Bridging issue #59

Rosie Wheen
Welcome to our 59th Bridging edition which focuses on our 15 Year Anniversary. Such milestones are important markers in our individual and collective journeys and we recently held two landmark events, the Boat House Dinner and the 2024 Water Symposium, to acknowledge this significant moment in the Trust’s history.

1. From the Chief Executive Officer

By Rosie Wheen

Lake Connewarre, Barwon River, Victoria – Image courtesy Paul Feikema

These events were held in the same week we celebrated the graduation of our 20th Leadership Program and welcomed our 300th Fellow. The week was full of wisdom, connection, and courage, which are captured in the highlights from these moments, the speeches and the graduation address.

This edition of Bridging pays tribute to those milestones and honours the life work of Professor Peter Cullen whose words and wisdom resonate as strongly today as they ever did. We heard many stories across the events of the impact that Peter Cullen had personally on the lives and careers of leaders. We carry this legacy forward of fostering courageous leadership to tackle big challenges in water and environment.

Congratulations to the recent award winners in our network including Kiara Johnson who received the Leith Boully Award, recognition of a Fellow who has upheld the Peter Cullen Trust’s principles, stepped up to the challenge of driving change, and exemplified the practical and fierce leadership example set by Leith Boully.

As we celebrate our 300th Fellow joining the network, the Fellows Committee has captured new language to describe the role and potential of this growing network and has set themselves the challenge to Encourage, Empower, Amplify and Influence.

As we look ahead, we have just accepted the new cohort into our 2024 Leadership Program (Women) and look forward to the commencement of their journey.

Milestones are important markers and I am so proud of the moments we created to celebrate ours. This would not have been possible without the hard work of the PCT team, our Organising Committee and our generous and passionate donors and sponsors. Thank you.

Enjoy the continuing celebration. Enjoy the continuing cultivation of wisdom and action.

Enjoy the read.

2. In This Issue: 15 Years of the Peter Cullen Trust

Milestones are important markers in our individual and collective journeys and across a week in May 2024, the Peter Cullen Trust celebrated a number of memorable milestones. The 15th Anniversary dinner at The Boat House brought 100 leaders in the water sector together in a return to our origin story; the 2024 Water Symposium honoured the legacy of our namesake across a day of rich, diverse and robust discussions; the 2024 Leadership Program Graduation – our 20th – welcomed the 300th Peter Cullen Trust Fellow to our National network; and the Graduation Address by Friend of the Trust, Dr Kerri Muller, challenged us to be both clever and wise.



Wednesday 22 May, The Boat House, Canberra

The Trust’s origin story is intrinsically tied to The Boat House, an elegant landmark venue on the lake in Canberra. A few weeks after Peter Cullen’s funeral, Ken Matthews and Andrew Campbell invited leaders of many key organisations involved in water, science and education to a dinner to discuss how to honour Peter’s memory in an enduring way. The seeds for the Peter Cullen Trust were duly sown.



By Dr Kathleen Broderick (2014) and Professor Emerita Cynthia Mitchell AO (Chair of the Trust)

The day dawned bright, clear, and cold, as we made our way to Old Parliament House for the PCT Water Symposium. The setting was stately, felt important, that something consequential was happening. The view across the Terrace to the new Parliament House provided a powerful backdrop. 

The purpose of the day was, in true Peter Cullen style, to engage in bold, informed, making-a-difference kind of debate. Peter asked – ‘When water is scarce, what will we prioritise?’ and we added – ‘In the face of climate extremes and repeat catastrophes, how will we respond?’


3. On Leadership


By Dr Bek Christensen, PCT Programs Director

2024 PCT Leadership Program – Congratulations new Fellows

2024 Leadership Program Graduates

Congratulations to our 17 newest  Fellows who graduated from the 2024 PCT Leadership Program in May. This was a milestone group, representing the 20th cohort of PCT Leadership Program graduates, and delivering the 300th Fellow to our network. The cohort wowed the audience at their Graduation, inviting us all on a journey into the future to reflect on the impact of sound leadership on our nation’s environmental institutions. If you weren’t able to be there, you can watch their presentation HERE.

2024 Fellows Connection to Country Update

The Fellows Connection to Country Program is continuing through ‘Chapter 3’ of the experience. Chapter 3 focuses on yarning together as a group to provide support while we each ‘process’ the insights and lessons from our on-Country experience, and consider what’s different for us now, and how we will apply our insights in our communities, families, and workplaces.

Through these yarns the group has continued to share honestly and authentically, deepening the shared understanding and connection that has grown through this Program. They’ve also given opportunity for people to share tangible workplaces challenges they’re having, and then work together to find better ways forward. And it’s been a joy for us all to share in the good news stories too!

As we move forward, the participants are considering ways to share their insights and lessons more broadly. This includes presentations at upcoming conferences like the AWA ACT Water Matters event, Voices from the Bush in September, and a PCT Fellows event. Stay tuned for more details…

2024 PCT Leadership Program (Women)

We have just confirmed the participants for the upcoming 2024 PCT Leadership Program (Women) and look forward to welcoming this new cohort of future-Fellows in September. The cohort includes women from almost every State/Territory (sorry Tassie!) and spanning a range of experience and roles from natural resource management to economics, law, environmental science, and water information. Thanks to all of our PCT community who helped to spread the word about the Program, and supported people in your network to apply.

