On 20 and 21 May, VicWater hosted the inaugural Connect Conference at the beautiful Langham, in Melbourne. An impressive line-up of speakers and storytellers who generously shared their knowledge and expertise, provided a rich and informative conference for nearly 160 online and in person attendees.
In opening the conference, VicWater CEO, Peter Morison, said
“Connect has been designed by the people, for the people. Connect brings together some of the most relevant topics, some of which our industry is progressing, and some of which we are coming to terms with as we try and provide quality and reliable services to our customers while supporting our communities across Victoria.”
Over two days, Connect 2021 hosted more than 50 speakers, ran 24 presentations across four streams. Connect was our largest in-person event since Covid sent Victoria into lockdown in March 2020. It provided an opportunity for attendees to meet others working in the sector, make and renew connections and establish new relationships and partnerships after being separated for so long.
Day 1 featured the Finance & Risk stream and the Diversity & Inclusion stream running along side it. The keynote address took the form of an interview between VicWater CEO, Peter Morison, and Alan Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland. The interview streamed live from Scotland. We extend our thanks to Alan, who stayed until 1.30am Scottish time to undertake the interview. Alan shared his expertise around working in a water sector on the cusp of change and spoke to very specific challenges and issues that the Victorian water sector faces.
The Finance & Risk stream discussed zero carbon, water affordability, cyber security and governance and included an economic update from Emma Lawson.
The Diversity & Inclusion stream looked at ways we can embrace our First Nations people, discussions on disability inclusion in the water sector, enabling cultural and linguistic diversity and ways that the water sector are focusing on gender diversity and inclusion.
Pride in Water hosted the IDAHOBIT session with a panel discussion around creating rainbow change in the water sector and a wonderful performance of ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ by Mama Alto.
Day 2 featured the Leadership & Innovation stream and included sessions on scalable innovation, working safely and working in new ways, and the psychology of risk. The Policy & Environment stream looked at the Policy Platform, servicing our changing communities, how to finance catchment-based solutions, developers and sustainable water management and an excellent presentation on cultural values in waterways by Aboriginal elder Rodney Carter, and Rueben Berg.
Connect After Dark was a highlight and many delegates stayed on after Thursday’s presentations were complete to take advantage of being in the same room as their colleagues for the first time in 14 months.
Connect 2021 also provided an opportunity to combine our virtual skills from lockdown with the traditional face-to-face format to explore what hybrid events can offer members, especially those located in outer rural and regional areas. From a technology perspective, it was a good start but there is still work to be done to improve the experience for online delegates and presenters.
Work is underway to edit the recordings and links will be sent to all paid delegates as soon as complete.
We’d like to thank everyone who presented at Connect 2021 as well as our program partners Vision Super, as well as stream sponsors Treasury Corporation of Victoria (TCV), and GHD for their generous support.