Thank you very, very much Professor Evans for your kind introduction.
I would like to start by adding my acknowledgment of country even though I know that will happen just a little bit later.
Can I also welcome the wider WASH community, we refer to it as WASH, but it is water, sanitation and hygiene, and it’s actually an interesting acronym because it actually says what it means! So that’s very good for those who don’t quite understand a lot of the acronyms in the DFAT space.
Thank you so much for joining us! here today, and that we have gathered in such numbers for this important conference.
Can I thank the International Water Centre, led by Mark Pascoe and Regina Souter, who have done a great job in organising this very important conference.
I congratulate all the team that were involved in the organisation.
I am delighted, ladies and gentlemen, to be here to open the 2018 WASH Futures Conference here in Brisbane.
As the largest water, sanitation and hygiene conference in the Indo-Pacific region, this meeting provides a valuable opportunity to share ideas and innovations towards improved WASH access for all.
The growing awareness of the urgent need for better access to water and sanitation in our region and around the world is reflected in the excellent attendance at this conference.
Today, 2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services and 4.5 billion people lack safely managed sanitation services.
And of course, the impact on children is particularly devastating.
Each day, nearly 1,000 children under five die from diarrheal diseases due to poor sanitation, poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water.
In the long term, however, there is a lot that we can do to change this situation.
We welcome the increasing global focus on the water-related Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 6, that aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for everyone by 2030.
We can also see increasing WASH expertise and interest in our region.
From an Australian perspective, I am very proud of the contributions that Australia is making in this area.
In 2017/18, we will spend about $106 million in our Water for Development program, mostly in the Indo-Pacific area.
That includes various programs: Civil Society WASH Fund or contribution to the fund; Water for W! omen, our flagship program, very much focused on women and girls in the Indo-Pacific; our Australian Water Partnership.
We have partnerships with other organisations, including the World Health Organisation, the Pacific Water and Waste Water Association, as I’ve mentioned, our Australian Water Partnership, and our High Level Panel on Water.
Of course, hygiene promotion is the most cost effective health intervention.
For every $1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of at least $5 is returned in increased productivity.
The world has come to realise that the improvement of WASH outcomes is critical to economic development and poverty reduction.
This conference will build on global momentum supporting sound WASH research that informs more effective development activities.
The prominence of water and water-related challenges in the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper is an acknowledgement of the issue’s importance to the Australian Government.
The White Paper noted that Australia is committed to improving water access, sanitation and hygiene practices across the Indo-Pacific.
Prime Minister Turnbull’s voice in the United Nations and World Bank High Level Panel on Water reinforces international calls for the advancement of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.
Can I take the opportunity to acknowledge the World Bank as an important partner for Australia in the work that we do here.
Our contribution to the Panel has been to lead on three key initiatives, focusing on water data, water use efficiency and water innovation.
Australia will continue to collaborate with water sector experts, civil society organisations and governments beyond the life of the Panel, which concludes this month.
Our water expertise will continue to achieve strong development outcomes across the world.
We are es! pecially focused on the positive impact that good WASH facilities can have on the lives of women and girls.
Through effective WASH programs, we see fewer women and girls walking those long distances each day to collect water for their families.
We see fewer babies die as a result of unhygienic maternal health care facilities and we see fewer girls miss school for want of appropriate menstrual hygiene services.
This is why WASH is a critical component of our development partnerships with governments and NGOs in the Indo-Pacific area.
Our various grassroots programs are more effective thanks to our partnerships, also with the academic and research community.
We need to be constantly learning in this space.
Australia is leading the world in the search to improve the quality and impact of WASH programs over the long term.
One research program, ‘The Last Taboo’, is one which I particularly wanted to m! ention. Under our Overseas Development Assistance Program, our focus on Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development – our flagship program – this study will be the first multi-country study of menstrual hygiene in the Pacific.
Women and girls in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands shared the challenges that they face in managing menstrual hygiene and the hopes for overcoming these barriers.
Structured workshops brought together people to turn research findings into results on the ground.
Real outcomes changing the lives of real people.
For those interested, I understand there will be a more detailed presentation on ‘Women and WASH enterprises’ in the first thematic session this morning.
Just as research supports good policy, so too do we see that innovation is crucial to finding creative solutions for persistent WASH problems.
Australia is promoting imaginative solutions through the Wa! ter Innovation Engine. The engine identifies water sector innovations through crowdsourcing and targeted searches, and finds ways to support the innovations with finance and assistance so they maximise their potential for scale and impact.
So far, the Engine has funded two water challenges: one aimed at getting water information into the hands of illiterate farmers in developing countries, and another focussed on urban sanitation.
By attending this conference, you too are participating in the search for new ways to approach persistent WASH problems.
I hope that the winners of the Civil Society Innovation Award and the Student Big Ideas Award, to be announced tomorrow night, are inspired to continue to think big, as we all should be thinking big, to help achieve sustainable WASH solutions.
In keeping with the conference theme of collaboration, I am very, very pleased today to announce a new $5 million collaboration between the Australian Government and the World Health Organisation.
This partnership will run for five years from 2018 to 2022 and its aim is to improve access to sustainable and safe drinking water in both urban and rural areas.
Australia and the World Health Organisation will collaborate to improve access to safe and sustainable WASH services in healthcare facilities in the Indo-Pacific area and globally through training, advocacy and policy development.
This new collaboration will further embed water safety planning approaches.
It will help to achieve the World Health Organisation’s global vision for ‘every pregnant woman and newborn to receive quality care throughout pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period’.
The Australian Government is committed to assisting the World Health Organisation to pursue this very important lifesaving goal.
The Sustainable Development Goals make clear that water sits at the h! eart of successful development.
Without safe water and sanitation, achieving the SDGs by 2030 will not be possible.
Australia is committed to being part of this solution.
I am confident that through collaboration and hard work, sustainable solutions to enduring water problems will be found.
I would like to conclude by thanking you all and wishing you every success in your work that is improving the lives of millions in our region and beyond.
Australia will continue to play its part in leading and supporting efforts to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
Can I thank you for your very kind attention and I look forward to reading about your deliberations.
All the very best, thank you very much.
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