VICWATER UPDATES

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APRIL 2024

At the end of last year, VicWater took over management of the Insight Executive Leadership for Women in Water program, with funding support from DEECA and ongoing sponsorship from the Hon Harriet Shing, Minister for Water.

Last week we were delighted to host a welcome dinner for the 2024 Insight cohort of 13 current and emerging women executives from across the Victorian water sector – including VicWater’s own Tara Daniel.

The dinner was attended by Minister Shing, who reminded us that all too often, the natural inclination of many women is to downplay their abilities and recede into the background. She encouraged the Insight participants to step forward proudly, embrace their leadership ambitions and remember that they are already a role model for other aspiring women leaders.

The Insight program was launched in 2019 to deliver on the commitment in Water for Victoria to promote gender equity in the water sector. Over the two rounds that have been run to date, the program has evolved into a truly transformative experience not just for the participants but also for their organisations and the sector as a whole, as it builds a strong female leadership network and pipeline into top executive roles.

Congratulations to all the 2024 Insight participants, and I look forward to hearing about their experiences at the end of the 12 month program.

Caption: L to R: Kristen McCaskill, Eileen Curtis, Teresa Ayles, Clare Gibson, Karen Lau, Anna Lamont, Minister Shing, Emma Youill, Lisa Anelli, Nardia Sheriff, Katie Zeller, Tara Daniel, Anna Murray, Philippa O’Sullivan

This month’s VicWater Update includes some great news items which really showcase the breadth of activity and achievement across the Victorian water sector. We are always looking for opportunities to promote the interesting and exciting things our members are doing – if you would like to share any newsworthy announcements or stories, please contact our Engagement Manager Lauren Vines – lauren.vines@vicwater.org.au

VICWATER UPDATE

The VicWater Update is a monthly publication developed to ensure the sector is kept updated on the projects we are undertaking on their behalf. It provides a platform to promote visibility of things that are happening within the water sector including water sector events and announcements.

During the first week of each month, a condensed version of the newsletter is emailed to registered subscribers. Articles are also posted in the News area of our website.

If you are not receiving your email copy, you can subscribe for the next available issue.

Would you like to contribute an article? Contact Lauren on lauren.vines@vicwater.org.au

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MARCH 2024

Last month VicWater partnered with Vic Catchments and DEECA to deliver the 2024 Director Development Forum, a biennial event that brings together all water corporation and CMA non-executive directors following new board appointments in the previous year.

The two days featured keynote presentations and panel discussions on a range of topics including public sector governance, ‘Water 101’, cyber risk management, psychosocial workplace safety, transition to net zero, emergency management and Traditional Owner self-determination.

Directors heard from external and industry speakers who aimed to raise awareness and understanding of some of the important issues and challenges that water sector boards need to keep abreast of as part of their governance and leadership role.

For me, one of the program highlights was guest speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson, a global futurist who talked about current and emerging technological trends, especially the increasingly pervasive  use of artificial intelligence (AI) in all aspects of our lives. According to Anders, within the next 12 months approximately 90% of content on the Internet will be generated by AI.

I will put my hand up to using ChatGPT from time to time (not to write this column I swear!), but I do wonder about what this means for the future of human creativity and invention.

Another one of Anders’ observations resonated with me and many of the people I spoke to afterwards:

“The pace of change has never been faster – and will never be this slow again.”

Something for us to ponder, as we face into an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) future.

But I certainly wouldn’t want to give the impression that it was all doom and gloom at the Director Development Forum! The event was a great opportunity for directors to make new connections and build their peer network, contributing to a sense of belonging and inclusiveness in the Victorian water sector.

It was also the result of the highly productive and collaborative partnership between VicWater and Vic Catchments for the benefit of our respective members, with valued support from DEECA.

APRIL 2024

Earlier this year, Central Highlands Water (CHW) got in touch, to ask if Jo or I would be willing to have a chat to their four female trainees. Of course we jumped at the chance and before we knew it, Jo and I were on a train hurtling towards Ballarat for a really quite excellent day. I started my career working in Operations and a benefit of getting older is seeing how the culture has shifted to make operations a great place for females to work and also the evolution of programs and opportunities to encourage females to enter the area. Our day consisted of a site tour and morning tea at Ballarat South Waste Treatment Plant (BSWWTP), courtesy of the trainees (Lilian, Lourdes, Tania and Tanika). Lilian showed us around and shared her knowledge of the processes and also reminded us of how much there is to know!

From the BSWWTP we went on a driving tour of some of the larger reservoirs of the area, I cannot verify if we were lost or not, but we made it to the CHW head office in time for lunch and a (not long enough) session with the executives. It was great to spend some time with them and spend a little bit of time discussing our priorities and things that are keeping us busy, which is a lot!

After lunch, Jo and I were ‘interviewed’ about our experiences and covered topics such as self-care, our career journeys and backgrounds, and our motivations. It is always a bit daunting talking about yourself but hopefully some pearls of wisdom were shared! It was also nice to have some friendly faces from my past life from water quality in the crowd.

The trainee program happened organically with a single trainee position being advertised and growing to four. The interview process sounded to be more experiential and a lot more fun than a traditional interview, and the four females that have come were an unintended, but positive outcome of the process with all four trainees planning to stay long term at CHW. I would like to give a massive kudos to Kim Pappaluca and the CHW team for this program, it is exceptional and it is fantastic to see more women in operations and the cultural shift to see it succeed.

Thank you to Lilian, Lourdes, Tania, Tanika, and the whole CHW team for having us. I would also like to say a very special thank you to Kim for putting the day together, being our chauffeur and showing us to the best coffee place in Ballarat. Jo and I had a great day and would love to come back!

