Bridging issue #54

"Scholars tell us that “purpose”, both pragmatically and spiritually, is a declaration of why we exist. It is the cumulative effect of meaningful goals; the impact we want to have. It is our “why”. In this edition of Bridging we launch our “why”, and illustrate it with a deep dive into the big issues confronting Australia’s water and environment leaders, including the conversations on National Water Reform and the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and the complex and existential challenges of planet earth through the eyes of Friends of the Trust, Professors Stuart Bunn and Emerita Cynthia Mitchell."

1. From the Chief Executive Officer

The Trust has a long-held aspirational Vision of “A world where water and the environment are managed sustainably and equitably”. Our stated Mission is “To bridge Science, People and the Environment through inspiring and cultivating meaningful conversations and capacity building”. The new and significant inclusion in our trilogy is our Purpose – To foster courageous leadership to tackle big challenges in water and environment.”

We encourage everyone in our network of Fellows, Friends, colleagues and supporters to see themselves inside this purpose statement, as people with the courage to lead change in our sector, and, importantly, in conversations with other sectors. We need courageous water and environment leadership in the room with climate scientists, developing energy policy and transition to net zero, and developing approaches for access to safe drinking water, sanitation, liveability, livelihoods, food security and biosecurity. There is more to read about our journey to Purpose below.


2. In This Issue: Purpose

Understanding our “why”.


By Lesley Ryall, Fellows Network Co-ordinator

At its May 2023 meeting the PCT Board approved the new purpose statement for the Trust. This statement enhances the existing Vision and Mission and stands as our “why” – a persistent, authentic expression of what the Trust was established to do and what makes us unique.

Fellows, Friends and observers of the Peter Cullen Trust can expect to see our purpose embedded not only in our literature but in our behaviour, and we encourage all of our Network to see themselves inside this statement, as people with the courage to lead change in our sector.  

Importantly, in establishing our purpose, the Board commits the Trust to raising the stakes for the water and environment sectors to engage holistically in the climate change response and other compelling environmental challenges of our time.


3. On Leadership


By Dr Bek Christensen, PCT Programs Director


Applications for the 2024 PCT Leadership Program are now open! We invite applications from people who are actively involved in water and environmental science, systems, advocacy, policy or management.

This transformational Program is designed to have lasting impact, and significantly change the courage, clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability of each participant.  Graduates will enter the PCT Fellows Network, now over 260-strong, a growing, empowered cohort of leaders in the water and environment sector.

We invite our readers to reach out to individuals who you identify as having the capacity and the potential to benefit from a PCT Leadership Program. 

Information for Applicants and Information for Sponsors is available on the Trust’s website.

Applications close: Sunday 15 October

Contact with any questions.

2023 PCT Leadership Program (Women) in Queensland

We are looking forward to kicking off the 2023 PCT Leadership Program (Women) in the first week of September. This cohort of 18 women was selected from a strong, competitive field of applicants. It’s always a challenge to make the selection decisions for our Programs; it’s also encouraging to see the wealth of leadership talent across our water and environment community putting their hands up to make a difference.


WSAA Young Utility Leaders Program

The Trust is continuing its partnership with the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) to deliver the Young Utility Leaders Program in 2023-2024.


Water Reform – A Nationally Significant Conversation with PCT Fellows

By Dr Kathleen Broderick (2014), Darryl Day and Lesley Ryall, on behalf of the contributing Fellows and Friends of the Trust

The recent Fellows-lead “Water Reform – a Nationally Significant Conversation” is ‘significant’ for PCT in three ways: 

  • this is the first time that Fellows have worked together as a group on an advocacy ‘offering’;
  • there was significant engagement, awareness and learning generated through the process; and, 
  • both the conversation and paper (we hope) are significant in influencing the process of water reform in Australia. 

An article in the June edition of Bridging described this initiative for the PCT in some detail, so in this article we outline the process briefly and share feedback from participants and consider – what next for this work? 

PCT Fellows and DCCEEW staff in Canberra to discuss National Water Reform.


