Five Australia Awards Awardees from Africa, currently based in Queensland, attended the 15th International River Symposium, the world’s leading river management conference, in October last year. Held in Melbourne from 8 to 11 October 2012, the event explored the intricately linked pressures on rivers and waterways as the world’s urban population continues to expand.
Celestino Salencia, from Mozambique, who is studying for a Masters of Integrated Water Management at the University of Queensland, said the conference provided students with the rare opportunity to hear from various international experts on six themes, ranging from designing river cities, river health and ecology to integrating people, governance and policy.
“The highest point for me was sharing experiences from both sides. It was especially great to learn how Australia has managed water issues, which is a big challenge for us in Africa,” he said. “From the symposium, we got a pretty clear idea of the sort of challenges we are going to face in the future, and the best way to tackle these challenges. After hearing different perspectives and experiences, the bottom line is that we need to collaborate, we need to plan, we need to involve the partners and stakeholders, we need to come together and we need to value the community’s knowledge.”
Celestino also commended the symposium for providing an excellent platform for students to connect with industry, and experts from around the world. “It was great to meet new people, build networks and forge connections, particularly as we are nearing the end of our courses,” he said. “Meeting people from all over the world and sharing experiences has enabled me to make sense of what I have learned and to connect it to the real world. Having industry experts share their experiences in the workplace was almost like forecasting what to expect once you get a job. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect what we have learned and apply it to reality because sometimes there is a huge difference between the science and the application.”
Fellow Masters of Integrated Water Management student, Hilda Ngomuo from Tanzania, shares Celestino’s sentiments. However, she added that the study tour of the Yarra Catchment – managed by Melbourne Water – was especially memorable.
“I was very happy to see the way the restoration of the river has been achieved. I was really impressed with the construction of the fishway structures,” she said. “It was the first time I had seen the practical application of something I had learned in the course. It helped me to put things in context and make sense of what I had learned.”