Bridging issue #58

Rosie Wheen
There have been times over the past few months where my brain has hurt as I have been learning so much (and unlearning a fair bit too!). As I listen and distil the wealth of input and insight that this remarkable network of leaders has generously shared, and again as I process the incredible content of Bridging, two important opportunities stand out for me.

1. From the Chief Executive Officer

By Rosie Wheen

Trentham Falls – image courtesy Paul Feikema

Three Things

THING #1 – The first is to step off the dancefloor for a moment and appreciate the “view from the balcony” – well, really, it’s the view from above, the global, holistic perspective.  I think that’s what our challenges in water and climate are really about – standing above our sometimes-limited, self-interested view and seeing “the whole board”.  Our recent Lunch with a Leader guest, Bob Speirs, shared a wonderful metaphor of the puzzle box top and how it allows us to make sense of the many pieces of the puzzle.

THING #2 – The second is to make time for our individual development journeys and to value reflection.  Good things come in threes, so here are three things for you to contemplate and act on:

1.      Engage in our bumper week in May;

2.      What are you learning and unlearning?

3.      Working together to tackle complexity


2. In This Issue:  15 Years


2024 marks the 15th Anniversary of the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust.  We have chosen to mark that milestone with two special events during May Graduation Week in Canberra – the 15th Anniversary Boat House Dinner (22 May) and the Water Symposium (23 May).  Full details of these events follow in “Diary Dates” later in this newsletter. 

This is a call to action.  Your involvement, as Fellows, Friends and supporters of the Trust, is crucial to the success of these events and to the ongoing purpose of the Peter Cullen Trust – to foster courageous leadership to tackle big challenges in water and environment. 

Get involved.  Come along.  These events recognise the attributes that our networked leaders share – courage, connection, commitment.  Be an active part of that network.  Tickets are still available to all Graduation Week events; information and links to register can be found HERE

Speaking truth.  We are encouraged and enriched by the support of many outstanding leaders who will be our guest speakers and presenters across the Dinner and the Symposium;

15TH Anniversary Boat House Dinner Speakers:

  • The Hon Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water
  • Professor Andrew Campbell, Friend and Founding Director of the Trust
  • Professor Jane Doolan, Friend of the Trust
  • Dr Paul Frazier, Fellow

Water Symposium Speakers:

  • Professor Xuemei Bai
  • Professor Michael Douglas (Fellow)
  • Kate McBride (Fellow)
  • Professor Ross Thompson (Fellow)


We are delighted to announce important partnerships with these key stakeholder organisations, providing generous financial support for our events.  Leaders all, they share our commitment to boldly and collaboratively tackling big issues in water and environment. 

Dinner Partners:

Murray Irrigation Limited

Murray Irrigation Limited is thrilled to be a tier one partner of the Peter Cullen Trust 15th Anniversary Dinner fostering courageous leadership to tackle big challenges in water and environment.

Murray Irrigation is a public company that operates Australia’s largest private water supply network. Based in the Southern Riverina of NSW, the company delivers water and services to irrigation landholdings, community and environment via gravity fed earthen channels within the NSW Murray Regulated River Water Source.

Like the Peter Cullen Trust, Murray Irrigation strives for excellence in water resource management and the effective and efficient management of its water infrastructure to deliver water for agriculture, environment and community.

This partnership forms an opportunity to focus on collaboration to ensure all stakeholders work together to maximise every drop of water.

Centre for Applied Water Science, University of Canberra

Water Symposium Partners:

The Peter Cullen Trust is proud to announce the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) as our Tier 1 Water Symposium Partner, alongside Theme Partners:  the Centre for Applied Water Science; eWater; University of Canberra; Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) and Yarra Valley Water (YVW).

Centre for Applied Water Science, University of Canberra

For full details and to register for both these milestone events, go to “Diary Dates” later in this newsletter.


In the Call for Content for this edition of Bridging, we sought responses to these provocations that underpin the forthcoming Water Symposium:

  • What are the pivotal moments and key places you’ve seen or experienced in the face of climate extremes?  This is a Storytelling challenge. 
  • How can we best show up to the task of responding to climate change? What are the top three most important actions leaders can take?  

