In partnership with TRILITY, WIOA invites applications for the Kwatye – Cultural Recognition Award.

About the Kwatye Cultural Recognition Award

The award is open to WIOA individual members, to recognise an initiative involving cultural or diversity and inclusion-based activities within a project and/or community in which they serve.

The winner will have made an outstanding contribution to supporting diversity and fostering inclusion in the workplace or community. The award focuses on those who have gone above and beyond to further inclusion, connection and belonging for co-workers, members of the community and people from disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

Nominees should be employed in Australia and have initiated and/or implemented a successful cultural, diversity or inclusion-related activity and/or program in association with the community they serve.

The award will be judged by a WIOA selection committee and the winner will be announced at the WIOA QLD Conference annually.


1 About the Program/Initiative The initiative involving cultural or diversity and inclusion-based activities within a project and/or community in which the applicant serves.

2 Diversity and Inclusion goals The extent to which the program or initiative has been designed to promote and support diversity and inclusion in the workplace or community they serve, such as access, participation and connection for co-workers, members of the community and people from disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

3 Impact The extent to which the program or initiative has benefited co-workers, members of the community and people from disadvantaged and marginalised groups.

4 Innovation The level of creativity, imagination, and innovation demonstrated within the program or initiative.

‘Kwatye’ means water to the aboriginal Arrernte people from the Northern Territory. For many people in Australia, water is a resource more precious than gold.

The painting shows a main water hole in the centre which can also represent a community or a country. The lines radiating from the centre represent rivers and creeks. The outer circles represent other water holes where rain water is collected and then travels back along the creeks and rivers to the centre circle, the main place.

The Kwatye (Kwa-jah) story

The wet season time in the central desert brings with it a sign of relief and rebirth for the native animals, flowers and trees. The big waterholes fills up with rain water and releases down to the creeks and rivers. The water travels to provide for all living things upon the land. Plentiful of bush food for the indigenous people of the central region. The rain is also seen as a renewal sight for the desert environment. Kwatye (water) is seen more precious than gold, living in an arid country of Australia. Kwatye (water) means a new beginning, a rebirth for the native animals and desert flora and fauna.

Kwatye pure is Kwatye rich.

Kwatye sweet is Kwatye cycle.

Kwatye knowledge is Kwatye cultured.

Painting by Artist Marie Ellis

Terms & Conditions


  • The award is open to individual Members of WIOA
  • Team members must be employed in an operational role in the water industry
  • Applicants must not be employed by a “product supplier” (can be from a company providing operational services to the industry)
  • Applicants must have employer support and their endorsement to apply

Sharing outcomes with the industry

  • The Award winner will produce an article that can be reproduced in a WIOA publication on their nomination
  • The Award winner will present their nominated project to an audience of WIOA members (eg: at WIOA interest day, webinar).


The Selection Committee will assess all applications based on the following criteria:

  • Diversity and Inclusion goals
    The extent to which the program or initiative has been designed to promote and support diversity and inclusion in the workplace or community they serve, such as access, participation and connection for co-workers, members of the community and people from disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
  • Impact
    The extent to which the program or initiative has benefited co-workers, members of the community and people from disadvantaged and marginalised groups.
  • Innovation
    The level of creativity, imagination, and innovation demonstrated within the program or initiative.


  • It is the responsibility of the Applicant to ensure that the appropriate permission is sought in advance of nominating for this award.
  • All or parts of the application (excluding the personal profile) may be used by WIOA to publicise the Award.
  • If required short-listed Applicants must attend an interview with the judging panel at a mutually agreed time and place.
  • The judging panel reserves the right not to award the Award in any given year if, in their opinion, the applications do meet an acceptable standard.
  • The decision of the judging panel is final and cannot be contested.
  • The Award winner will be required to present one written report and one oral presentation at a WIOA event within the following year.

Kwatye Award Winners

Project Title: Dunyak Moira Fishing Ponds at Merrigum WTP

About the initiative

‘Dunyak Moira’ in Yorta Yorta language means Fishing Lake, and that is the new role for two retired raw water storage basins at the Merrigum Water Treatment Plant (WTP). (GVW) is partnering with Burnanga Indigenous Fishing Club (Burnanga) to convert retired 50ML and 12.5ML storages, idle for 20 years, and their surrounds into public recreational spaces. The partnership benefits GVW, Burnanga, the local community and is continuing to gain community business support.