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

Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel Appointment for Kim Markwell

Kim Markwell (2015) has recently been appointed to the Queensland Urban Design and Places Panel.  The Panel of 35 members provides the Queensland Government with independent expert advice on best practice urban design that will help foster a more holistic approach towards economically sustainable, vibrant and adaptable urban places for communities across Queensland.  

As part of this panel, Kim will be called upon to review and provide advice on some of the State’s most important and significant projects, including those associated with the Olympic Games. She is also part of the Sustainability and Resilience sub-group which will aim to drive new conversations focused on the State’s environmental and sustainability opportunities. 

Kim is excited by the opportunity to learn from the distinguished members of the panel and contribute an ecological systems thinking perspective to the urban design discussions.

52 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Changing the World

Associate Professor Bradley Moggridge (2018) has been recognised by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) as one of 52 leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are changing the world.  Brad is noted as “a proud Murri from the Kamilaroi Nation and an expert in Indigenous Water Science, researching how traditional knowledge can influence the way we manage water and how it can bring back good water.”

Read the full article in Cosmos here

1 Million Turtles – Citizen Science Project Nominated for 2023 Australian Museum Eureka Prize

Dr Debbie Bower (2019) is part of the 1 Million Turtles team that’s been nominated for the Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

The Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes are the nation’s premier science awards, celebrating achievement across a broad spectrum of science.

The 1 Million Turtles Team’s Community Conservation Program uses the TurtleSAT app to involve citizen scientists in hands-on activities such as habitat construction and restoration, nest protection and fox management. Emphasising STEM literacy and First Nations knowledge, the Australia-wide program has influenced policy and saved over 1000 freshwater turtles and 200 nests in 2022 alone.

Watch the project overview here

AWA Appointment for Nic Morgan (2018)

Nic Morgan (2018) was recently elected as the President of the Australian Water Association (AWA) ACT Branch Committee. 

The Australian Water Association is Australia’s biggest water network inspiring and driving a sustainable water future, with a membership of over 5,000 individual and corporate members. Nic has taken over the ACT role from PCT Fellow Nicole Vonarx (2023), who has been Vice President/President of the ACT Branch for the past four years. 

The photo (Nic (far left), Nicole (front left) is from the recent AWA Water Matters conference, with members of a panel discussion that focussed on enhancing Indigenous engagement in water.    

Image courtesy Nic Morgan.

4. Network News and Views


A quieter time was forecast for the Fellows Committee off the back of a huge program in and around our May Graduation Week events. That’s not been entirely the case! Here’s a snapshot of activity through June and July:

  • The conversation around National Water Reform has delivered an Overview paper that has been well received by contributors; see a full report elsewhere in this edition. The process of engagement with the Fellows network that it represents has been embraced and commended by participants and by DCCEEW, where the door remains open for further discussions. A huge contribution by Dr Kath Broderick (2014) has underpinned this significant program.
  • Arising from our May Strategic Planning Day, the Fellows Committee has signed off on its “strategic plan on a page”, a succinct, targeted works program for ongoing development of the Fellows Network.
  • The organising team for November PD Day in Brisbane is underway with a focus on Environmental markets. Fellows keen to lend a hand to curate the program for the day are invited to connect with Andrew O’Neill or Kim Markwell – more on this follows.
  • A small team has commenced scoping a second coming of #WateRevolution in the second half of 2024. Watch this space.
  • Members of the Fellows Committee have collaborated with the FNC on a new Fellows Travel Assistance Policy, reflecting the Trust’s commitment to equity and access to ongoing development opportunities. The new policy will be shared with Fellows well ahead of the November Graduation Week events.
  • Fellows Only LinkedIn platform went live on 6 July, with over 100 Fellows responding to the first announcement. Fellows not yet engaged in this space are encouraged to check their inboxes for the invitations; or reach out to who will sort you out. More on this follows.
  • Criteria for the Ripple Award have been reviewed and the call for nominations in two categories will be shared with Fellows in August.
  • The Fellows Committee welcomes Grace Rose-Miller (2017) to its ranks. Grace joins the Committee from the August meeting.