Pivotal Moments, Key Places

By Eric Vanweydeveld (Fellow, 2022)

Through my work in the Pacific and Remote Australia, I have seen, experienced and worked in extremely different locations with striking commonalities.

Both places are experiencing the impacts of climate change. They deal with extensive water quality, water security and associated health issues which have very deep implications and impacts on their local people and communities.

But one is in the middle of the Pacific with very limited abilities and options to overcome the issues. The other one is in the middle of a continent and in the heart of a very wealthy country with many possible options. And yet both locations are facing very similar issues, which don’t seem to be addressed even with ongoing focus and large amount of funding. Both places deal with inefficient leadership, unconstructive fuss, and unnecessary politics.

One of the pivotal moments for me is to see and grasp the impacts of climate change that is unfolding as we speak. The first photo shows a small village in South Tarawa that is now experiencing ongoing storm surges and overflows that are threating its survival. The other photo shows a small Aboriginal community in Central Australia that is facing ongoing severe risks of water source failure.  

For both places, I am required to design climate resilience solutions for communities that are experiencing first-hand the impacts of the climate change. Both places require cohesive, united and strong leadership to change the status quo.

Three actions for leaders 

By Dr Kerri Muller, Friend of the Trust, Member of the 15th Anniversary Organising Committee

  1. Teach critical thinking to children (everyone) so they can spot spurious arguments and make robust, collective decisions.
  2. Take bites out of the climate change elephant every day, even just talking will lead to more walking.
  3. Convert financial capital to natural capital that will provide us with the ecosystem services we need to cool, water and rewild our planet.

I recently ran a whole day workshop on constructed wetlands and put up this slide that shows where the wetlands of the Adelaide Plains were 200 years ago before we built on top of them and obliterated them, and where sea level rise may come to by the year 2100; they overlap most precisely.  

Wetlands of the Adelaide Plains – image courtesy Dr Kerri Muller

Imagine if Adelaide’s forefathers had only built above the swamp line we would now have all that wetland area to absorb sea level rise.  Instead we will have to transition it back to nature through the greatest eco-sociological shift humanity will have seen – therein lies the challenge!!!  

Incredible to think that our Indigenous cousins’ forefathers went through sea level rise on this scale during their occupancy of our Country – I wonder how they did it? 

3. On Leadership


By Dr Bek Christensen, PCT Programs Director

2024 PCT Leadership Program (Women) – Final Call

Applications MUST CLOSE 11:59pm (AEST) Sunday 5 May 2024.

We are accepting applications for the Peter Cullen Trust’s transformative flagship Leadership Program (Women) until Sunday 5 May. This Program will run from September to November 2024 with two face-to-face sessions from 1-6 September and 10-15 November.

If there are individuals in your networks who would benefit from and contribute to the richness of this opportunity, please tap them on the shoulder and encourage them to apply.  If you are in an employer position, consider making the investment of sponsoring an applicant.

All details about the Program and applications are available on the PCT website:

2024 PCT Leadership Program

We are in the midst of the current leadership program, having kicked things off with Session One from 18-22 March, on Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. Our group includes 18 people from almost every State and Territory, and as you would expect they are currently busy working on the group project in preparation for Session Two and their upcoming graduation in May.

Elsewhere in this edition of Bridging you’ll find more details about the mega-week of PCT events in May, and I encourage you to come along to all including the Program Graduation!

2024 Fellows Connection to Country Update

Image courtesy Dr Bek Christensen on behalf of the 2024 Connection to Country cohort

The 2024 PCT Fellows Connection to Country Program is a first step for the PCT – a pilot that we hope is the beginning of more Indigenous-led and co-designed initiatives for PCT, the Fellows Network, and the water and environment sector, to contribute to meaningful change.

Growing from the group experience of the 2022 PCT Science to Policy cohort, the Program has been designed through a collaboration of Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff and Fellows of the Trust. The intent of the Program is to support Australia’s water and environment leaders to understand and engage with Indigenous people and worldviews in respectful and authentic ways, and to plot new paths forward for water and environmental management.

