Partnerships and Impact Officer, Australian Water Partnership) provided her own reflections HERE.

The National Conversation will provide an opportunity to hear directly from Karlene, Mark and Lucia, discuss key messages and observations, and consider the priorities for Australia for COP28 and beyond.

Date and time will be confirmed shortly.


Fellows Networking Event – Melbourne

Not so much a Lunch with a Leader as a few drinks with one another.  Despite the dismal, wet, windy and cold December day, the hardiest of Melbourne Fellows gathered on the roof top at Federation Square to wrap up the year.  And what a wrap up it was.  A great evening was had by all, including Chris Arnott (2010) who rode his bike to and from and didn’t thaw out til morning!  We were all reminded of the value of our Fellows Network and the strength of purpose that we draw from it.  And how much fun it is to just spend some time together.

A huge thank you to Karen and Alanna for organising, reorganising and marshalling us, in the crazy lead up to Christmas; that 20 people rocked up is testament to them and to the pulling power of the PCT.

A great way to finish 2022 and a taste of more to come in 2023.

City Leads – introducing the 2023 team

Great guest speaker and networking events are generated in many of our major centres by volunteer Fellows who act as our “City Leads”. 

For 2023, our City Leads are:

  • Adelaide – Dan Mollison (2022)
  • Brisbane – Matthew Fullerton (2013)
  • Canberra – Josh Hindson (2022)
  • Melbourne – Karen White (2021) and Alanna Wright (2021)
  • Perth – Stacey Hamilton (2018)
  • Sydney – Kathryn Silvester (2022) and Lisa Hamilton (2022)

Where are they now?

Fellows move about a good deal; here are some career updates:

  • Arash Zamyadi (2022) – formerly at WaterRA, Arash started a new role as Senior Lecturer, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University, Clayton.  Keep in touch with Arash at  
  • Dr Christobel Ferguson (2014) has recently returned to Sydney after finishing up in her role as Chief Innovation Officer for the Water Research Foundation. Christobel was based in Alexandria Virginia, just outside Washington DC for 3 years and has now moved back to Sydney and is looking for new opportunities in the water and environment sector, and is looking forward to reconnecting with fellows and friends. She can be contacted on or 0456 762 503.

5. Diary Dates


  • 3 February – Melbourne Lunch with a Leader with Dr Nerina Di Lorenzo – write up of this sold out event to follow
  • 23 February – Fellows Committee Meeting
  • 27 February – Bridging Call out opens; closes 27 March – focus is Biodiversity
  • MARCH TBC – COP27 webinar
  • 28 March TBC – National Water Reform by-invitation dinner with department
  • 31 March – Fellows Committee Meeting
  • 6 April – Bridging distribution
  • 27 April – Fellows Committee Meeting
  • 24 May – 2021 S2P 12-month RRR; Chairperson’s Roundtable
  • 25 May – 2023 S2P Graduation; Fellows PD Day
  • 26 May – Fellows Breakfast


  • 6-10 February – OneBasin CRC Leaders Program
  • 21 February – WSAA Workshop (Perth)
  • 19-24 March – 2023 Science to Policy Session 1
  • 21-25 May – 2023 Science to Policy Session 2


  • 2 February – PCT Audit and Finance Committee Meeting
  • 16 February – PCT Board Meeting
  • 10 May – PCT Audit and Finance Committee Meeting
  • 26 May – PCT Board Meeting


  • 2 February – World Wetlands Day
  • 22 March – World Water Day


Australian & New Zealand Biosolids Partnership’s National Biosolids Conference – 8-9 February

The biennial Australian & New Zealand Biosolids Partnership’s National Biosolids Conference is returning to Sydney in 2023, with the theme Champions for Sustainability. Held over two days, this conference will examine key developments in the industry with a focus on the role of industry, regulators and community as champions for sustainable biosolids management and end-use. The conference will be held at The University of Technology, Sydney on 8-9 February 2023.  More details HERE.

Ocean Business Leaders’ Summit: 1-2 March

The Ocean Business Leaders’ Summit in early March brings together business, finance, research, science and government stakeholders to broker dialogue and discussion about a sustainable ocean economy.  PCT Fellow Dr Emma Carmody (2013) is amongst the speakers, alongside Minister for the Environment and Water, Hon Tanya Plibersek MP and many others – for details see 

WOMAD:  10-13 March

PCT Fellows, Dr Emma Carmody (2013) and Dr Anne Poelina (2011), are on the program for Planet Talks at this year’s WOMADelaide, 10-13 March.  Planet Talks is an ecological and conversational forum, featuring some of the world’s foremost thinkers, activists, scientists and leaders addressing issues and solutions that affect our lives on the blue planet.  Details are available HERE.