Diversity and Inclusion goals

  • Dunyak Moira will be retained as a GVW asset and reclassified for recreational purposes with Burnanga.
  • Fishing Club will have full access to the site and the committee of management founding members from inception, through to implementation and now into launching for public access.
  • Burnanga will lead the launch of the site in November 2023 as a community project with welcome to country, fishing displays, demonstrations, and lessons.
  • They plan to use this site for education and healing purposes for their members and community as well as fund raising with fishing events.


  • The fishing ponds have been embraced by Burnanga Fishing Club as a public asset for their members and the local community to access. It provides the club and local community with access to fishponds for recreational and social purposes, and will work as a draw card for visitors to Merrigum.


  • The project has used recycled materials from other projects and retired assets to provide a leading example of circular economy including:
    • Rehabilitation of retired water storages to community assets
    • Placement of defective concrete pipes for fish habitat on the floor of both lagoons
    • Use of retired power poles and harvested reuse irrigation timber for duck and bird nests
    • Placement of large root balls recovered from storms in Victoria as fish habitat.
    • Creation of an environment endemic for flora and fauna in an area deprived of a good protected sustainable environment, which is unique in this dairy community of Merrigum.

Nerilee Kerslake, Shane Charles, Keanau Wighton & Toby Ardler from Albury City Council are the winner of the 2022 Kwatye Award for their project titled:

The Wagirra Trail Wonga Wetlands Loop.

Wonga Wetlands was developed in the 1990’s as a pioneering method for using treated wastewater from Albury City to improve and enhance the natural environment. The wastewater is delivered to a series of lagoons adjacent to the Murray River and is set up to replicate the pre-regulated wetting and drying regime of the riverine wetlands.

Since that time Wonga Wetlands, with its lagoons and walking trails has become a mecca for bird watchers, nature lovers, schools and those seeking a tranquil place to reconnect with nature.

The Wagirra Trail project at Wonga Wetlands is a three-year project to design and construct approximately 12 kilometre of shared path along the Murray River that loops around Wonga Wetlands. Wagirra in Wiradjuri language translates to ‘step on the ground’ and Wonga translates to ‘black cormorant’.

The Wagirra Team – who sit as a part of the larger Natural Areas Team at AlburyCity Council consists of six local Aboriginal people who are trained or are training in Conservation and Land Management or Civil Construction. The team have been responsible for the construction and ongoing maintenance of the trail, have undertaken cultural heritage investigations and have also run guided tours of the site.

A Wiradjuri camp has been built at Wonga Wetlands in conjunction with local elders to replicate a traditional campsite. This forms a part of the Wonga experience for visitors.

Once the Trail is open to the public (anticipated by July 2022) the Wagirra Team will be engaged to develop a suite of interpretative material and artwork that will be installed as signs across the broader Wonga site.

The Natural Areas Team and Wagirra staff are currently working with the Tourism Team and the broader Aboriginal Community to investigate cultural tourism opportunities at Wonga to showcase Aboriginal culture across the broader Albury area.

Wonga Wetlands and the Wagirra Trail will allow for the blending of knowledge regarding treating and managing wastewater with Traditional Owner knowledge of the land. Whilst Wonga has traditionally only been used by those walking the lagoons and wetlands, the new trail will open the experience to a broader audience through activating the outer perimeter of the site.

This will ensure passive and active areas, as well as dedicated wastewater management areas are kept separated.

As winner of the Kwatye award, the opportunity to donate the $2,000 prize to the charity or program of their choice will be provided to Nerilee and team on behalf of sponsor, TRILITY.

Jason Van Der Heyden from Wannon Water and the team of Troy Lovett, Emily Falla and Craig Kelson are the winner of the 2021 Kwatye Award for their project titled: The Heywood Water Tower – Indigenous War Memorial Mural.

For many years the Heywood community and Indigenous elders have spoken of the achievement and sacrifice made by the Gunditjmara servicemen and women and how they could honour their heroic efforts. Their vision can now be brought to life through the application of a large-scale mural on the locally recognised Heywood Water Tower. The mural will proudly acknowledge the commitment of our Gunditjmara servicemen and woman, while serving as a conversation piece that unites our community.

This project will contribute positive steps toward reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous members of community.