Image courtesy Rosie Wheen


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

Darryl Day, Friend of the Trust

The IWC recently announced the appointment of three Strategic Advisors – water sector leaders with strategic insights into both Australia’s and the international space. Dr Sandra Hall, Daniel Lambert and Darryl Day.

With more than forty years of experience in the water and energy sectors, most recently as the CEO of the Peter Cullen Trust, Darryl’s many skills and insights in the water and leadership spaces span government, private sector, civil society and academia, and significant policy work in both Australia and internationally. Darryl shared his good friend Mark Pascoe’s passion for developing the next generation of water leaders and has an equally vast professional network.   

Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust

Dr Diana Day, Friend of the Trust, has been appointed board member of the Australian Institute for Nuclear Science and Engineering [AINSE].  AINSE is enhancing capability of Australia and NZ in nuclear science and engineering and related research fields by facilitating world class research and boosting undergraduate, postgraduate and early career education.  

AINSE works in close partnership with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation which facilitates competitive access to its research equipment array including The Australian Synchrotron and the OPAL Multi-Purpose Research Reactor.

Read more about AINSE HERE

Dr Ashmita Sengupta, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO (Fellow, 2019)

Ashimita recently ran a $4M project called “Ecosystem Functions in the Murray-Darling Basin (Investing in New Knowledge to Adapt the Murray-Darling Basin Plan) – CSIRO and Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)” ( .  The project was awarded ‘growing our impact award’ at CSIRO and last month it was awarded the R&D Excellence Award (sponsored by Water Research Australia) at ACT AWA awards; the project will be considered at the national awards in Melbourne on May 1st.

Kate McBride (Fellow, 2022)  

Kate has been appointed to the Basin Community Committee (BCC).  BCC members are selected based on their expertise or interest in water use, water management, Indigenous and local government matters.  As a fifth-generation farmer, Kate is focussed on ensuring people’s voices are heard and a balance between the health of communities and the environment is stuck. More about the BCC can be found HERE.

4. Network News and Views

Fellows Committee

The 2024 Fellows Committee meets monthly to review ongoing actions arising from its strategic plan.  So far this year, these key items have been completed or progressed:

  • 2024 Fellows Committee Who’s Who (completed and shared with all Fellows)
  • Fellows Network Survey (in progress)
  • Fellows Social Media Badge (in progress)
  • Fellows Committee Strategic Planning Day (22 May, in Canberra)

Two nominees from the Fellows Committee – Kim Markwell (2015) and Chris Golding (2022) are serving as Observers to the Trust’s Board this year.  The purpose of the Board Observership, now in its second year, is to further the close engagement with and input from the Fellows Committee to Board considerations, and to provide this as a development opportunity for the Fellows.  The Board Observers attend all meetings of the Board but have no Directorial obligations.

In the spirit of reciprocity, the Fellows Committee welcomed new CEO, Rosie Wheen, to the March meeting and heard from Rosie about her early weeks with the Trust and her aspirations for the future.  This close connection between the Fellows, the Board and the senior Trust staff will be further enhanced by Rosie’s participation in key sessions of the Fellows Committee’s Strategic Planning Day later this month.


Law and Lore – Unpacking some of the challenges that we face in water law, justice, policy and collective wisdom in the face of a changing climate.

By Lesley Ryall, Fellows Network Coordinator

On 17th April, over thirty Fellows and Friends joined our National Webinar “Law and Lore”, where they were treated to insightful presentations from three outstanding voices: 

  • Prof Anne Poelina (2011), Chair Indigenous Knowledges, University of Notre Dame
  • Prof Jennifer McKay, Professor of Business Law – Justice and Society, Uni SA, Friend of the Trust
  • Dr Madeleine Hartley (2017), Churchill Fellow 2019, Manager, Policy and Regulatory Strategy, Water NSW


Brisbane Lunch with a Leader – Bob Speirs, Practitioner in climate risk, natural resource and environmental management

By Matthew Fullerton (2013)

On a wet Brisbane day, Fellows met for lunch with Bob Speirs. Having retired from a career in the Queensland public service holding senior leadership positions in various aspects of Queensland’s environmental management, Bob is as busy as ever working as a practitioner in climate risk, natural resource and environmental management. Bob inspired the group with his reflections on leadership, shaped by Bob’s passion for history, philosophy and poetry – in fact, this is the first lunch that has enjoyed an impromptu poetry recital!