By Sonia Wood (2022)

All PCT Fellow are urged to participate in the newest online networking opportunity – the PCT Fellows Network LinkedIn closed group.

So far 133 Fellows (about 50% of our Leadership Program graduates) are group members and while the group is new we hope to use this platform to share news, build knowledge, create momentum for water and environment causes and build engagement across the various PCT cohorts.

An initiative of the 2022 cohort, the LinkedIn group ensures Fellows can stay in touch with all things PCT and importantly provides a Chatham House rule space for ongoing discussion, information exchange, advice and networking amongst and between Fellows. A really valuable and unique resource for us all.

You will need to have your own LinkedIn profile to participate

Please accept the invitation that has been sent to your inbox. 


Environmental markets is a hot topic both in Australia and globally. There is a huge amount of hype about the trillions of dollars coming from the corporate sector to finance Nature Repair.  

Is the hype justified, and if it is, how can we be part of driving evidence-based investment?  

Kim Markwell (2015) and Andrew O’Neill (2017) invite expressions of interest from fellow Fellows to get involved in the 2023 November PD day (to be held in Brisbane) on the subject of Environmental Markets and the skills we need to ensure these investments are founded on a strong evidence-base and bring the right people together.  

We are not experts, but we have interest and some experience trying, testing, poking and prodding different aspects of this subject and we feel it’s timely to spend a day together learning about this space.  

If you’re interested, and/or have expertise in this area that you’re willing to share with other Fellows in November, we’d love to hear from you!  You don’t need to be local to Brisbane, just interested and willing to contribute.

Get in touch with Kim ( or Andrew ( to find out more.


Perth Lunch with a Leader – Collene Castle, Director of Wonnil Partners

  • Thursday 24 August, 12.00-2.00pm AWST

    The next PCT Lunch with a Leader is in Perth on 24 August.  Collene Castle, Director of Wonnil Partners and the first First Nations appointment to the Water Research Australia Board is our guest speaker.

    For more information and to book, visit the website HERE.


Strategic Influencing in Water and Climate Change Inter-Dependencies
Tuesday 29 August, 12.00-2.00pm AEST

The next PCT National Webinar for PCT Fellows and Friends will be held on Tuesday 29th August, 12.00-2.00pm AEST. Our panellists will explore the need for critical conversations on water as an enabler of change, and how conversations on climate change and water and energy transition to net zero, could be improved. Importantly, the webinar will explore options to improve our conversations in Australia, and what lessons we can share at COP28.

Three presentations, each of approximately 10 minutes, will be recorded and the balance of time allocated to Q&A under Chatham House Rule (not recorded).


In Australia, the water and environment communities are very connected, and share, collaborate and partner effectively. However, water leaders do not venture widely enough to contribute to critical conversations and solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This is evident in the role of water and nature-based solutions in mitigation and adaptation, particularly in building resilience to protect water security for the environment, cultural needs and consumptive users. Critically addressing water security for communities.

Globally, there is a significant gap as recognised in the recent Technical Workshop on Water and Climate Change Mitigation Inter-Dependencies held in Bonn on 13 June 2023, to inform discussions leading to COP28 (2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC).

The Panel is:

Tony Slatyer (Friend of the Trust)Water Policy Group – was a participant at the UN-Water Workshop in Bonn 2023. Tony with be familiar to many, having spoken to our Network in May, providing insights into the COP27 and UN 2023 processes.

Sarah RansomAustralian Water Partnership General Manager is considering a shared Water Pavilion at COP28  

Third panellist to be confirmed.

Registration is free for Fellows and Friends of the Trust. Register HERE.


From the 2015 PCT Fellows

We are all deeply saddened by the news that our PCT Fellow, friend and colleague Hannah Murdoch (nee Pexton) passed away after an extended battle with breast cancer. Our PCT leadership program experience in 2015 was so much richer because Hannah was part of our group. She contributed so much positive energy (including lots of laughter and smiles) to all activities, provided authentic and thoughtful advice and was always there for comfort and support when needed.

The 2015 PCT Leadership cohort. Ties that bind.

On behalf of the Trust, we extend our sympathy and support to her family, and also to her many colleagues at Melbourne Water, where she served with distinction from 2005, and who have also been deeply impacted by her passing.


