60 seconds with the Goyder Chair, Jody Swirepik

We sat down with the Goyder Institute’s new Independent Chair, Jody Swirepik, to hear more about her experiences from her career and her future focus with the Goyder Institute

What first sparked your interest in the environment and water? I think it’s always been akin to a religion for me. Nature is a powerful force to believe in and which we need to respect. Being in the bush or near a river always gives me a sense of calm and wonder at the magic of it. Water is a key influencer of the landscape and none of us can live without fresh water each day so we need to make sense of the challenges. So that’s a good thing to devote your life to helping with.

What is your proudest water-related achievement from your career? I’m not sure there is a single moment. The pinnacle of a long water career was the privilege of being the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and working alongside staff, with communities and researchers across the Murray-Darling Basin to help reverse river decline and reinstate some of the natural rhythms. It was really important to be practical, be guided by local knowledge and research and try to break down the polarisation that can sometimes pervade the water industry. When fingerlings from native fish which bred on a protected flow in the northern basin turned up in the tributaries of the southern basin, that’s a pretty nice moment.

How did you be celebrate World Water Day? (March 22nd) Every day is water day. I needed to be in Canberra for other reasons, so I went for a short walk and thought about how grateful that I am to live in a country that has made real progress on water issues and takes water policy seriously.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing water security across Australia and within South Australia in particular? You can’t really go past water scarcity both for SA, Australia and for the planet. Having worked in the MDB for decades it’s still surprises me that many Australians don’t realise the water in rivers is often tightly committed to various interests, industries or stakeholders. Getting the balance right is always going to be a challenge. Feeding the planet whilst maintaining a functioning environment and protecting culture will be a challenge for all generations to come. It’s a huge public policy issue and we need governments to continue to invest into R&D and meet the water infrastructure challenges in rural and remote areas.

Jody Swirepik appointed new Chair of the Goyder Institute for Water Research
Jody Swirepik appointed new Chair of the Goyder Institute for Water Research

What location did you last travel to and why did you decide to go there? I’ve just come back from Norfolk Island. It was my second visit and I went back as I saw so much that I didn’t have time to explore when I visited as the Director of National Parks last year. The island is a microcosm of so many issues, the history is rich and the National Park is said to have the highest number of EPBC listed species (in a Commonwealth National Park), many of which are endemic to the Island.  I wanted to share this special place and the spectacle of Norfolk Island pines which dominate the landscape with my partner and friends.

Is there a really interesting piece of research you’ve recently read? I love to read the monthly newsletter of the waterbird tagging done by researchers at CSIRO (thanks Heather). It’s fascinating to see the images of where each bird has travelled and try to make sense of theír movements WRT habitats, water bodies and climate. The distance they travel is always so impressive.

What do you find exciting about the role of Independent Chair for the Goyder Institute? It’s a chance to help steward good research to help guide our many water and environmental challenges.

In all aspects it’s a true collaboration which I think is necessary to bring multi-disciplinary teams together to solve complex problems.

How do you think knowledge creation and research can create greatest impact to inform decision making? By being applied and practical 😊

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