Natural Resources Access Regulator board member Phil Duncan spoke of his profound connection to water after being named 2024 NSW Water Professional of the Year.

The Gamilaroi man received the honour at an Australian Water Association gala night for his substantial contribution and positive changes in the water sector over the past five years.

Mr Duncan was given a standing ovation after an emotional acceptance speech and hoped the award reflected on his ancestors, community, family and nation.

“I hope what I contribute to the NSW water sector will also energise our bright Indigenous youth to build upon the foundations being laid.” Mr Duncan said.

“My family have heard it a million times, but I’ll say it again: I am the river, and the river is me; my connection formed when I was a boy is what keeps driving me and makes working in the water sector so fulfilling.”

The prestigious recognition adds to a growing list of career highlights for Mr Duncan, who also holds the Galambany Professorial Fellowship.

He developed his lifelong love of water growing up along the Gwydir River in Moree.

Mr Duncan was chosen from a field of outstanding contributors to water. The night also saw industry leaders gather to celebrate achievements and advancements within the Australian water sector.

NRAR chief regulatory officer Grant Barnes said Mr Duncan’s recognition is a moment of great pride for everyone connected with the regulator.

“Phil provides a wealth of experience in high-level policy, strategic advice, and valued leadership to not only NRAR but also to our partner organisations, universities, and other state and federal government agencies,” Mr Barnes said.

“He is an inspiring example of how passion and purpose can bring significant environmental and community benefits,” he said.

“One of NRAR’s enduring priorities is to protect and prioritise Aboriginal cultural and spiritual values in water regulation, and Phil’s leadership is at the core of this work.”

Apart from being NRAR’s first indigenous board member, Mr Duncan was also a keynote speaker at the 2023 UN World Water Summit in New York and is a central figure in the international water space by fostering and enhancing global cultural collaborations.

With this state recognition, Mr Duncan will now represent NSW in the Australian Water Awards. The winner will be announced at the Ozwater’24 gala dinner in Melbourne on May 1, 2024.

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