Where are you now?

Help us to stay connected.  Have you had a career change recently?

This is an invitation for all Fellows to update us on your current roles, titles, preferred emails, contact details etc.  Please share your details with Lesley Ryall, Fellows Network Coordinator, at 

5. Diary Dates


  • TBC – report back on the National Water Reform Challenge
  • 24 August – Lunch with a Leader, Perth – Collene Castle
  • 29 August – National Webinar – COP28 – how do we drive the cross-sectoral conversations we need to have across water/energy/climate?  What are the water needs for energy transfer?
  • October – National Webinar – Law and Lore – unpacking the challenges we face in water law, policy and collective wisdom in the face of a changing climate.
  • 15-17 November – Graduation Week – Brisbane. Includes the Peter Cullen Lecture, Fellows PD Day and Fellows Breakfast.


  • 3-8 September – 2023 Leadership Program (Women) – Session 1, Queeensland
  • 12-17 November – 2023 Leadership Program (Women) – Session 2, Queeensland


  • 2 August – PCT Audit, Finance and Risk Committee Meeting
  • 3 August – Business Development and Philanthropy Committee Meeting
  • 17 August – PCT Board Meeting
  • 1 November – PCT Audit, Finance and Risk Committee Meeting
  • 17 November – PCT Board Meeting


  • 7-13 August – Landcare Week
  • 9 August – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
  • September – National Biodiversity Month
  • 7 Sept – National Threatened Species Day
  • 25 Sept – World Rivers Day
  • 17-23 October 2022 – National Water Week – United by Water


Water in the Bush Conference 2023 – 12-13 October, Darwin

Now in its 34th year, the Water in the Bush Conference is the Territory’s premier annual water conference which connects water professionals, the community and industry from across Australia to share information and knowledge about the current and future state of water and inspire positive change.


Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) 18-22 June 2024 – Call for Papers extended to 1 September 2023

SIWW2024 will be held from 18-22 June 2024, at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. As one of the flagship events of SIWW, the Water Convention is co-organised by PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, and the International Water Association. The last Water Convention during SIWW2022 featured more than 300 oral and poster presentations across 6 themes over 47 technical sessions. At the upcoming edition in SIWW2024, the Water Convention will continue to serve as the platform for water sector practitioners and experts to share knowledge, experiences, and solutions with peers from around the world, and contribute towards the common goal of building a sustainable water future for all. For more information on the six themes and sub-topics under each theme and submission procedure, please refer to the SIWW2024 Water Convention Call for Papers brochure or visit the SIWW website.

If you have any queries, you are welcome to contact Technical Program Co-chair, Darryl Day on

6. Across the Sector

Roadmap to the 2026 Basin Plan Review

From Jackie Luethi (2022) and Monique White (2015)

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has recently published the “Roadmap to the 2026 Basin Plan Review”. The review is an opportunity to reflect on how the Basin Plan is working, explore how best to respond to the impacts of climate change, and support the Basin into the future.

The Roadmap outlines the work planned and shows how the MDBA will approach the next 3 years. It also outlines how people can get involved.

From now until 2026, the MDBA will gather and share information about what they know and what they discover. The review will focus on climate change, sustainable water limits, First Nations perspectives, and how to simplify the Basin Plan through regulatory design.

For updates and opportunities to have your say, subscribe to River Reach.

2023 Freshwater Sciences Conference

From Professor Stuart Bunn (Friend of the Trust)

The recent Freshwater Sciences Conference, hosted in Brisbane, was the first time the Society for Freshwater Science has held its annual conference outside of North America. The meeting was well-attended with 770 delegates from over 30 countries.

Associated with the Freshwater Sciences Conference, 29 students from the NSF Emerge Program were hosted on a visit to the Mary River catchment. The Emerge Program is a transformative training and mentoring program to help underrepresented minority individuals pursue careers in the freshwater sciences.

Image courtesy Stuart Bunn.

