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An update from SA Branch Chair Elsie Mann

Elsie Mann Australian Water Association SA Chair Elsie Mann

It's somehow already been two months since our last newsletter and it seems 2020 is determined to keep throwing new challenges our way. While we are looking forward to moving around with fewer restrictions in the coming months, your SA Branch committee aims to continue to provide multiple options for accessing our events, and there is also the opportunity for us to join a wider range of events from the AWA nationally.

A clear silver lining to the last few months has been the opportunity to fast-track our ability to provide digital events, helping to deliver on our strategic goal to expand our reach. Previously state based events have only been attended locally; with webinar technology we have seen people joining events from around the country, which is pretty exciting.

Technology also provides opportunity for regionally based people to get involved in our events. The successful launch of Ozwater Online is an example at a much more significant scale, providing the opportunity for international connections. All credit to our national events team who have put in so much effort to make this happen, and to the speakers, sponsors and those who have registered, supporting the initiative and making it a success. I look forward to seeing how we can leverage this experience to allow more people to benefit from AWA's activities.

If the last few weeks have done anything it is to make me consciously consider what I should be doing to avoid passively accepting the status quo (from which I no doubt benefit), to more fully understand the experiences of others and how these experiences shape their world view and the opportunities available to them.

I recently read a quote attributed to Bill Bullard, comparing opinion and empathy. While opinions require no accountability or understanding, empathy requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world, resulting in a richer understanding.

Recent events and the reactions to them around the world have highlighted for me how our ‘lens’ impacts how we see and interpret others' actions. In terms of the opportunity I have to contribute and influence, I recognise my role with AWA is a chance to model the way, and to develop broader understanding through sharing stories and experiences from diverse voices.

I’m sure I’m not doing it ‘right’ yet, but it's better to make mistakes and have the opportunity to learn than not to try. At a branch committee level we have made a commitment to work collectively to enhance our understanding of Indigenous culture, history and knowledge within our state as part of a standing agenda item for our monthly committee meetings. I also wrote back in December about our commitment to diversity and inclusion in our activities. I've had helpful and constructive feedback from members about how we are doing in this front.

Enhanced understanding needs to start with connection, building relationships and trust, and listening. A perfect example of this is the efforts of AWA Northern Territory branch president Eric Vanweydeveld, in bringing to life 'Talking Water'. This aired during National Reconciliation Week and if you missed it I highly recommend you take a look at the video. If you have any ideas for things AWA can do to build these connections, please contact me or another member of the SA Branch Committee.

Our program of events for the next financial year is necessarily going to be flexible and adapted to suit changes in rules around gatherings and distancing requirements. Stay safe and stay kind, and I look forward to having the chance to talk to you, in real life, soon.

Elsie Mann is the AWA South Australia Branch Chair.