The project includes:
• Truth telling and education; supporting a national conversation around recognition of Indigenous servicemen and women, honouring their service and achievements
• Community empowerment; providing a place for the community to honour and heal together
• Acknowledgement; the recognition of the many Gunditjmara servicemen and women who have made significant contributions and sacrifice for their country

Located at the gateway to the Budj Bim World Heritage listed Landscape, the project creates the opportunity to extend a growing Great South Coast Arts Trail and Silo Art Trail.

The sacrifice exhibited by Heywood’s Indigenous servicemen and women is recognised within the armed forces and in their proud community, with Gunditjmara men and women serving our nation since the first World War.

Amongst those, are four Lovett brothers who served Australia in both the first and second World Wars and returned home alive. In total, 21 Lovett family members have served in the Australian Defence Force since the First World War. The four brothers have now come to symbolise the commitment and determination of our Gunditjmara servicemen and women.



Congratulations to Jordin Payne and Jessica Wilson from Water Corporation in Western Australia who have been recognised for their work in the diversity & inclusion space as the winner of the 2020 Kwatye Award.

Their project titled Aboriginal Community Services, North West Operations was a first of its kind for Water Corporation that went beyond traditional cultural awareness training into tailored localised water learning.

Participants from the Kimberley and Pilbara regions were guided by cultural elders and traditional owners on Country in three separate sessions to learn about water stories, ways of knowing water, water management, and truth-telling.

The sessions empowered employees with local cultural water knowledge to allow them to navigate their spaces with respect and appreciation for Aboriginal ways of knowing and their ongoing connection to water and country.

The program looks beyond the initial sessions into genuine collaborative partnerships that reinforce positive relationships and continue the water learning in the towns the operators and trades teams live, work and care for.

As the winner of the Kwatye award, the opportunity to donate to the charity or program of their choice will be provided to Jordin and Jessica on behalf of the sponsor, TRILITY



Congratulations to Paul Beard from Water Corporation in Western Australia who was announced as the winner of the 2019 Kwatye Prize at WIOA’s South Australia conference.

The Water Corporation project included two components, the development of a Native Seed bank in partnership with the Mamabulanjin Aboriginal Corporation and the Kimberley Community Grants Project.

Courtesy of award sponsor TRILITY Paul undertook a one week all-expenses paid cultural exchange trip to China that included flights, accommodation, meal & transfer allowances, Beijing Water project site visits as well as some sightseeing opportunities.

Paul’s Story

My travel buddy Craig Vallance (TRILITY) and I arrived in Beijing China on Sunday 3rd November and were greeted by our knowledgeable guide and friend for the week, Meng. Our base was the Baifuyi Hotel in the centre of Beijing’s buzzing Embassy Precinct.

My first impression of China was nothing like I had expected. What I thought would be congested and dirty, was actually lusciously green and clean, with workers on every corner sweeping up the autumn leaves. It was bloody cold for a lad from the Kimberley.

Our first outing was a visit to Beijing Water Groups headquarters for a meet and greet with Mr George Law, who welcomed us with the best coffee I have ever tasted. I was presented with Beijing Water Groups business structure and vision for the future. As the third largest utility in the world with 50,000 staff across the globe; it was impressive to see that Environment was one of the hot topics and business units within the company.

Craig and I were then given a tour of a waste water treatment plant and an award winning water treatment plant in Raoyang, I was most impressed with the dedication of the staff that worked in these two plants, who all took pride in their work area. The General Manager of the Raoyang Water Treatment Plant runs a very tight ship and whilst the language barrier was a challenge, it was evident that we operate in a similar style and share the same vision and values.

In between business activities Craig and I were whisked along freeways to some of the most mind-blowing world heritage sites you could think of. These included the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Jingshan Park and most excitingly the Great Wall of China.

On our arrival at the Great Wall we (in our wisdom) decided we would climb the steep side because it wasn’t as busy as the not so steep side. After reaching the summit and descending to the bottom for an ice cream, somebody mentioned that we should climb the other side; no one was game to give in so up we went again.

The trip was nothing short of sensational and it was refreshing to see how water and wastewater services have synergies, but can also differ, from one country to the next. I would like to thank WIOA for the award and TRILITY for the amazing prize, this really was a once in a lifetime experience and I am extremely grateful for the honour.