In May, WSAA's Young Utilities Leaders had the opportunity to join Ozwater in Melbourne and share their reflections following the WSAA stream and Ozwater'24 activities.

From Natalia Quinn, Yarra Valley Water

It was my first OzWater and I had so much fun! Connecting with so many others across the water sector was invaluable.

I particularly loved the AWA Young Water Professionals Day. The presentations and sessions on the day were top-notch! It was inspiring to be in a room full of other young people who are passionate about the industry and keen to drive change. I made some new connections and loved catching up with them between sessions across the week.

Wednesday in the WSAA stream was fantastic. I loved having the opportunity to open the first and third sessions with an Acknowledgment of Country. As a YUL it was really important to me that we started things off this way to thank Traditional Owners and Custodians, and highlight some of the current state, national, and societal context. The international perspectives session was fascinating – what an incredible line-up of global water leaders.

It was great to attend so many sessions, workshops, and presentations focused on highlighting the crucial role of partnership with First Nations communities when managing water. A key takeaway for me was the importance of integrating traditional knowledge and science into the way we tackle climate challenges.

For future OzWater conferences, I hope to see more young leaders! The event provides such an injection of positivity and motivation when you see what’s possible from others doing leading work around the sector. Not only can we gain insights (and at times blueprints) for how we can deliver our work better – it also provided an opportunity for much needed connection. To say I had an absolute ball is an understatement – I’m very grateful to WSAA and YVW for the opportunity to attend.

From Emily Hill, Hunter Water

OzWater24 was another whirlwind of an event, and I appreciated seeing the topics progress since Ozwater23. Climate remains a key topic, and accelerating action is key and hope to see more projects and case studies next year. First Nations engagement also featured prominently, for which I am grateful to the Young Utility Leaders program and Peter Cullen Trust for peaking my curiosity and spurring personal accountability on progressing.

Prof Phil Duncan & Prof Emeritus Cynthnia Mitchell’s session (Two Way Knowledge Exchanges to Regenerate Our Future)  was special.  We had our first in-person meeting as a Young Utility Leaders Advisory Groups committee to cement our passion for our industry and progress, and how we can add value to WSAA and members.

I also enjoyed looking at the work I’ve done in risk and asset management in the past year and attending sessions to broaden my awareness of the approaches utilities are taking and get a glimpse of what challenges and opportunities to look out for in the future.

I’ve come away feeling connected and empowered at Ozwater. Coming into myself as a leader in the ‘decade that matters’ is genuinely intimidating, but I couldn’t wish for better people to do so with.

From Anthea Fernando, Redland City Council

OzWater’24 seemed to unfold at lightning speed this year and offered a great opportunity to connect with and learn from peers across the sector.

It was fantastic to hear this message carried into the rest of the conference by keynote speakers and technical presenters alike, with emphasis placed on shifting from conventional mitigation strategies to embracing regenerative approaches in the ‘decade that matters’. The technical presentations showcased local and international leaders committed to addressing the pressing challenges of moving beyond net-zero carbon emissions, climate-resilient water networks, and contaminants of emerging concern. I was fortunate enough to sit in on a variety of presentations ranging from fostering partnerships for green energy/hydrogen initiatives to plant optimisation through machine learning, pinpointing the rapidly emerging possibilities in our sector.

I was most impacted by their collective passion for the work they are doing and their determination to be a cog in the wheel of driving change. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be challenged by them and hope that more organisations recognise the value that young professionals gain from being exposed to conferences such as these. I leave the conference equipped with a broadened perspective and hopeful of seeing a brighter future coming to pass.


From Rex Ho, South East Water

I leave Ozwater24 feeling energised and inspired to contribute where I can to accelerate action at my utility and in the broader sector. Between the keynotes, presentations, and networking there was an underlying acknowledgement that business as usual will not cut it if we want to make real inroads in the climate, water and societal challenges this decade of action seeks to address.

Keynotes from a broad range of inspiration speakers gave listeners lessons and perspectives they can apply to their personal and professional life – Gina Chick on reconnecting to nature, and Sam Bloom on not being defined by your circumstances stood out to me.

I found the insights from international speakers and panels to be fascinating. It might seem to be easy to get cocooned in the national, state or even utility bubble and we actually have a lot to learn from their experiences on how much more progressed other jurisdictions need to be to address their water challenges

Finally, we do better in incorporating the cultural science and wisdom of Australian’s First Nation’s people into contemporary problems. To work with, not for is the key message, and having listened to Prof. Phil Duncan at the YWP day, it was uplifting to see him acknowledged as the Water Professional of the Year for enhancing the voices of traditional owners in the water management space.



21 May 2024

Rose Nguyen

Rose Nguyen

Communications Advisor