L – R: Kim Pappaluca, Jo and Tara

L – R: Tanika, Tara, Lourdes, Jo, Tania and Lilian

MARCH 2024

International Women’s Day 2024

8 March marks International Women’s Day, which is an annual event to raise awareness and celebrate progress of the women’s rights movement. As a sector, we are fortunate to have unified commitment to gender equity, and there are a number of different programs that exist to support women to succeed.

In 2019 VicWater released the first water industry Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Strategy 2019-2023, which has had an annual performance report produced each year. The final report under the current Strategy is due to be released in March 2024 and has comparative year on year data from the five years of the Strategy. The gender results show progress in senior roles but it is important to note that due to the size of these teams, even a single change can impact the data.

Programs such as the Insight: Executive Leadership for Women in Water Program are important in elevating women into leadership roles through self development and learning from other women in the sector and helping them to building connections with other women at similar points in their careers. To date this program has been run twice and the third cohort is due to commence at the end of March, of which I am hugely excited to be a part of.

At a board level, the Women in Water Directors Network (WWDN) provide a place and space for women directors of water corporations and CMAs to network, collaborate, mentor and support each other. Since it was established in 2018, the network has expanded to include all directors to champion gender equity. In 2024 the WWDN will be running a ‘Next Generation’ program for women at the executive and board level, and aims to build relationships across the sector based on respect and mutual benefit. Expressions of interest for this program will open in March.

Finally, it would be remiss of me to not mention the huge amount of work that has been completed by our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) subject matter experts over the last few months to complete progress reports against their organisations Gender Equality Action Plans.

Under the Gender Equality Act, they are required to report every two years and this was the first progress report. This was a huge undertaking and I congratulate all who were involved in the process for completing it.

More broadly, we should be grateful that we work in a sector that is committed to putting in place structures and supporting programs to support a diverse, informed and engaged water sector that embodies a sense of pride and inclusiveness.

gender-table
Caption for this table for context.

APRIL 2024

Workforce Readiness Project

The project working group has had its first meeting to begin finalising what the function of the Training Academy will be and then designing the best operating model for the Academy. In this first meeting we used DTF’s Investment Management Standard to clearly define the problem/issue that the sector is looking to address with the proposed Training Academy.

A meeting was help with DJSIR and the VSA to discuss the Skills Solutions Partnerships Funding program that is being managed by DJSIR and its relevance to the project. Subsequently an Expression of Interest for funding was submitted to this program.

Carbon Offsets Project

Fifteen of our 18-member water corporations have advised that they wish to continue participating in the project. Following receipt of this advice VicWater engaged Aurecon/MAG to undertake the EOI component of the project and Allens to undertake the legal component.

A working group has been formed to assist with the development of the EOI with 4 workshops scheduled to occur through April.

Work on the legal component of the project will commence in April.

Other Activities

Attended the following meetings/events:

  • BuildSkills Australia Roundtables – these looked at the challenges facing the built environment sector and the possible actions to deal with those challenges.
  • Recycling Victoria provided an update on the Circular Economy Risk, Consequence and Contingency plan discussed the Responsible Entity supporting collateral and a proposed Responsible Entity Risk, Consequence and Contingency plan template.
  • EPA Emerging contaminants in recycled water project crop sampling workshop.
  • Metro Water Authorities – Quarterly Environmental Catch Up.
  • Department of Health Water Regulation team.
  • Department of Health Safe Drinking Water Regulation Review team.
  • Provided an update on the Carbon offsets project to the Greenhouse Gas & Energy SIG.
  • DEECA’s update on its recycled water education and engagement project.
  • Carbon Market Institute presentation on its newly launched third-party Carbon farming contracts.

MARCH 2024

Workforce Readiness Project

At the February VicWater MDs Forum the MDS acknowledged the risks posed by the current training gaps identified by the VicWater working group and endorsed the working group to continue investigating the creation of a Victorian Water Industry Training Academy.

Over the next four months the working group will be finalising what the function of the Academy will be and then designing the best operating model for the Academy.

Carbon Offsets Project

The Proof-of-Concept phase of this project is now complete with a briefing paper on this phase of the project having been presented at the February VicWater MDs forum.

The proposed next phase of the project will be the Build Phase. Our member water corporations have until 8 March to advise if they wish to continue participating in the project. The Build Phase will include undertaking an Expression of Interest for the sector’s required Carbon offsets as well as preparing the legal documents for the Special Purpose Vehicle that will be required to undertake the procurement of the offsets.

Victorian Water Sector Recycled Products Database Project

Aurecon has now finalised the recycled products database. In future this database will be able to be incorporated into the existing MRWA Portal.

Work is continuing on the review of existing material flow analyses and carbon emissions documentation to identify priority activities that use sustainable products.

The Water Expert Workshop held in February also helped identify the major recycled/sustainable products used in the water sector. The products identified through these two processes will inform a market sounding with suppliers.

The project is due to be finished by the end of May 2024.

Other Activities

Attended the following meetings/events:

  • Environmental Sensitivity Map presentation by SEW and Alluvium;
  • Water Industry Procurement Working Group meeting;
  • Consultation session on EPA’s Statement of Strategic Intent on Climate Change;
  • Gas Substitution Roadmap update;
  • Water Sector Circular Economy & Energy Working Group meeting;
  • Met with staff from the Dept of Transport and Planning to discuss the development of Victoria’s Housing Statement;
  • EPA Water Sector Consultation Group Meeting;
  • Catch-up with the ESC;
  • The Director Development Forum.
VicWater respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands and waterways throughout Victoria and pays its respect to their elders – past, present and emerging.
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