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The Water Industry's Hour of Optimism

"Utilities Hour of Optimism: What Makes Our People so Optimistic?" was a wonderful gathering in September 2021 and hosted by The Centre for Optimism.

Moderated by Roland Weber and Victor Perton and sponsored by Concept Environmental Services, the gathering featured: Lucia Cade FAICD FIEAust, Chair South East Water; David Middleton, Chair Greater Western Water; Helen Vaughan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning; Lara Olsen, Managing Director South East Water; Peter Morison, Chief Executive Officer, VicWater; Eamon Kelly, GM, Melbourne Water; Soyun Punyadasa, Director, CMP Consulting Group; Mike Williamson, Director Unitywater; and Mark Gobbie, Chair Water Research Australia.


These excellent Australian leaders were asked, "What makes you optimistic?" and "How do you keep your teams so optimistic?"

Helen Vaughan

"realistic hope or realistic optimism is my term of the day"

Lucia Cade

"I know it sounds Pollyanna, I choose to spend my time on the projects that are really going to change things - the save-the-world ones."

Mike Williamson

"It made me think, what happens when an optimist walks into a room? They light the place up. It's like someone's turned a light on."

David Middleton

"To me, it's the opportunity around customer and community that keeps me optimistic.

Eamon Kelly, General Manager, Melbourne Water

"I'm at a great time of life when my kids have grown up. I've got little grandchildren popping out left, right and centre, and it's a really great time. And that gives me a lot of strengthened optimism for the future. 

Lara Olsen, Managing Director, South East Water

"I do consider myself an optimistic person, but I realised I hadn't reflected on why until this session. So, thank you for posing the question.


Peter Morison

"What makes me optimistic is the sunshine in the sunrise. Every sunrise reveals a brand new day, and every new day brings new opportunities that we can embrace.


Soyun Punyadasa

"What makes me optimistic? Well, I think my optimism comes from my upbringing. My parents left Sri Lanka in the early 70s through particularly difficult times and relocated to Hong Kong looking for a better life. They instilled a belief in me that, actually, it is a great faith that I have, that "regardless of what's happening right now, the future is always going to be better than the present. Always. And that the best is yet to come." This is what makes me optimistic.

Mark Gobbie, Chair Water Research Australia 

"Optimism is a choice. 

"Optimism is something that you process in your own mind; you look at every situation, and you look at the way that you can manage that and move forward. 

"Optimism is an inherent choice that we've all got within us on every single decision that we come across every day."

Helen Vaughan, Deputy Secretary, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning

"I have the pleasure of leading the water and catchments group in the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. And on a work front, I'm constantly amazed by how innovative, creative, and smart the people I work with are. And I would extend that across the water sector as well.

I believe it's intrinsically human, a human instinct to work together and overcome any obstacles we have together. So I continually find new ways of working with my colleagues to manage around problems that are thrown up at us, whether it be around climate change, whether it be around the latest political issue that we're facing, whether it be around, whatever it is.

And that genuine commitment to shared delivery of good public service is that golden trait that I see in working with my colleagues, and that makes me incredibly optimistic for the future.  We know we've got challenges coming up, but I feel we're really well placed on a work front to deal with that.

And on a personal level, I have three children, and I have a most embarrassingly large extended family. So I've got really close personal connections with many people from the mid-teens to the mid-thirties as a direct result of that. And I see the next generation as being really socially aware, less individually focused, and more community-focused.

And I don't know whether that's because of the cohort I see or whether it's because of some of the big issues that are spoken about in the media, whether it be climate change or whatever. I'm not sure about that. But what I see from my interactions is that there's a lot more consideration of the broader community rather than individuals alone. So focusing on good public outcomes and the best thing for the community or the world gives me enormous confidence and optimism for the future on a positive personal level.

What keeps my team optimistic?

I love these questions. I spent a bit of time really thinking about what has actually happened on this crazy COVID journey. I feel that the context that we've been working in or that I've been working with my team has really changed considerably since the 25th of March, 2020. That date seems ingrained in my brain from when we first shifted out of the office during the first lockdown.

And since that time, I think my approach of keeping my team optimistic has been really adaptive and has changed over that time to really try to help provide the team with what they needed at any particular point in time.

So what I mean by that is like I was the person that had my first plan to transition back into the office well and truly sorted by April 2020.