Brisbane Lunch with Bob Speirs – image courtesy Matthew Fullerton

One of Peter Cullen’s great communication strengths was his use of metaphor to illustrate his descriptions. Bob embodied this spirit, giving us several great metaphors to draw on through his talk and the conversation. In particular, we enjoyed his description of leadership as being in control of the top of the jigsaw puzzle box. Being able to see the whole picture and how the many, sometimes distinct and disparate parts come together into a single vision – Bob combined this with a quote from Einstein, “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” and inspired us to tell simple, cohesive stories in our own leadership of environmental issues.

Where are They now?

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

Stuart Richardson (2010)

After nearly 10 fulfilling years leading CDM Smith Australia (as Managing Director) I have decided to re-focus on addressing the challenges we have across Australia in water and salinity management. I have setup Richardson Consulting to help government, NRM bodies and industry with:

– groundwater resource management;
– risk assessment (e.g. from impacts to ecosystems);
– connecting science and policy to support sustainable water resources development;
– stakeholder engagement;
– salinity management; and
– expert witness.

I will use my 30-years of experience (including my knowledge from the inaugural PCT Leadership program) to help develop pragmatic solutions. As an independent operator I’m seeking to work with people that favour a collaborative approach.

I’m looking forward to continuing to contribute to the PCT via my role on the Audit and Finance Committee. My new email address is:

Kim Markwell (2015)

Kim Markwell has recently joined Alluvium Consulting as the Qld Regional Manager. 

This was a big decision for Kim to be moving from her previous role which she had for 12 years but she is excited about the opportunities ahead to support her new team in a leadership role and also hopefully provide impact for the industry through new networks and relationships.

You can connect with Kim at

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



Date: Wednesday 22 May
Time: 6.30 for 7.00-10.30pm
Location: The Boat House Restaurant, Grevillea Park, Menindee Drive, Barton, Canberra
Cost: $250.00 (GST incl)

The Boat House Dinner is a platform to discuss Peter Cullen’s transformative influence with founders of the Trust. We will hear from Fellows who are both the beneficiaries and the future of the Trust; and we will commit ourselves to courageously tackle the big challenges in water and environment.

The Boathouse Dinner is an opportunity, in a very real sense, to be part of history and to contribute to a new era in water and environment policy. Your participation will become a milestone in your leadership journey as well as honouring Peter Cullen’s life’s work.  Do not miss this unique opportunity to reignite your Leadership Journey.

Four exceptional guest speakers will share their insights into leadership, science, policy, truth and courage:

  • The Hon Tanya Plibersek, Minister for the Environment and Water
  • Professor Andrew Campbell, Friend and Founding Director of the Trust; former Chief Executive of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); Director AgriFutures Australia
  • Professor Jane Doolan, Friend of the Trust; Director, Southern Rural Water; Member, Murray-Darling Basin Authority; former Commissioner, Productivity Commission
  • Dr Paul Frazier, Director, 2rogConsulting; Fellow (2012); Peter Cullen Trust Ripple Awardee (2022); former Director, The Peter Cullen Trust


Further information is available on the Trust’s website or you can contact Lesley Ryall on with any queries or for assistance with your registration.

Please note that bookings must close on Friday 10 May.



Date: Thursday 23 May
Time: 9.15-4.00pm
Location: Members Dining Room 3, Old Parliament House, 18 King George Terrace, Parkes, Canberra
Cost:  Free to attend for Fellows and Friends of the Trust

This year’s first Fellows Professional Development Day has been recast as the “Water Symposium”, a whole day forum for bold, informed and solutions-oriented debate around the imperatives for a National response to climate change.

The day will be enabled under Chatham House Rule by Professor Emerita Cynthia Mitchell AO (Chair of the Peter Cullen Trust) and Dr Kathleen Broderick (Fellow, 2014). 

