Fund amount:

Program area:
Biodiversity Conservation




Watertrust Australia ready to dive in

1 Sep 2021

The new national independent policy centre Watertrust Australia Ltd has begun operations, thanks to a unique coalition of philanthropic funders, including The Ross Trust.

The Ross Trust has committed $1 million over five years to Watertrust Australia, which aims to improve the way decisions are made about water and catchments across Australia.

The inaugural CEO of Watertrust Australia, Nick Austin, has recently returned to Australia from the US, where he has been in a senior role with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Mr Austin will take up the new role in October 2021.

Watertrust Australia’s Chair, Kathryn Fagg AO, says the new organisation, which will be incubated at the Australian Academy of Science in Canberra for a least the first five years of its operation, is unique in Australia.

“We are hearing from a wide range of stakeholders that Watertrust is exactly what is needed given the independence provided by philanthropic funding allows us to approach current and future water and catchment policy challenges as an honest broker.” Ms Fagg said.

Watertrust Australia is the result of more than three years’ research, design and fundraising supported by The Myer Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation. The research identified a role for philanthropy in supporting an independent organisation that could act as an honest broker to work with all stakeholders to improve water and catchment policy outcomes. 

Ms Fagg says Watertrust Australia will work with communities, First Peoples, farmers, landowners, agricultural and environmental organisations, industry, researchers and experts, land and water managers, and federal, state, and local politicians and governments. She emphasised that well-designed deliberation can help rebuild trust in the democratic institutions needed to make water policy decisions for the common good.

The Ross Trust joins a coalition that also includes The Myer Foundation, The Ian Potter Foundation, Colonial Foundation, the Margaret Reid ‘Kingston’ Bequest, the Besen Family Foundation, the Miller Foundation, the Wright Burt Foundation and eight other funders.

Watertrust Australia’s first projects will focus on the development of policies which are of high value, difficult to resolve, and vital to the long-term benefit of all Australians. 

Ms Fagg says future Watertrust Australia projects could include working on First Peoples water rights, better integrating climate change adaptation into water and catchment policy, and helping broker enduring agreements on the balance between the social, economic and ecological values of our inland water systems. 

Ross Trust CEO Sarah Hardy says the science was clear that “we are on borrowed time in terms of ensuring the sustainable management of Australia’s waters and catchments”.

“We’re delighted to be part of Watertrust as it is clearly meets our biodiversity conservation commitments,” she said. “We are happy to support a body that is committed to respectful cooperation in an environment of trust and understanding. Clearly, many other philanthropic organisations feel the same way.”

Read more about Watertrust Australia.