And this obviously didn't happen, but it did provide my team with some confidence and some hope that we were thinking and planning for what needed to change and how we would operate into the future, even in those very early stages.

So it really helped people to go, "Okay, I don't need to worry about what's necessarily going to happen tomorrow, but I need to focus on what I can do right now." So, that was helpful at that time. And then, as things have progressed, it's been more about building that resilience into the team and creating that sense of hope.

And what I've noticed is in order to keep my team optimistic, there are a few golden threads, as I call them, that are not necessarily earth-shattering, but nonetheless have proved invaluable to keep my team motivated and optimistic about where things we're going to go.

And that was things like communicating authentically, really provide those avenues for marking to want to know how they are feeling and what tangible supports they actually needed a particular point in time, to really let them know that in a non-rhetorical way, that their wellbeing is absolutely top of mind.

And this was shown by making decisions about how best to manage workloads, particularly when kids or other work pressures were in place during stage four restrictions. So that focus on the important work, not the busy work and keeping their wellbeing in mind was really important for keeping their optimism and motivation up.

And as things have progressed, I use the term that I call realistic hope. We know that the pandemic is going to end. We know that we're going to find a way to live with things that will be different in the future. But at the moment, we just don't quite know when that's going to come. So, I want to provide that sense that it's okay to plan for the future in your personal life or in your work-life. And we've got to be prepared for that flexibility as well, as things change.

So realistic hope or realistic optimism is my term of the day.

And I also found that one of my golden threads with my team was, give permission to have fun. We do a lot of serious stuff in the water sector. And when people didn't have those one-on-one interactions where they had the opportunity to eyeball each other face to face, having that opportunity to socialise online for an hour or so, whatever, it might be that it suited their purpose.

But it's okay to do that; that piece of human interaction just for the sake of it outside of work is something that I was also really conscious of providing. So that's it, Roland.

Peter Morison, CEO of VicWater

"What makes me optimistic is the sunshine in the sunrise. Every sunrise reveals a brand new day, and every new day brings new opportunities that we can embrace. So I have a choice every morning as to how I want to frame my day. And when I see that sunrise, and then I see that sun, and I see that fresh light, it just reminds me that there's something that I can look forward to in my day. So, that makes me optimistic every day, and I make that choice every day.

"As to what makes my team or keeps my team optimistic, there's plenty to be optimistic about in Victoria. There's plenty to be optimistic about with the Victorian water sector. So when I say that there are over a hundred people in this room, that's optimistic for me. And we serve, I think, a globally leading water industry with a real strong commitment to customers in the Victorian community. So, I mean, what more is there to be optimistic about? It's fantastic.

"It's such reliable water, and the water has been provided during numerous disruptive events; we've potentially got a big event this afternoon in some parts of Victoria with storms. And even when we've had disruptions to our water, I've seen the industry move and form really great alliances with the community, with local governments, with emergency services providers, to the extent that while it was difficult at the time, it's actually brought new relationships and forged better bonds in the community. And it's given recognition to an essential service. That is fantastic. Yeah. There's plenty to be optimistic about there. So that's all I need to say, I think, Roland. Thank you.


Lucia Cade, Chair of South East Water

"I thought I would focus more on "what keeps me optimistic" rather than "what makes me optimistic" because I know this is a smiley session, but I'm going to be the first one to admit that I have actually found it quite difficult to remain optimistic. 

"So for me, it is a choice that I have to make, as you do with the sunrise, Peter, to choose what I'm going to focus on. 

"And the way that I keep optimistic is by choosing to focus on the things that I can control, not the ones that I can't. So I'm not listening to the news, most of the news. I'm not following politics as a reality TV show. I'll keep track of the numbers so that I can plan out the future, but that's about the extent of that involvement. 

"So I focus on those things that I choose to spend my time on. I choose to focus on this water sector, spending time on understanding what's needed by South East Water and the water industry.

"I know it sounds Pollyanna, I choose to spend my time on the projects that are really going to change things - the save-the-world ones. 

"I love what the water industry does in terms of the service to the community. I love how our team manages to focus on looking after our people and looking after their customers in hardship. And there's a really good balance there.

"And equally, we're developing some fantastic technology for improving the way that we do things. Lara will talk more about that. 

"See the logo behind me today? I'm in Geelong at Carbon Revolution. We've got a factory here. This is a business that came out of Deakin University 14 years ago. We make single-piece carbon fibre wheels, advance manufacturing in Geelong, exporting to the USA and Europe. And it is awesome. We're busy building a global Australian business. 

