Well Justin is a really hard act to follow to be honest, and when I look at the other previous Queensland Branch Presidents my palms start to sweat a little.
I was thrilled to be voted as the next Queensland Branch President and I was hoping to be the “poster child” of a regional branch president. I was then fortunate enough to be successful in a new role that brought me to the SEQ corner. However, once you’ve lived and experienced regional Queensland, you really never forget it, and I will continue to focus and represent our regional members.
My experience in working and living in regional Queensland epitomises AWA’s Strategy’22 in so many ways. With strong partnerships and collaboration, water professionals and the water industry work more efficiently and effectively; the tyranny of distance is a constant struggle and collaboration helps with this. Few of us truly experience a “new” problem, so through these positive and constructive partnerships we can learn from each other and together.
Extending our reach was really brought home by my regional experiences, and the recent increase in online forums will support us in achieving this goal. A wise person once said that you need a crisis in order to drive innovation. One of the best things to come out of COVID-19 has been the increased use of online technologies and forums.
I know we are all missing the face-to-face of a traditional Ozwater event; as an extrovert I am very much missing the company. But who would have thought a whole conference could successfully be delivered online to such a broad and wide audience? Congratulations to all those involved, including those members who signed on to experience Ozwater digitally.
This goes for the technical meetings as well. The first truly online technical committee meeting in Queensland had more than 150 participants, including 37 from interstate and three from overseas. What an amazing achievement – it really opens the opportunities for extending our reach even more.
And of course, there is the diversity challenge, although the current Queensland Branch is on the way with a 50:50 female:male split, a mix of ethnicity and diverse (professional and personal) backgrounds. One of the challenges in the diversity is that it sometimes focuses on gender, but diversity is a much wider conversation and inclusion is important to all of our members.
I am excited about the coming year. Post-COVID could be seen as a little daunting but with every challenge comes an opportunity.
I would like to give a heartfelt thanks to three of committee who are leaving us, including Sandra Hall, a previous past president who is stepping down and has contributed significantly over the many years. Sandra has achieved amazing outcomes for the branch and AWA generally. We are also saying goodbye to Simon Taylor and Partha Susarla, who have both served across a number of years on the committee. Hopefully they will maintain their interest and stay involved.
I would like to congratulate all the returning Queensland Branch Committee members: Amie Aldred, David Merrett, Narelle D’Amico and Richard Savage. And congratulations and welcome to the new committee members: Christian Truscott, Janice Wilson and Lisa Welsh. I was pleased to see a “replacement” regional member in Janice Wilson since I came south. It’s always wonderful to see strong regional representation, and we have that in Narelle and Janice.
We had a record 24 nominees representing utilities, consulting, contractors, equipment suppliers and academia and broke the 200 valid vote barrier for, what I understand to be, the first time. Excitingly, this year we had five nominees from outside South East Queensland, further showing the work we have been doing as a committee to actively engage our regional members. This level of interest is a true testament to the work that you have all done to engage our membership in recent years.
I am really looking forward to working with and leading the committee. I will be relying on every single committee member who has been voted by you, our members, to be purposefully and actively engaged in order to service you, our members.