Ozwater23 – 9-12 May

Ozwater the annual three-day conference and exhibition featuring a strong line-up of international and national keynote speakers, scientific and technical papers, case studies, workshops, panel sessions and poster presentations will be held at the ICC in Sydney, 9 May – 12 May 2023.

The 2023 theme United by Water celebrates water’s vital role in connecting us all. Water touches every aspect of development. It drives economic growth, supports healthy ecosystems, and is essential and fundamental for life. Our collaborations in water management continue to guide us in this integral space.

More details HERE.

21st International Symposium on Health-Related Water Microbiology in Darwin 4-9 June

For the first time, Australia will host the International Water Association’s Symposium on Health-Related Water Microbiology from 4 -9 June 2023, in Darwin. The Theme is “Water Safety for All — reflections and emerging concerns.”

The Symposium will cover all aspects of health-related water microbiology across the whole water cycle, applied and basic research on water, micro-organisms and impacts on human health. It will bring together microbiologists, researchers, policymakers, water practitioners from academia, industry, engineers, water utilities, indigenous communities, public authorities and administration to exchange the latest scientific findings, experience and know-how.

Co-chair, Darryl Day, said “we are excited that world leading experts in Water Related Health Microbiology are coming to Australia. It is an opportunity to learn and network with legends in water science and practice, and also turn the spotlight on water challenges in Australia and the broader Asia-Pacific region. We are very keen to explore increased microbial risks presented by extreme events, which will be more frequent with climate change, opportunities in wastewater surveillance, and importantly for the Territory, the role of water-safety plans in providing safe drinking water. In planning the 5-day Symposium we are looking at opportunities to engage with our national and international guests.”

Registrations are open at WaterMicro23

River Reflections:  14-15 June

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority hosts an annual water conference called River Reflections. This year it will be held in Narrabri, NSW on Wednesday 14 and Thursday 15 June 2023. HERE is the link to MDBA’s webpage with a bit more information.

Image courtesy of Fellow Tanya Doody

6. Across the Sector


The NSW Smart Sensing Network ( has opened its 2022/3 Grand Challenge Fund collaborative research funding round. Proposals need to be led by a NSSN university partner and include the fields of clean technology, water, bushfires, and smart places and buildings.

Applications close: 20 February 2023.


The NSW government has also opened its Small Business Innovation and Research Program [SBIR] research and development challenge, and $24 million initiative that provides competitive grants for SMEs to work on NSW government challenges. Fields include biosecurity, waste recovery and urban heat islands.  See for details.

Phase 1 Feasibility applications close: 28 February 2023.

7. Interesting Stuff


From Lisa Ehrenfried (2014)

In mid-2022, Yarra Valley Water released a refreshed Climate Resilience Plan. To help with the implementation of one of the key projects of this plan – assessing the climate resilience of critical assets – YVV recently secured a $30,000 grant from Emergency Management Victoria. The climate resilience work gained an “exceptional” recognition at the International Water Association’s Climate Smart Utilities Award in Denmark in September 2022, and YVV also presented the Climate Resilience work at IWA’s Water Climate Discussions on Positive Tipping Points in the leadup to COP27, which was viewed by over 2300 people.


From Caroline Rosella, ANU (with Professor Tony Jakeman, Friend of the Trust)

This is a recently published chapter providing a historical perspective for modelling to inform river basin planning since the First Industrial Revolution.



From Ann Milligan, Friend of the Trust

PCT Fellow, Dr Deb Bower (2019), is a co-author of this new colouring book about Australian wildlife. Dynamic Lagoons: Colour the world of the upland wetlands celebrates the wonderful ‘Upland wetlands of the drainage divide of the New England Tableland Bioregion’ an ecosystem that is listed as threatened at State and National level.


From Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust

The NSW Smart Sensing Network (NSSN), in partnership with Hunter Circular Economic Zone and HunterNet Cooperative, hosted the Innovation in the Circular Economy 2022 Conference, at Newcastle City Hall on 27-28 October.



From Dr Paul Frazier (2012)

Government agencies, local communities and First Nations representatives are exploring ways to help return the once iconic Murray Cod to their former glory in the Darling-Baaka River between Bourke and Louth.

In three years of detailed Fishery survey in the Darling between Bourke and Louth we have found only 6 Murray cod. They simply can’t recover naturally in those numbers.

Photo supplied by P Frazier

“We are at a crossroads for Murray Cod in this part of the Murray-Darling Basin.  Sampling shows that they are simply at numbers too low to recover naturally along this reach of the Darling-Baaka, with strategic action needed to help bring back the fish.”  Dr Paul Frazier

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