"One of my others, we're looking at de-carbonising the gas industry. It's co-operative research between industry and universities to create, store and transport green hydrogen. So they are the things that I focus on that that keep me optimistic. 

"And if I maintain my focus on those positives, I don't have to worry so much about the reality show. So that is how we're going to get through COVID.

"In terms of my teams and the board teams in particular: It's different to the doing teams, but what keeps the board teams optimistic is the way that we engage with our executives and our MDs to make sure that the businesses that we're in charge of governing are still doing well, that we're checking the wellness of the teams that are people, hoping that we've got the right systems and structures and supports in place and the same with the customers.

"But also that we are focusing on and finding enough time to focus on the strategic and the long-term and the next, celebrating the wins, acknowledging what we're achieving and focusing on the future. And that's the way that around the board table that we're keeping optimistic as a team. 

David Middleton, Chair, Greater Western Water

"I'll tell you why you being here is so special to me. I want to talk about optimism within the context of Greater Western Water and what we've been doing there for about the last year and a half culminating in our merge of City West Water and Western Water on 1 July.

"If I think about what was achieved primarily through lockdown by our people, I can't help but be filled by optimism.

We merged two organizations; I know Helen's here, nodding her head, going, "Yeah, I know David's gonna make it sound like it was really easy."

But it wasn't really easy. It was actually a hell of a lot of work. And it's an absolute credit to some people on this call today and the teams at both City West Water and Western Water to achieve that outcome on 1 July, so we're now officially two months into operations, and it's going well.

"So, right through lockdown, and which I'll acknowledge some of the things you've said as well, I've written about many of those things on LinkedIn, particularly Lockdown two and now Lockdown 6.0 or whatever we're up to, finding that mechanism to only deal with what you can control and what's in your circle of influence I think is a powerful message about drawing optimism, both personally, and also with your teams.

"So, to your second question, Roland, what keeps our teams optimistic? And I suppose within this context, I see myself as part of many teams, but from a Greater Western Water context, I'm just part of a great big team of amazing people, and Maree Lang is our leader, and I'm sorry, she couldn't be here today.

"To me, it's the opportunity around customer and community that keeps me optimistic. We've made some significant promises to the people of the west and the growing outer regions of Melbourne. And as we move into Sunbury, Bacchus Marsh, Melton, Woodend, places like that. We have promises we've made regarding the levels of services we will provide, the infrastructure we will build and the customer experience we will provide.

"So I'm really optimistic that we have achieved so many things during multiple lockdowns and during COVID, but as we return to some sort of new normal, that we can really start to deliver on those promises to our customers in a meaningful way. So that's getting me up in the morning, Roland and Victor."


Soyun Punyadasa, Principal Engineer, CMP Consulting Group

"I want to share a quick story about the cool painting that's behind me. I know everyone's thinking it's pretty cool. And I want to explain what it is. It's from a friend of mine called Luke Penrith. Luke is a deadly and proud Wiradjuri man who lives in New South Wales. He's a cousin of a good friend of mine, Leon Egan. 

"And this painting is actually so timely. Luke actually showed it to me yesterday and then gave me this painting and allowed me to show it today. It's titled "Wings of Hope", and our lockdowns inspire it. We will get our wings back in time, and then we can travel and visit family. And that's the story. And you can see some turtles in the background, and the turtles represent, "Just go slowly and get this right" And I think that's a good thing for all of us to remember.

"What makes me optimistic? Well, I think my optimism comes from my upbringing. My parents left Sri Lanka in the early 70s through particularly difficult times and relocated to Hong Kong looking for a better life. They instilled a belief in me that, actually, it is a great faith that I have, that "regardless of what's happening right now, the future is always going to be better than the present. Always. And that the best is yet to come." This is what makes me optimistic.

"I want to share the story with you, and I debated this with Roland whether I should share because it's deeply personal to me. My wife and I have three sons. And when my third son was born, he's just turned nine; he was born with a blood clot in his brain. And within three days, we had to have emergency surgery done at the Royal Children's Hospital.

"And I am deeply grateful to a great water professional named Paul Laos, who was the asset manager at what was Western water. He's retired now. He said to me, "Soyun, hold deeply to the feelings that you have right now. Remember them, journal them. And then in 10 years time, look back and see how your perspective has changed."