Following is the first reveal of the Water Symposium Program, including guest speakers, panellists and Symposium tools.


Session 1 – What might the future hold?

Planetary Boundaries and the role of water in the current climate crisis.

Speaker: Introduced by Emeritus Professor Cynthia Mitchell AO, our special guest speaker is Professor Xuemie Bai:

Xuemei Bai is a Distinguished Professor and an Australian Research Council’s Laureate Fellow at Fenner School of Environment & Society, Australian National University. Prof. Bai is a Fellow of Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia since 2017 and was named as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People in Climate Change Policy in 2019 and 2022. She is the Laureate of the Volvo Environment Prize 2018, and the Global Economy Prize 2021.

Her research focuses on the science and policy of rapid urbanization and urban system sustainability. She has published extensively on these topics, with many appearing in journals such as Nature, Science, Nature Sustainability, Nature Climate Change etc.

Distinguished Prof. Bai is a member of the Earth Commission, leading its Working Group 5 on methods of cross-scale translation from planetary limits to local actors. She served as a member of the inaugural Science Committee of Future Earth, and led the development of Future Earth Urban Knowledge-Action Network, which was launched at the 2016 UN Habitat III Conference in Quito.

She has served as a Lead Author for four major global assessments: the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Global Energy Assessment, IPBES Global Assessment, and the IPCC AR6 WGIII.

Session 2 – Where are we now?

Water resources in Australia- nature speaks

Speaker: Professor Michael Douglas, School of Earth and Environment, UWA (Fellow, 2011);

Panellists: include Kate McBride (Fellow, 2022); Professor Ross Thompson (Fellow, 2014)

  • Speaker and panellists present their own experiences from a range of critical perspectives including First Nations, regional communities, industry.
  • Panel poses provocations to the participants, sparking conversations at tables and individual storylines to investigate in the afternoon.

Session 3 – Conversations 

Courageous leadership through respectful engagement, authentic listening, personal reflection and deep discussion with all the voices in the room – we are the right people and this is the right time.  And how we turn up matters. 

Session 4 – What shall we do?

  • Reflecting on and springboarding from the day’s inputs and activities, we will develop individual action statements, working through questions e.g. What situation are we seeking to improve? What would success look like?  What help might we need?  How might we access that help?
  • Building on the concept of PCT being a group of authentically networked leaders, we will develop and commit to a pair-wise accountability and support mechanism to help make our plans real in the world, and share some with the wider group.


22-24 May – Graduation Week events, Canberra (Registration links in the details below)


  • 5 May – 2024 PCT Leadership Program (Women) – applications close
  • 19-24 May – PCT Leadership Program Session 2


  • 15 May – Audit, Finance and Risk Committee Meeting
  • 24 May – PCT Board Meeting


  • 27 May – 3 June – National Reconciliation Week


  • 11 May – World Migratory Bird Day
  • 22 May – International Day for Biological Diversity
  • 5 June – World Environment Day
  • 8 June – World Oceans Day


Voices from the Bush Conference 2024 – September 10-11, 2024, Alice Springs

The second Voices from the Bush Conference will be hosted by the Australian Water Association (AWA) and Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) in Alice Springs this September.

The event will explore the challenges impacting remote and regional communities across the nation and provide a platform for diverse voices to come together; collaborating and contributing towards the creation of lasting change.

The Call for Abstracts is now open until 17 May – the portal for submissions is HERE.


IWRA 1st Islands Water Congress – September 4-6, 2024 – Tórshavn, Faroe Islands

The International Water Resources Association’s (IWRA) Islands Water Congress is a new high-level global event organised in collaboration with a different island host every two years.  For the first edition, IWRA has partnered with the Faroese Geological Survey (Jarðfeingi), and the event will be held in Tórshavn on the Faroe Islands, from the 4 to 6 September 2024.


6. Across the Sector

No positions vacant have been lodged with us for this edition.

Fellows, Friends and supporters are welcome to supply information at any time, please email to have your jobs and other opportunities included in Bridging.

