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It is an odd feeling to be pleased to be resigning from ‘the best job in the world’. I am announcing my resignation today effective at the end of September 2021. I am ‘pleased’ knowing that we have a strong board, and a fantastic youthful staff, who are the riverkeepers’ of the Yarra and the water guardians’ of both the present and the future.
For me this is the right time to leave so that the momentum of the role is maintained. It is a job that cannot be done at anything but a sprint, and I am looking forward to taking a breath after seven years of running hard.
Much has changed since I took over from my predecessor Ian Penrose in October 2014. Yet our ethos had remained the same: thoughtful, evidence-based advocacy from inside the tent— and always independent. Ian set the tone and style of my work as Riverkeeper and for the Association, and started the ball rolling on the Yarra/Birrarung Act. (Thank you for all those pizza lunches at Columbos.)
The big ticket items in my time as Yarra Riverkeeper have been the passing of the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung Murron) Act unopposed in September 2017, and the Yarra River Planning Controls — at first temporary and then made permanent by Minister Wynne earlier this year. We were proud that the Minister made that announcement from the Association’s new electric boat (no more hydrocarbon pollution into the river).
There is always the day-to-day work that is less glamorous and just as important (well almost). There is both the work of keeping the profile of the Yarra present in the minds of Melbournians and people of the valley. There are submissions written and meetings attended (now by zoom), posts drafted and published, notes taken, reports read. I have been honoured to learn so much about water policy and environmental issues. If we don’t have good water policy we will be thirsty tomorrow and our creeks and rivers will be bone dry.
I am taking this opportunity to thank all of you who have been on the journey with me; thank you for all you have taught me, for all you have made possible for our river. ‘You’ are too many to thank individually but there are some that I am taking the opportunity to highlight (and there will be someone who I most certainly should thank, perhaps the most important of all, who I will accidentally overlook). Thanks to Minister Wynne for both the Yarra/Birrarung Act and for the Yarra River Planning Controls; thank you to Mitra Anderson-Oliver who as a ministerial adviser held the hand of a political neophyte (sorry I rang you that time and made you fall off your bike). I look forward to seeing you both at the launch of the Yarra Strategic Plan. Thanks to Bruce Lindsay (and all the folk at Environmental Justice Australia), my partner(s) in crime in the Yarra Act Project; thanks to the Melbourne Water mob — there too many of you to name individually — do keep keeping our waterways healthy and thanks for your commitment to the Yarra Strategic Plan; thanks to Cr Amanda Stone (and all the people at Yarra City Council) for the first iteration of the Yarra Planning Controls and for conversations over the years, thanks to Adam and the crew at City of Melbourne Waterways; thanks to Scott Seymour, who knows the river better than anybody else I know; thanks to all the magnificent friends groups up and down the river for keeping country healthy, protected, and loved; thanks to my fellow Waterkeepers.
I acknowledge the work of the Wurundjeri-Woi wurrung in managing the Yarra and its catchment for tens of thousands of years and for what I have learnt about Country. Thank you to the mighty Yarra/Birrarung for bringing such life to Melbourne and the valley.
I have greatly appreciated working for an organisation that values evidence-based thinking. Thank you to the dedication of board members; Warwick Leeson, Ian Wong, Janet Bolitho, Gillian Jervis, Sally McPhee and Rachel Fensham for continually pushing the Association to work towards the ambitious but necessary vision of a Yarra that is healthy, protected and loved. Thank you to all former board members and in particular thank you to my good friend Christopher Balmford, erstwhile president at a critical time of change in the board, who laboured hard and long, and spoke plainly. The growth of our staff — Karin, Kristin, Lachie, Anthony, Nikki and Candace — has injected the organisation with vigour and I feel confident in their ability to continue to advocate for and work towards the health and protection of the River. Thanks to Anton, now with Keep Victoria Beautiful. Just this past year it’s been invigorating to see the portfolio of the Yarra Riverkeepers expand to include regeneration. There is nothing like the legacy of putting a tree in the ground.
I wish Ian Wong the best when he takes over as acting Riverkeeper in October, and I look forward to meeting my successor.
Last, but not least, thank you to our members who continually support my work and the work of Yarra Riverkeepers. It’s been a pleasure to have spoken with many of you over email, the phone or at our various events. I will still be a member of the Birrarung Council, and involved in water policy. I will be seeing you around.