"He was spot on. I mean, that was one of the toughest times of my life. But, of course, the little fellow's now nine years old. And I look back, and I've got one more year to do the proper promise that I did, Paul, but I will look back, and I'll see it in a completely different light. And I think, and my wish or my prayer, all of us is that in 10 years time, we'll look back to 2020 and 2021 and see it in a different light. 

"I also firmly believe that you have to make the best of every situation, and I'm grateful and blessed to be working in an industry that has been so resilient through the pandemic. 

"I want to share three funny stories. Two are funny about optimism. 

"The first is from Charlie Littlefair. I think everyone in the ward industry will know who Charlie Littlefair is. Charlie is a general manager at Southeast Water. In the first lockdown, I was actually in an ELT meeting with him, and there was just fear, general fear across the whole meeting about, are we going to proceed with works? Are we going to have projects that have come to a grinding halt?

"And Charlie just showed amazing leadership that day. He said something that will never never leave my head. He said, "Do you know what, Soyun? The government says you've got to wash your hands. And guess what? We're the ones who provide the water to do it. So it's all systems go from here." And it just lifted everyone. Everyone started giggling and carrying on, and then we said, "Yeah, we're going to keep going." And we have. So Charlie, thank you for lifting me up on that day. 

"The other is it's a funny story about a gentleman from Melbourne Water called Paul Coysh. He is the program team leader for construction and commissioning. He's a great character. And during the lockdown, he was actually stopped by the police and asked whether his work was essential.

"And Paul is driving a company vehicle, wearing a company logo and everything. And Paul's response was, I think it was a classic. He said, "It depends what you think. Do you think drinking water is essential?" And witty as ever, the policemen said, "All right, hold on. Off you go."

"So I think as funny as Paul was, he did share with all of us the essential nature of the business that we do and the fact that even through a global pandemic, we cannot stop the great work that we do for our communities. "And I really appreciate Paul's story as it gave us all a lot of courage to keep on moving forward. So thank you so much to you, Paul. 

"And last but not least, I'm heavily involved in STEM awareness, both in the schools, theatre and schools program that we run here at CP Consulting Group, which is called Jensen STEM, but also I lecture at the masters of engineering course at LaTrobe University. And thank you Samaras, I see you are here today.

"I was asked to say something optimistic, actually, Victor, to our master's students. And all I did was state facts. And I told them Engineers Australia had released an Australian employment vacancies report for the first half of 2021. And the key takeaways were the first half of 2021 to see a 44% increase in engineering vacancies across Australia. In the last six months, civil engineers, industrial mechanical and production engineers, mining engineers, and ICT support and test engineers were the most highly sought after. 

"And the step was a 35% increase for Victoria. So, lots of companies are recruiting talent. We are in a great industry. "To pee or not to pee" is not a question. Thank you, Roland.

Eamon Kelly, General Manager, Melbourne Water

"Preparing for this event, I enjoyed writing down the three things that make me optimistic. , 

"Firstly, the strength and support of my strong and expanding family unit. 

"I'm at a great time of life when my kids have grown up. I've got little grandchildren popping out left, right and centre, and it's a really great time. And that gives me a lot of strengthened optimism for the future. 

"Secondly, the love of a good woman. And I did put a caveat on that, that said, "Yes, it is my wife." (Laughing) For those of you questioning whether it's my wife or not, it's my wife of 40 years. 

"And thirdly, the passion and resilience of most of the people I've come across in the water industry. Peter Morison and the previous speakers have put that well.

"I've always considered myself an optimist, although some people may see some of my moods when I hold up my teacup that I'm carrying, which my daughters bought me lovingly, and I'm a grumpy old man. So I know Victor, you're saying everyone needs a smile on their face, and that can be infectious, but that optimism isn't just about smiling and laughing every day. It's just a sense of being.

"And where that comes from for me is I've always felt that from a young boy, I can make a difference in my own sphere of influence.  

"That grew in me through my sporting years; always been a proud sportsman and very much a team player. I feel that I could make a difference to the team; I can contribute to the team. And then in my professional life, always feeling that the job I was doing I could do better, I could always move up within my career. 

"And that's what's really fueled my career through my life. So I always consider myself not quite the eternal optimist as Soyun that just spoke before me. I think it would take me a long way to catch Soyun in terms of eternal optimism, but I'm an optimist. 

