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Fiji Fellows visit Queensland for Australia Awards Program on water security

The International WaterCentre (IWC) welcomed 15 Australia Award Fellows from Fiji in October for a four-week program exploring water security through resilient water and sanitation systems and governance.
Fiji Fellows visit Queensland for Australia Awards Program on water security

Fiji Fellows in Brisbane in October

Fifteen water and health professionals from Fiji joined the IWC in Queensland 2 - 27 October for the Australia Awards Fellowship Program: Improving water security through resilient water and sanitation systems and governance. The group of fellows represented the Fijian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, the Mineral Resources Department and the Water Authority of Fiji.

The four-week program included a series of field trips, workshops and training focused on how to improve water security through resilient water and sanitation systems and governance.

Program highlights

In week one Fellows visited North Stradbroke Island for an introduction to water governance in Australia, systems thinking, and the concepts and theories of Integrated Water Management with IWC staff. Leon Leach from the State Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation (DSITI) also took the Fellows through groundwater monitoring on the island.

Week two of the program included sessions on Water Safety Planning with the IWC before field visits to the Gold Coast desalination plant and a session on risk-based water management and lessons from the South-East Queensland Millennium drought with Mark Askins, SEQ Water. The day commenced with a guided tour of Rain Bank, South Bank Corporation’s stormwater harvesting and reuse centre.

The Fellows travelled further afield for the second half of week two with a trip to Toowoomba to learn how the town manages its multiple water and waste water services. The visit included site tours of the Clifton and Pittsworth Waste Water Treatment Plants, Wetalla Water reclamation Facility and the Clifton Reservoir.

In week three Fellows travelled to Emerald to learn from the Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC) on how they manage a large supply system across small remote towns and communities. The Fellows were hosted by CHRC for the week and visited a number of water and sanitation treatment plants, the Fairbairn Dam and even had time for a mine tour, visit to the Blackwater International Coal Centre and networking event.

The final week of the program was spent back in Brisbane for a series of workshops and presentations on monitoring WASH; preparing for and managing water and sanitation disasters; and a presentation and workshop with Dr Cara Beal from Griffith University on water efficiency in northern Queensland. Fellows then spent their final two days working on their change projects for their return home and planning for follow up activities in Fiji.  

Reflections from the Fellows

Below a few of the Fellows reflect on the program and their experiences:

Suliasi Batikawai - WASH Coordinator, Secretariat - Fiji WASH Cluster, Environmental Health Unit, Ministry of Health & Medical Services

“We really acquired a lot of technical knowledge and skills from learning and sharing with various water and sewerage utilities around Queensland. In addition, we have also established networks and made new friends along the way. The training facilitation strategies through classroom sessions, site visits and group work was very interactive. It kept us focused on the task and energised us towards the next session. Last but not least is the awareness on the indigenous culture and their history, it was invaluable as it gave us deep insight and understanding of the local culture, history and clans set-up. Thanks once again to IWC and DFAT for the wonderful learning experience.”

Ilaitia Dokonivalu - Principal Scientific Officer, Mineral resources department

“We now have a better understanding and appreciation of the roles, responsibilities of our partner organisations in the Water and WASH Sector, and also the challenges that they face and how each can assist in achieving the ultimate goal of a robust and well coordinated WASH Sector.

“I must commend the choice of field visits, and how these municipalities and communities have utilised whatever available water resources that is available, be it surface sources, groundwater, desalination or rainwater. Although the technology involved is state of the art in most cases, it is the innovation and commitment of the service providers that is impressive and inspiring. Of special mention is the Water Safety Management Plans. This has undoubtedly effectively stirred interests in the Fellows and will motivate us to better manage our water resources and to ensure safe potable water is provided to our more vulnerable communities. We are eager to work on our Change Projects and again I express my deepest appreciation to IWC for the opportunity and the support.”

Leigh Chan - Graduate Engineer, Planning & Design Unit, Water Authority of Fiji

“I consider myself to be incredibly fortunate to have been a part of the month long fellowship hosted by the amazing team at the International WaterCentre (IWC). The month began with a welcome to country where the team were fortunate enough to learn about the history and culture of the Quandamooka people of Moreton Bay.

“The second and third weeks were spent visiting SEQ Waters Gold Coast Desalination plant and the Water and Wastewater plants operated by the Toowomba Regional Council (TRC) & Central Highlands Regional Council (CHRC). During this time the team learnt of the difficulties faced in operating a number of small but widely scattered system that involved tapping into a mixture of sources to ensure that customers received water.

“The final week was spent in Brisbane with the teams finalising our change project in preparation of our return back home. Over the month long fellowship workshops, lectures and field visits were organised whereby the team met, interacted and networked with people from the IWC and Industry professionals from SEQ water, TRC & CHRC who were passionate about their work and more than willing to answer questions and share their personal experience.

With the experience and lessons learnt during the fellowship I believe the team has gained a greater appreciation and understanding of the importance of WASH and governance as we work towards implementing our different change projects in the hopes of strengthening the WASH community in Fiji.”

What next

The Fellows will now continue to work on their three change projects - return-to-work project plans that outline a vision for change, and the actions needed to achieve it, before a follow up visit with the IWC in Fiji in March 2018.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who hosted, presented and joined us to deliver this four-week program. In particular guest speakers Mark Askins (SeqWater), Alan Kleinschmidt in Toowomba, Leon Leach (DSITI), and Dr Cara Beal (Griffith university).

We also wish to thank the Central Regional Highlands Council, particularly Gerhard Joubert and Nathan Lithgow, for the warm reception and sharing their knowledge and experiences. We are grateful to the continued support from the Toowoomba Regional Council’s water department staff for sharing their time, expertise and offering important lessons for the Fellows, in particular Alan Kleinschmidt for assisting to organise and host the Fellows.

More information

Learn more about the IWC Australia Awards Fellowship grants awarded in 2017/18 here.

For more information on the Fiji Australia Awards Program please contact:

Edith Kamundi
Project Officer
E e.kamundi@watercentre.org
T +61 7 3028 7600

 

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