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Remote water and sanitation provision gets greater focus with 2018 Rhodes Scholarship win

Curtin University graduate and Australian Water Association member Robert Ferritto has been named the winner of the 2018 Rhodes Scholarship for Western Australia and is set to take his passion for remote water and sanitation provision to Oxford University.

Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious international graduate scholarship programs globally, with one student from each Australian state selected every year along with three Australia-at-large scholarships.

Taking the opportunity to explore one of his biggest interests, Ferritto intends to research and establish a model for community driven and economically viable water and sanitation provision.

“With urban water provision, you have companies whose purpose is to maintain essential services and make sure they are working correctly over long periods of time,” Ferritto said.

“But it’s not easy to have the same solution in remote places, unless those members within the community provide the solutions. This is particularly so in developing countries, where you have a lot of aid work to provide water for communities.”

Ferritto’s research aims to develop a model that helps communities establish long-term, sustainable solutions to their water and sanitation needs as climate change becomes more pronounced.

“I would like to develop a model for these communities to help solve these problems. Maybe communities with similar issues can work together to lobby the government, for example,” Ferritto said.

“I want to make sure that communities can provide clean water and sanitation for themselves, because that is the only economically viable and truly sustainable solution.”

Universal access to clean water and sanitation has long been of interest to Ferritto, who said the impetus to delve into this field of research started with a string of volunteer work in high school.

“I had the opportunity to go on a few volunteering trips to the Solomon Islands, Vietnam and Cambodia. During my time there, I realised how lucky I was to be born in a country like Australia where everything is provided for me,” he said.

“That lit a desire in me to help people. I ended up talking to a mentor I met through the AWA Mentoring Program, and he encouraged me to figure out what I wanted to do, what I was good at, what my passions are and the opportunities that were available to me,” he said.

“I landed on remote water and sanitation access in developing countries; these are fundamental needs and everybody should have access to them.”

While Ferritto is still yet to initiate his research, he said winning the Rhodes Scholarship for Western Australia has been a huge honour, one which has boosted his confidence and enthusiasm for his research interests.

“For me, one of the biggest aspects of being awarded is that there are people who are willing to invest in my vision and have faith that I can make a difference in the world. It has given me a boost in confidence and I’m really proud to be able to contribute to the water sector in this way.”

Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Ferritto for his outstanding achievement.

“Ferritto’s selection as a winner of the 2018 Rhodes Scholarship is testament to the exemplary standard of his tertiary education, as well as his strong leadership and volunteering qualities through his involvement in the John Curtin Leadership Academy and Curtin Volunteers,” Terry said.

“The Rhodes Scholarships support outstanding all-round students to study at the University of Oxford and I am delighted Ferritto will be joining an impressive list of leading Australians who have previously been awarded the prestigious scholarship.”

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