"And what keeps my team optimistic?   As I said, there's a lot of passion and a fair degree of resilience within my team."

"For me, I don't see enough resilience within our industry and the country generally. And it's something as leaders we always have to focus on building.

"And the only way to build back is better communication with our people. And if every leader just focuses on their sphere of influence and makes that communication as powerful as it possibly could, as it could possibly be in terms of the level of support, counsel, mentoring that we do every day. And in every conversation we have, it's within you to make a difference, to make people feel better, to make people feel that the bank can be optimistic as well in these difficult times.

"A lot of people take a lot of knocks in these difficult times, but the support of the people around them can help incredibly. And so we do need to keep encouraging that. That's from me, Roland.


Lara Olsen, Managing Director, South East Water

"I do consider myself an optimistic person, but I realised I hadn't reflected on why until this session. So, thank you for posing the question.

And I think the good news for some of the people in the call, for me at least, it's actually an advantage of middle-age.

I realise that the two reasons that make me optimistic are looking at people younger than myself and people older than myself, and particularly the courage of youth.

Helen Vaughan spoke to that and the wisdom that comes with experience.

"And I think in terms of youth, I see that both in my life and also at work.

"Outside of work recently, I like the story of Olympic boxer Harry Garside, who wore nail polish. And it's not that he had a particular interest in nail polish. He's like, "I'm a plumber, I'm a boxer, I'm an Olympian. And I want to challenge what the stereotype is around all of those things. And so I want to challenge what is taken to be a category or what's taken to be an Olympian."

"And I look at youth, and I can see them pushing on all of those old characterisations that we had about what a good leader is or what a good engineer is or what drives some of that racism and sexism that we see in our environment. And that gives me a lot of optimism.

"And I think it's the same pushing our boundaries and questioning that I see in work.

"One of our young engineers came up with a foot-powered hydrant, and it's because he started thinking about how could things be done differently. I think that gives me a lot of energy.

And then, on the other side, it is the wisdom that comes with experience. I was talking to one of our team members who's for 40 years has been with Southeast Water and its predecessor formations right back to the Melbourne Board of Works.

"And in hearing him talk about what's changed in that time and his perspective, it really reminded me, I wrote it down, to be less focused on what the quarterly results are or what this means in this particular week and more focused on that perspective.

And I think it's something I'm really enjoying and getting a lot from in interacting with traditional owners as well. At just about that breadth of time, that breadth of perspective, and not focusing on particular outcomes in the short term, but what it means to care for country or care for waterways. And I think that's given me a lot of optimism at the moment as well."

"And then in terms of my team and what brings them optimism, I think there are three threads to that. The first one I'd say is each other. Like other organisations, we've put in different support mechanisms, professional ones, but it's really been team leaders that have gone above and beyond that are juggling their own homeschooling or other circumstances but have spent time with our people to help them juggle their circumstances. And it's been humbling. It makes me really proud of the people that are in the water sector to see the care for each other.

"I think the other one that people have talked about is the care for customers. I know when COVID first started, maybe like others, we were shifting our call centre out and didn't quite have all the technology right. The focus of our people and making sure that they could serve customers despite the dog barking or the kids in the background is, again, another reason for optimism.

"And I think the third that some people have touched on as well is being prepared to talk about is not being optimistic. So I feel like the nature of our conversations have become a lot more honest across society in these last 18 months as well about being able to say, "Actually, I'm not feeling optimistic today." 

And to Eamonn’s shirt (an RUOK day shirt), that's okay. And we can talk about that. And I think if we can hold both and appreciate both, and it really gives us the chance to have the best optimistic outlook, we can."

Mike Williamson, Director Unitywater

(Laughing) "I was a bit worried being number-eight-speaker, but then I'm ahead of Mark Gobbie. So at least I can get one over him. 

"I wrote a few things down in preparation for this water optimists gathering, but I've actually abandoned them because I've heard so many good stories that I want to just think about some of the things that the people who have gone before me have said. 

Read Mike Williamson's Case for Optimism

"And Peter Morison, you said the sun sunrise makes you optimistic. 

"It made me think, what happens when an optimist walks into a room? They light the place up. It's like someone's turned a light on. 

"I'm very, very fortunate that I've got a daughter who actually celebrated her 40th birthday just the day before yesterday, which was also my last day as a board director of Unity Water. And she's one of those people when she walks in a room; it lightens up. 

