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What does the Victorian Gender Equality Act mean for the water sector?

The Victorian Gender Equality Act 2020 will come into effect on 31 March 2021. It’s the first of its kind in Australia. The Act sets requirements for the Victorian public sector, local councils and universities, to take positive action towards workplace gender equality. Under the Act, these agencies will be required to explicitly consider and promote gender equality in their policies, programs and services. Experts will discuss what the Act means for the water sector, how it will affect the way that we work and the outcomes it seeks to achieve.

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Meet the panelists

Dr Niki Vincent

As Commissioner, Dr Niki Vincent is responsible for overseeing implementation of the Gender Equality Act 2020 and plays a key leadership role in promoting gender equality in the Victorian community and workplaces. Dr Vincent has a wealth of experience in gender equality and organisational leadership. This includes most recently serving as the South Australian Commissioner for Equal Opportunity since May 2016. In this role, Dr Vincent was responsible for the general administration of the Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA). In her capacity as Commissioner for Equal Opportunity, Niki chaired the Australian Council of Human Rights Authorities (ACHRA), served on the national management committee of Play by the Rules, and was a member of the SA/NT Advisory Council for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).

Adam Fennessy PSM 

Adam Fennessy PSM is the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner. He has over 20 years of public sector experience at state and federal levels, including four years as Secretary of the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water & Planning and prior to that the Department of Environment & Primary Industries. Adam has worked in the private sector as a partner with advisory firm Ernst & Young. He has also served on several boards including the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) (Victoria), Infrastructure Victoria, Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Women & Leadership Australia.

Lara Olsen

In 2020, Lara Olsen was appointed as Managing Director of South East Water, leading the delivery of water, sewerage and recycled water services to 1.83 million people. Lara is also a director of Iota, a wholly owned subsidiary of South East Water. Lara has extensive experience in the utility sector, focused on customer experience and innovation. Before joining South East Water, Lara was the Global Head of Business Development and Industrial Products at Tesla Energy (USA) and also led the Business Development and Industrial Products team for Tesla Australia. Previous roles include head of strategy for CitiPower PowerCor and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), Project Leader with the Boston Consulting Group and co-founding Billcap, an energy platform that helps customers and retailers manage their usage and bills.

Professor Andrew Western

Professor Andrew Western is the Head of Department of Infrastructure Engineering and Chair of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Melbourne. With over 25 years of teaching and consulting experience in catchment and waterway research, hydrology, water resources and hydraulics, Professor Western seeks to further our understanding of how catchments work and develop a variety of catchment and water models. His industry projects deliver innovation in catchment management, groundwater resources, catchment monitoring, water resources management and stream water quality.

Dr Sharon Davis (Chair)

Dr Sharon Davis has over 20 years’ experience at the cutting edge of water reform in Australia, including 12 years at Senior Executive Level. She has experience across water and natural resource management related policy and technical programs at the state and federal level, including as the Executive Director, Water Resources with Victorian State Government, Australia. As Executive Director of the Water Resources Division, Dr Davis delivered updated Planning and Entitlements policy framework and Grid and Markets components of the state’s water policy Water for Victoria 2016 which sets the water policy for decades to come.

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