This first edition of Bridging for the year has a focus on Wetlands. It has bubbled up some important contributions from Fellows-in-the-field, and I commend their work to your attention.
2024 is the Trust’s 15th Anniversary year, and I’m thrilled to share details of two milestone events we are planning for May in Canberra. Flick to the Diary Dates for these announcements and save those dates in your own calendars.
And what a privilege to share this first month of my time at the Trust with the Chair-elect, Professor Emerita Cynthia Mitchell AO and to showcase her remarkable worklife journey later in this edition of Bridging.
We often reflect on Peter Cullen’s vision, his ability to articulate the complex in plain, accessible language and on his courageous leadership. Peter was the master of the metaphor. We have many examples of these attributes, captured in the seminal publication “This Land Our Water” edited by our Patron Vicky Cullen. In this issue of Bridging we invite you to reflect on one of Peter’s most memorable speeches from the publication: “Science and Politics – Speaking Truth to Power”. Peter gave the speech at the North American Benthological Society Annual Conference in the USA, in June 2006, and I can imagine the impact it had on those present, as it will on readers today.
One of the benefits of working for the Peter Cullen Trust is the regular excuse it gives to spend time immersed in Peter’s writings. Fifteen years on from his passing, I remain struck by the relevance of this work – full of vision, questions, challenges, provocations, and insights that remain as powerful and needed today as when he first spoke or wrote them.
“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.”
“Water – the Big Picture” has become our theme-by-default this issue, a reflection of the complexity and diversity of conversations, collaborations and provocations that we’ve shared over the past few months. It also resonates with the ramping up of Fellows’ engagement with and leadership of the Trust, part of an exciting maturing of our Fellows Network, and is consistent with the leadership challenge in front of the water and environment sector in this era of climate change.
In writing this introduction to Bridging, I was reminded of the important leadership role of Fellows and Friends in advocating for science, evidence-informed policy reform and resources for transformative change in how we manage water and the environment. Australia is at a crossroad in water and biodiversity policy. We have a window of opportunity to influence the reform agenda for the next decade, or longer. The late, the Hon John Kerin AO, credited Peter Cullen as having a pivotal role in placing water on the national agenda.
We have an obligation to show the same courage.