"Conversely, of course, we also know that when people who are not so optimistic walk in a room, it's like someone's turned the dimmer switch down. 

"And that's why I said in one of my notes, is the thing that I really have to focus on is not going to do any more school reunions. Because if you want to hear about how things are going well and how poorly the government's doing, just listen to people of the older generation. Sometimes, not all the time. It's certainly not the people on this call. 

"Lucia talked about the way we need to control what we can focus... focus on what we can control and let those things that we can't control, let someone else care about them because we can't do anything about it. So that's how I certainly stay optimistic. I focus on those things that I can influence or that I can manage or I can control, and those other things that I can't, well, I'll mitigate against them and do everything I can, prepare for them, but I certainly won't try to control them. 

"What really, really makes me optimistic, though, when I start to feel my glass is getting anywhere near half-empty, is that I just need to talk to some of the younger people in our water industry.

I've been in the water industry for almost all my life. 

"Before that, I was a ship's engineer. So I was involved with the water even then. But I just needed to talk to some of our young water professionals or hear what they have to say, and I am completely buoyed and completely optimistic. There is nothing I need to be concerned about because I think the future is in good and safe hands.

"I think the other thing that makes me optimistic is the continuing focus on innovation. Whether it's in our industry and other industries, there is so much focus on being innovative and making changes, and particularly in a time where we need to focus now, especially in the times we're in, those changes make me optimistic all the time. So we do have challenges ahead of us, but well, there is no reason not to be optimistic about them. 

"So, the thing is that I think keeps the team optimistic, Lara, you were talking about the customers, and you are right!

"I do remember one of the things that we did in the early days on our board at Unitywater was talk about the fact that while we really needed to wind back some of the things we were doing, and then we stopped and thought about that and decided that was exactly the opposite of what we needed to do.

"So in terms of infrastructure contracts and service agreements and those things, we have a responsibility, not only to our customers but to those people who support as our contractors, our service providers. And if we stop, they stop. It's like if we stopped talking about the good things that we're doing, other people are going to stop as well, which is probably a reason to shout out for recycled water as well. We must never stop talking about that. 

"Lara, you also made a comment about the boxer's nail polish. It reminded me of a story. I was at a board meeting the other day and one of my shareholder directors, and this was at a concept board meeting. He said to me, "Mike, I can't take you seriously while you've got nail polish on." And I looked at my fingers, and my five-year-old granddaughter had really got stuck into me with the turquoise nail polish, which lasted about another five days. I actually quite like it. I'm thinking about wearing it more often. 

"So the other things that make me optimistic, leading by example, walking, the talk, showing that you mean what you say there, the things that keep you and your team optimistic. So, making sure that your culture stays the way it should be. It's an old hackneyed phrase, but culture eats strategy for breakfast. And I think they're the things that keep us optimistic. 

"Thanks again, Victor and Roland for organising this and a big shout out to all my concept colleagues online."


Mark Gobbie, Chair Water Research Australia 

"Optimism is a choice. 

"Optimism is something that you process in your own mind; you look at every situation, and you look at the way that you can manage that and move forward. 

"Optimism is an inherent choice that we've all got within us on every single decision that we come across every day.

"One of the reasons I know that that's the case is, in the last 12 months, I've actually started playing quite a bit of golf. And to play golf, you got to be an optimist. Let me tell you; you've got to believe that no matter how bad your last shot was, your next one can be better. And I think that's the definition of life, really, isn't it?

"You've got to believe that the things that have just happened to you, you put them behind you, and you move forward. And you'll look at life in a positive way and that you bring everybody along the journey if you do that. And I think that's what optimism and leadership are really about. 

"The water industry, what I'm about to say now, people have touched on as well, but I had this view of the water industry way, way before COVID. I've worked in this industry now for over 40 years, and I've often reflected on why it's such a damn good industry to work in. It's just full of really good people. 

"And I think there's probably a couple of reasons behind that. One is, it's actually a small industry across the country and across the globe. I mean, you look at the number of faces that on this call from people all over Australia and all over the world, so it is a small industry. 

"So, the thing about a small industry is you're actually... a competitor one day will be your partner the next day, will be your boss the day after, or will be working for you the day after that. So the one thing about that sort of dynamic situation is you just better bloody behave the right way because you're going to be found out if you don't. And that has shone through in the last 12 months; the way the industry has responded, I think, has been absolutely fantastic.

"What helps me motivate teams? Teams like getting things done. 