WaterAid Australia Announces Appointment of Tom Muller as CEO

WaterAid Australia has announced the appointment of Tom Muller as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Effective immediately, Tom assumes the leadership position previously held by Rosie Wheen, bringing with him a wealth of experience and a deep commitment to WaterAid’s mission.

Image courtesy WaterAid Australia.

With over eight years of dedicated service as the Director of Policy and Programs, Tom has already played a pivotal role in shaping the organisation’s strategic direction, notably as the spearhead of the regional five-year strategy, which outlines WaterAid Australia’s ambitious goals through to 2028.

The Trust warmly welcomes Tom to this role and looks forward to a productive working relationship.

Vale Dr Simon Barry

Dr Simon Barry was farewelled by family, friends and colleagues at a service in Canberra on Monday 31 July. He was remembered as “a great man, with a brilliant mind and a generous heart”.

A pioneer and innovator, Simon was most recently the Digital Lead for the Environment business unit at CSIRO.  In this role, he was focussed on driving innovation in the use of digital technologies to ensure Australia navigates the challenges and opportunities the future presents whilst addressing the impacts and legacies of past actions.


7. Interesting Stuff: Articles, Publications and Presentations


Authors: Jamie Pittock (Friend of the Trust), Samantha Corbett, Matthew J. Colloff, Paul Wyrwoll, Jason Alexandra, Sara Beavis, Kate Chipperfield, Barry Croke, Patrick Lane, Andrew Ross & John Williams

Published in Australasian Journal of Water Resources, Volume 27, 2023 – Issue 1

Risks to shared water resources in the Murray–Darling Basin are reviewed after the report by CSIRO on the same topic in 2006. CSIRO outlined six major risks to shared water resources in the Basin. Herein, six groups of researchers have reviewed the risks of climate change, forest growth, groundwater, water infrastructure, water quality, and governance. These reviews bring an updated understanding of risk assessment and management that can contribute to the forthcoming reviews of the Water Act and Basin Plan in 2024–26. Drawing on these six papers, the authors synthesise knowledge of the risks to shared water resources and identify policy and management options and information gaps. We find that few risk factors have decreased in significance. Most risks remain and new risks are identified. Water managers must plan for a significant decrease in water availability and governments need to actively manage these risks under conditions of increasing uncertainty.


Water Policy History on the Murray River: A Handbook for Murray Irrigators [2005].

Author: The late Warren Martin PSM
From: Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust

The State Library of NSW has made available an unpublished report “Water Policy History on the Murray River: A Handbook for Murray Irrigators [2005]” by the late Warren Martin PSM.

Southern Riverina Irrigators [formerly The Southern Riverina Irrigation Districts’ Council] have approved that this commissioned report be made available to the community through the public library system.

The book-sized consultancy report (374 pages) comprises a unique and seminal history of Murray-Darling water policy until 2005.

It reviews the history of water rights and the impact of major infrastructure on those rights, land values and settlement, cultural heritage, institutional policy shifts, salinisation, water allocation, commercialisation of water, basin statutory shifts and sustainability.

Colleagues of the late Warren Martin PSM, a former NSW government executive in water, arranged through Southern Riverina Irrigators to make this report available to all those interested in Australian water policy, history and institutional evolution.



Authors: Alexandra, C., Daniell, K.A. (2010), Guillaume, J. (2023), Saraswat, C. and Feldman, H.R., 2023

Published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, Volume 62, June 2023

Two Peter Cullen Trust fellows, Prof Katherine Daniell (2010) and Dr Joseph Guillaume (2023) have been involved in new water governance research which sheds light on the need for cybernetic approaches as basins become AI-enabled. Their work looks at the intertwined social, technological and ecological considerations as cyber-physical systems become more embedded in different parts of basin landscapes, from dams, farms and groundwater, to cities and estuaries.

A media article on this research can be found HERE.


Australasian Journal of Water Resources Impact Factor

From Professor Katherine Daniell (2010)

The Australasian Journal of Water Resources now has an Impact Factor – and it is 3.2! 

