Our Theory of Change

Australia’s water and environment managers are agents of change in the work that they do:  that is, the decisions they make have the potential for lasting and significant impact on Australia’s natural resources.


As such, the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust aims to contribute to a world where water and the environment are managed sustainably and equitably by bridging the gap between science, people and the environment through cultivating meaningful conversations and capacity building.

To achieve this vision, change of a transformational nature is required – a kind of change that is non-linear, complex, iterative and systems driven. Our approach to achieving change in this complex world is through creating simplicity out of complexity – based on the legacy of Peter Cullen who was renowned for taking complex ideas and translating them in ways that were understandable and practical whilst simultaneously taking nothing away from the complex nature that is water management in Australia today.

Here at the Trust, we believe that our vision for a sustainably and equitably managed environment can only be achieved when we respect Australia as a living continent; when science effectively influences policy; when all stakeholders collaborate in participatory and equitable conversations; when our leaders take responsibility for the decisions made about the future of our natural world.

To this end, the Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust is about creating safe environments for the conversations that matter, to take place; we’re about building our future leaders to think with a collaborative mindset; we’re about connecting people together, people who are thinking and acting with systems approaches to complexity.

And of course here at the Trust we will evaluate and measure and adapt as we go along – learning, reflection and adaptation are key to achieving transformational change.

This is our Theory of Change – put quite simply:  if the capacities of future leaders are built, and if these leaders think & act with a collaborative mindset, and if these leaders use science to inform policy, we may just end up with a world where our water resources & environment are managed more equitably & sustainably. Perhaps. Just maybe.


Science to Policy Leadership Program

Women in Water Leadership Program

Follow-up activities

Fellows events, such as the annual event, or state based events.

Mid, intermediate and long term evaluation.

Short-term individual outcomes


  • Enhanced leadership characteristics & communication skills
  • Improved leadership and/or policy development skills
  • Improved ability to collaborate and network with others
  • Increased or continuing commitment to the field of water & environmental management
  • Improved knowledge and enhanced understanding of how to influence policy

Intermediate individual outcomes


  • Greater demonstration of leadership characteristics & communication skills
  • Increased clarity, confidence, shared vision and strategic capability
  • Greater demonstration of use of science in management and/or policy development
  • Increased collaboration and/or networking with others in the water/environment field
  • Increased dissemination of knowledge about water/environment issues
  • Fellows acquire more responsibility and enhanced leadership roles in organisations/institutions

Intermediate organisational outcomes


  • Increased organisational/ institutional capacity to implement sustainable water/environmental management programs, to develop or influence policies, and to impact water/environment management practice using science as evidence base
  • Increased collaboration between organisations and institutions on issues around water policy and practice
  • Strengthened gender equality and inclusion institutionally

System-level outcomes
(Regional / National / International)


  • Increased number/quality of sustainable water/environmental National and State management programs developed, expanded and/or implemented using science as evidence base
  • Increased number/quality of effective & sustainable National and State water/environmental policies created and enacted using science as evidence basee
  • Increased collaboration/networking of water/environmental leaders undertaking collective impact at scale resulting in a world where water and the environmental are managed more sustainably and equitably.