"I'm involved with a number of teams, but the one I'll talk about is Water Research Australia, where I took over as chair of the board from Sean Cox in October last year. And I look at what we've achieved in the last 12 months back. 

"In the last 12 months, we have completely reset our strategy. We have redone the constitution through a member voting process in a two-step process, we have delivered on the business plan, and we've done all of that as a group, and you know, we've actually never all met face to face. In fact, some of us have never met as a group, and I think that's a huge achievement. 

"When you look at some of the things the organisation has been involved in, and I know many of you are very familiar with is the COVID testing within the wastewater system. Water Research Australia was one of the key participants in that program and to pull together water utilities all across the country and to pull together health organisations and the whole lot into our overall coordinated response is just magnificent. 

"And I know we've been successful because when you hear premiers and the Prime Minister and Chief Commissioners of Police talking about the COVID results from sewage sampling within their local catchments, we've got to be doing something right, don't we? So I think achievements and reinforcing those achievements and making sure that everybody in that team that was part of it feels that achievement is what keeps teams successful."


More Optimism in the Australian Water Industry

David Middleton

"Optimism, that glass half full, not half empty view of the world is what fuels determination and courage in the face of hard times. The belief that things can and will be better is what drives me to keep pursuing my dreams."

Liza McDonald

"Optimism is liberating and, although looks to the future, generates hope and positivity in the here and now. It creates a sense of belonging, acceptance and the will to push through challenges."

Ann Lansberry

"The power of community makes me optimistic. The way that individuals come together and achieve more as a collective than they could ever do on their own"

Dona Tantirimudalige, Yarra Valley Water

"Conscious, deliberate optimism, particularly in the face of what might feel like overwhelming adversity, is crucial to success."

Warwick Bishop, Director, Water Technology P/L

"Water poses many challenges, such as our need to manage the resource and adapt to climate change. It is a landscape of constant innovation and improvement in practices, leading us towards a more sustainable community and environment. The breadth and depth of talented and passionate individuals in the water industry reinforce my optimism that we can both envision and realise a better future."

Joanne Plummer, Chair, Vicwater

"If not me or you, then who? And if not now or then, when? Good intentions are never enough."

Lucia Cade

"opportunity and optimism create the environment for achievement which builds into a virtuous cycle of success"

Warren Lloyd, Lower Murray Water

"it is the quest to improve and the optimism of a better year ahead that is the driving force that sustains.”

Briony C Rogers 

"It feels like a tipping point for water in Australia - the industry is not asking why transition, but how, and how can we do it fast? Inspiring leaders with vision and stamina are everywhere!"


Nicola Hepenstall, Board Member, South Gippsland water

"What makes me optimistic? I know that I can change people’s lives by doing small acts of kindness. It’s often the little things that matter the most and I can do that each and every day!"

Read "Kindness and Optimism"


April Jenkins, Board & Governance Executive Officer, South East Water

"Optimistic leadership means first and foremost being able to still our noisy mind. This allows us to respond in a considered way, creating an environment where issues can be discussed in a frank and respectful way where people feel they are adding value and being valued."

Dr Jeremy Johnson

“Optimism is an essential ingredient of effective leadership.  Its infectiousness inspires commitment to the cause. It makes people feel good about participating in the mission at hand and embracing the challenges..."

Brian Barclay

"I always see a glass of water as half full, not half empty. The reason for that is, I think while there are good people around wanting to do good things, there's always a case for better"

Mark Bailey

"I feel optimistic because of mankind's continual desire to learn and challenge. It happens throughout our societies. Investigators want to know why, how and if it can be done better. Scientists and engineers are tremendous examples of this thirst"

Chris Norman

"The need for optimism has never been more important in dealing with the whole set of daily and long-term complex problems. Our resilience journey has been strengthened by an understanding of the critical need for optimism..."

Janet Dore 

"optimistic leadership better be founded on facts and supported with tools for the job or the B.S. meter will sound the alarm. No room for complacency either way but it’s exhilarating when it works.”

Peter Morison, CEO, Vicwater

"What makes me optimistic?  We have and we will continue to supply world-class water services in droughts, fires, floods, and public health crises."

Shekar VaradaHead Of Technology, Customer and Retail at Yarra Valley Water!

"What makes me #optimistic? Going to bed each night with satisfaction and with an #action plan for the next day for another small incremental self-improvement."

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