The Journal has been edited since 2015 by PCT Fellow Prof Katherine Daniell (2010) and includes a number of PCT Fellows and Friends on the Editorial Board and many who contribute regularly as authors, reviewers and guest editors, including A/Prof Bradley Moggridge (2018), A/Prof Margaret Ayre (2010), Prof Anne Poelina (2011), Prof Nick Schofield (Friend of the Trust), Prof Jamie Pittock (Friend of the Trust), Prof Barry Hart (Friend of the Trust) and many more. 

Many thanks to all in the PCT community who have supported it as an important forum for scholarship and discussion. 

The Journal would welcome new Fellows, Friends and colleagues to participate too, in authoring, reviewing and editing roles. Please contact if you are interested.

Safe and just Earth system boundaries

From Professor Stuart Bunn (Friend of the Trust)

The Australian Rivers Institute’s Stuart Bunn, Ben Stewart-Koster and Syezlin Hasan were authors on the recently published work of the Earth Commission on “Safe and just Earth system boundaries”.

Image courtesy Earth Commission + Global Commons Alliance.

The article was also featured in The Conversation.


Australia’s role in feeding the world

Presenter: Professor Andrew Campbell (Friend and former Board Director of the Trust)

Professor Andrew Campbell recently presented at the National Press Club, sharing his ideas about Australia’s role in feeding the world.  His reflections from his 40-year career in sustainable agriculture and environment science, policy, extension and management can be accessed here.

The take home messages – use the power of the alumni, be courageous – trust and value science, rebuild and create critical institutions and seek solutions from collaboration and partnership.


Connecting our soul and the natural world

Presenter: Professor Cynthia Mitchell (Friend of the Trust)

Professor Cynthia Mitchell recently presented at the Communities in Control conference in Melbourne.  Her topic – “Connecting our soul and the natural world: Unleashing the power to transform our relationship with people, profit, and planet” – will resonate with many of our readers.

Posing deep and complex questions – How do we relate to the natural world? Are we really separate from nature? Where are our souls in all this? – Cynthia challenges us to look deep inside ourselves and reconnect our souls so we can grow economies that celebrate what we hold dear. The melding of latest research with ancient First Nations’ wisdom shows how a different path is possible.


Using multi-replicate Source modelling to create a probabilistic storage forecasting tool

Phillip Jordan (2016), along with colleagues Kate Austin, Brad Neal, Ella Guthrie, Matthew Scorah and Katrina Matthews, presented at the Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand (MODSIM) conference in Darwin in July.

Decision making for operational urban water planning and drought response can be significantly enhanced via the use of a risk-based tool that projects a plausible range of future volume in storage and hence the risk of water restrictions under different climate outlooks.  South Gippsland Water required an easy-to-use tool for forecasting storage behaviour that did not require water resources models to be re-run. The Source water resources system modelling software was applied to undertake batched runs of models of the Lance Creek, Leongatha and Fish Creek systems over a two year forecast period. These modelling results were then input to a spreadsheet tool that allowed the user (not a Source modeller) to plot storage forecast curves at any time of the year for any given current storage condition.


Assessing challenges associated with use of machine-learning for forecasting COVID-19 community spread via wastewater-based epidemiological data

Authors: Dr Arash Zamyadi (2022), Liam Vaughan, Muyang Zhang, Haoran Gu, Joan B. Rose, Colleen C. Naughton, Gertjan Medema, Vajra Allan, Anne Roiko, Linda Blackall

Platform presentation at IWA WaterMicro23 – Darwin, NT – June 2023

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has gained increasing attention as a complementary tool to conventional surveillance methods with potential for significant resource and labour savings when used for public health monitoring. Combining WBE datasets with predictive modelling techniques may also facilitate early warnings for the spread of emerging, ongoing, or future outbreaks. The challenges associated with implementing machine learning for time-series forecasting of COVID-19 were evaluated by running AI algorithms on WBE datasets across 108 sites in five regions: Scotland, Catalonia, Ohio, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. This study provides significant value for public health departments for monitoring future, emerging, or ongoing outbreaks, assisting the implementation of on-time health response measures. Collaboration between Australian, American and Dutch research institutions, and generous support by PATH foundation and Water Research Australia (WaterRA) was essential to release this project.


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