RRR Reflections from the Steady Green Ants

2024 Leadership Program Graduates

By Maria Rosier (2023)

You may not remember, but when we graduated in 2023 we invited you to take up the ‘4 Cs’ required for a safe and just transition to clean energy. Hang on a second, those Cs were actually what we need to lead in these crazy times!

We had the pleasure of coming together in May 2024 for the ‘RRR’ session. We are proud to report that:

  • Our connection has stayed strong. We came back as a group with the sort of excitement and anticipation one feels when seeing old friends. We reflected on how our connection with each other, and to our values, helped us through both hard and rewarding times of the past year.
  • Our commitment has not wavered. We discussed the challenges faced in the past year and refreshed our commitment to leading in the always evolving water and environment space.
  • Our clarity is refreshed. We spoke of our respective rollercoasters and found light in sharing our stories, getting rid of the clutter and focussing on what really matters.
  • Our courage will keep us going. We celebrated the courage we had over the past year and supported each other to find energy for the year ahead.

Thank you to Benny Callahan for facilitating the session, to Lesley Ryall and the Trust for making sure it happened and to all Fellows who support us through our leadership journey.

200,000 Years of Homo Sapiens

The May 2024 Graduation Address by Dr Kerri Muller (Friend of the Trust)

The historic venue of Old Parliament House was a fitting backdrop for a truly remarkable Graduation Address by Dr Kerri Muller who reviewed the 200,000 year history of homo sapiens and challenged us to be both clever and wise.

Dr Kerri Muller presents the 2024 Graduation Address at Old Parliament House, Canberra

Kerri shared that one of her personal favourite quotes about wisdom comes from around the time of Christ from Juvenal who said Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.

Kerri said: “By learning about nature, we become wiser. Nature carries its own innate wisdom that is inextricably linked to our human character, our human nature.  Wise people understand that we are one with nature and seek to gain nature’s wisdom.

Juvenal’s quote resonates strongly for me in our current times when we are becoming all too aware that nature is keeping score on how wise we are, in much the same way as our bodies keep score of the way we treat them in our lifetimes and how wise we are in our personal lifestyle choices.”

The Earth is keeping score of the wisdom of our collective and personal choices.”


The Leith Boully Award

The Leith Boully Award recognises a Fellow who has graduated from the Leadership Program in the past year, and who, throughout their Leadership Program and in the time since their graduation, has upheld the Peter Cullen Trust’s principles, stepped up to the challenge of driving change, and exemplified the practical and fierce leadership example set by Leith Boully.

It was awarded for only the second time in Canberra in May, and we congratulate our winner, Kiara Johnson. This award recognises all that Kiara has achieved so far and is a vote of confidence in her continuing capacity to drive change, and to stay the course.

Kiara Johnson receives the 2024 Leith Boully Award from Dr Bek Christensen

Read the full citation HERE.


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

Robyn McLeod (Friend of the Trust) – Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the General Division

  • Board Member, Yarra Valley Water, since 2023.
  • Non-Executive Director, CleanTeq Water Limited, since 2021.
  • Non-Executive Director, Melbourne Water, 2015-2023.
  • Non-Executive Director, VicWater, 2018-2022.
  • National Director of Water, KPMG, 2007-2008.
  • Independent Commissioner for Water Security, South Australia, 2008-2011.
  • Executive Director of Metropolitan Planning, and Major Projects Water, Department of Sustainability and Environment, 2004-2007.

2024 Australian Water Awards

Professor Leslie (Phil) Duncan, Fellow (2024) was awarded the Water Professional of the Year Award.

Australian Water Award winners – Phil Duncan (2024)

CSIRO – Dr Ashmita Sengupta, Fellow (2019); Dr Carmel Pollino, Fellow (2012) and Murray-Darling Basin Authority won the R&D Excellence Award for their work – Ecosystem Functions in the Murray-Darling Basin

R&D Excellence Award presented to CSIRO and MDBA

National Banksia Sustainability Awards

Vic Catchments, the peak body for Victoria’s ten Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs), has won the Nature Positive category of the 35th National Banksia Sustainability Awards.

Vic Catchments and CMAs have a strong connection to the Peter Cullen Trust (PCT) with many staff graduating as Fellows of the PCT.  For example Tony Baker (2016) is the Executive Officer of Vic Catchments while Amber Clarke (2013) and Adam Bester (2015) are CEOs of Corangamite CMA and Glenelg Hopkins CMA respectively.

Banksia award 2024– Sally O’Neill (West Gippsland CMA), Cath Jenkins (Chair Vic Catchments), Tony Baker (Executive Officer Vic Catchments)

4. Network News and Views

Fellows Committee

Members of the Fellows Committee met in Canberra in Graduation Week for an afternoon of strategic planning. Central to the day was the review of the current annual work plan for the Fellows Committee, along with an opportunity to develop some new activities and to continue the growth and maturing of the Network. A new focus was reflected in the new language that describes the role and the potential of the Fellows Network:

Encourage: through online and in person opportunities, build the social fabric and cohesion of the Fellows Network and its relationship with the Trust’s leadership team and strategy.