7. Interesting Stuff

Articles, Publications and Presentations

A thriving Murray-Darling Basin in 50 years: Actions in the face of climate change

From Dr Kerri Muller, Friend of the Trust

The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) supports a suite of actions and investments to protect the future of the Murray-Darling Basin in the face of climate change, which is threatening the river’s health and sustainability.

In a new essay series A thriving Murray-Darling Basin in 50 years: Actions in the face of climate change, ATSE urges more investment in technologies to monitor the river for climate impacts and in sustained governance with regional and rural communities at the centre, coupled with evolving our agriculture industry in the face of decreased water availability and accepted water sharing policies.

The essay series highlights the vibrant, thriving potential of the Basin if sustainably managed for the benefit of communities and the environment.

To achieve this, it recommends the reinstatement of a body to provide independent objective policy advice on national water management, including for the Murray-Darling Basin, to help guide consistent national data-driven decision-making.

The full essay collection is HERE. The summary document is HERE

Catchment Health Indicator Program 2023

From Martin Lind (2012)

Launched on 22 March 2024 (World Water Day) by ACT Minister for Water, Shane Rattenbury, the Waterwatch publication, “Catchment Health Indicator Program 2023” is the culmination of over 2000 water quality surveys collected at 229 sites across the Upper Murrumbidgee River Catchment by more than 200 dedicated volunteers. 

Waterwatch Coordinator and PCT Fellow Martin Lind (2012) notes that this Waterwatch program is an outstanding example of how facilitated “citizen science” can provide evidentiary data (water quality, waterbug and riparian condition) to support an early warning system for riverine health issues. 

The 2023 CHIP Report can be downloaded HERE.

A Comprehensive Assessment of Floodwater Depth Estimation Models in Semiarid Regions

By J. Teng, D. J. Penton, C. Ticehurst, A. Sengupta (2019), A. Freebairn, S. Marvanek, J. Vaze, M. Gibbs, N. Streeton, F. Karim, S. Morton

This paper investigates the accuracy of three simple models for floodwater depth estimation from remote sensing derived water extent and/or Digital Elevation Models in semiarid regions.

The floodplain inundation history of the Murray-Darling Basin through two-monthly maximum water depth maps

By David J. Penton, Jin Teng, Catherine Ticehurst, Steve Marvanek, Andrew Freebairn, Cherry Mateo, Jai Vaze, Ang Yang, Fathaha Khanam, Ashmita Sengupta (2019) & Carmel Pollino (2012)

With growing concerns over water management in rivers worldwide, researchers are seeking innovative solutions to monitor and understand changing flood patterns. In a noteworthy advancement, stakeholders interested in the changing flood patterns of the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) in Australia, covering an area of 1 million km2, can now access a consistent timeseries of water depth maps for the entire basin.

Development of a Multi-Index Method Based on Landsat Reflectance Data to Map Open Water in a Complex Environment

By Catherine Ticehurst, Jin Teng and Ashmita Sengupta (2019)

This study combines the strengths of a variety of indices by developing rules that applies an index to the environment where they perform best. It compares these indices across the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) in southeast Australia, to assess performance and compile a heuristic rule set for accurate application across the MDB.

Stocktake and Water Security Assessment for Self-Supplied Remote Communities

From Simone Stewart (2021), Report prepared by Water Security, Policy and Planning Branch, Department for Environment and Water, SA

Self-supplied remote communities are most vulnerable to an insecurity of water supply in terms of water quantity and quality due to the limited diversity of sources, poor source water quality, costs associated with asset maintenance, extreme climate conditions, and reliance on climate and weather dependent water sources.

Ensuring water supplies for self-supplied remote communities are well understood, and the risks facing these communities are well documented, is a requirement for developing strategies to improve security of water supply in at-risk communities. This project was undertaken to better understand the water supply arrangements and challenges of the self-supplied remote communities of South Australia.

The report makes a number of recommendations to improve the security of water supply in each community identified as being at either medium or high risk of water insecurity within the next decade. The critical tasks to follow this project will involve examining and gathering strategies to progress these recommendations.

The Stocktake and Water Security Assessment report can be viewed here:

The technical report which provides the detail on the risk assessment undertaken can be viewed here:

Table of Contents