Empower: through ongoing learning, including PD Days, master classes and special events like the Water Symposium, build the capacity of individuals and the connectivity of the network.

Amplify: encourage conversations in our networks to advocate for the PCT Leadership Programs and to pay back.

Influence: support important conversations, such as the Trust’s nationally significant conversations, on water and environment issues and build the uptake of these opportunities.

The Trust and the Fellows Committee extend sincere thanks to the prime movers – Trent Wallis (2017), Matthew Fullerton (2013) and Kim Markwell (2015) – for guiding the group through a valuable, energised and fun afternoon.


All Fellows in or in the vicinity of Melbourne on 31 July are invited to join City Leads Karen White (2021) and Alanna Wright (2021) for after-work drinks and networking:

WHEN: Wednesday 31st July

TIME: Between 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm 

WHERE:The Duke of Wellington – Arthur’s Cocktail bar (146 Flinders Street, Melbourne 3000)

Pay as you go food and drinks, plus please register your intention to come HERE.

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

Orminston Gorge, NT – Image courtesy Paul Feikema


  • 20 June – Lunch with a Leader (Perth) – Dr Stacey Hamilton
  • 31 July – Vic Fellows Networking Drinks (Melbourne)
  • 13 November – Peter Cullen Lecture (Canberra)
  • 14 November – Fellows Professional Development Day (Canberra)


  • 15 July – 2025 Leadership Program – applications open
  • 1-6 September – 2024 Leadership Program (Women) Session 1
  • 10-15 November – 2024 Leadership Program (Women) Session 2


  • 7 July – Audit, Finance and Risk Committee
  • 22 July – PCT Board




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

Nestled in the heart of Australia, Alice Springs is in the prime position to host our second Voices from the Bush Conference. Proudly hosted by The Australian Water Association (AWA) and Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) 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.

With deliberate and significant representation from the Indigenous community, the conference is set to unite those working on the frontline with decision makers from across the sector; from water utilities, service providers and government agencies to consultants, construction agencies and researchers.


11th Australian Stream Management Conference and Awards Gala Dinner – August 11-14, Victor Harbor

The River Basin Management Society (RBMS) is pleased to be hosting the 11th Australian Stream Management Conference & Awards Gala Dinner at the McCracken Convention Centre, in Victor Harbor, South Australia from Sunday 11 August to Wednesday 14 August, 2024.

Less than 60 days til this exciting event commences, there is still time for registrations and award nominations are closing this Friday 21 June 2024.


6. Across the Sector

Entries are OPEN for the Chris Davis AM Fellowship

Members of the Australian Water Association are invited to submit their entry for the inaugural Chris Davis AM Fellowship, a chance to receive $10,000 for a project initiative or research activity that will contribute or has the potential to transform sustainable water management in Australia.

Chris Davis AM was AWA’s first full time CEO, a great Friend of the Peter Cullen Trust and an inspirational water leader.

For full details and to apply, CLICK HERE.

Entries are OPEN for the AWA Australian Water Awards

Do you know an outstanding water professional? Are you working in an organisation, utility or entity delivering outstanding results for your communities? The Australian Water Awards recognise excellence and innovation of individuals and organisations in water management.

Nominations for the 2024 Water Awards in all Branches are now open! For details and to nominate, CLICK HERE.

7. Interesting Stuff

Articles, Publications and Presentations

A Technical Assessment of Alternative Treatment Technologies for Future Water Recycling Schemes

Dr Stacey Hamilton (2018)

Stacey Hamilton’s Churchill Fellowship report can be found HERE.

Performance Evaluation of a National Seven-Day Ensemble Streamflow Forecast Service for Australia.

Mohammed Bari, Mohammad Hasan, Gnanathikkam Amirthanathan, Prasantha Hapuarachchi, Aynul Kabir, Alex Cornish (2023), Patrick Sunter and Paul Feikema (2017). Published in Water 2024, 16, 1438.

The Bureau of Meteorology delivers a national 7-day ensemble streamflow forecast service covering regions of high environmental, economic, and social significance. We evaluated performance of operational rainfall and streamflow forecasts and found that skill score metrics gradually decreased for both rainfall and streamflow as the forecast horizon increased from Day 1 to Day 7. Forecast performance also progressively decreased with higher streamflow volumes. Both streamflow and rainfall forecast skills varied spatially across the country— they were generally better in the high-runoff-generating catchments. Our findings demonstrate that the 7-day ensemble streamflow forecasting service is robust and draws great confidence from agencies that use these forecasts to support decisions around water resource management.

WSAA Guide to Scope 3 emissions management for the water sector

The guide is presented in an easy-to-follow, step-by step guide to support the management of Scope 3 emissions. The pathway presented is relevant for water utilities with varying maturity on Scope 3, from starting to investigate to those looking to set targets and actively report on Scope 3 emissions.


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