An innovative approach to diversity

A new IWN program provides unique support to the water industry as it becomes more diverse and inclusive. Here’s what its quest for increased diversity is all about.

Intelligent Water Networks (IWN) is a safe sandpit for the water industry to trial new technologies and innovations.

IWN is in its 11th year of serving member water corporations in Victoria and, more recently, Tasmania. Our technology trial experience and state-wide reach make us perfectly positioned to trial technologies that help our member organisations become more diverse and inclusive.

In 2021, we adopted our first Diversity & Inclusion Plan. This has helped drive a shift in our organisation and for our members. Over the last 18 months, female participation in our voluntary roles has increased from 10 per cent to 60 per cent of our Executive Group and from 0 per cent to 40 per cent of our Program Managers.

While diversity and inclusion are about much more than these gender statistics, we are pleased to have made this progress so far. For our members, we launched the Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Technology Program to test and trial assistive technologies on their behalf. We are excited to bring this program – the first of its kind in the Australian water industry – to fruition for them and their teams.

Inclusive leaders and diversity partnerships

Central Highlands Water Diversity & Inclusion Officer Heidi Biggin lead the D&I Technology Program.

Biggin received a special commendation in the Australian Water Association’s 2022 Victorian Young Water Professional of the Year category for her work to drive change within the water industry for people living with a disability. She is passionate about making a difference. Biggin has already led a program at her water corporation to purchase assistive technologies to improve employee and customer experiences.

Maryanne Kelly from East Gippsland Water and Anita McKenzie from South East Water joins Heidi. These two Deputy Program Managers are also passionate about driving positive change in the water industry. They are facilitating new ideas and innovations to make it more inclusive.

IWN is also an official partner of WaterAble and a supporter and promoter of Pride in Water. IWN endeavours to support inclusive practices in all we do and will continue to drive positive action for inclusion and inclusive technologies across the water industry.

D&I technology projects

Heading into 2023, the D&I Technology Program has a few projects underway.

This includes Accessibility Toolkits for our member organisations to keep in their central offices. That way, team members can borrow accessible devices to try out and see if they assist them in their work. The toolkits will initially have up to 10 items of accessibility technology, such as dictation devices and accessible keyboards.

We are also planning a Knowledge Sharing Library for our member organisations to make it easier for them to understand what accessibility technology is available so they can use more of it. It will provide a catalogue of items and information about what they do and where to find them.

Early on in the program’s inception, one of IWN’s team members provided a standalone piece of assistive technology. Rodrigo Marquina from Goulburn Valley Water developed a wearable sensor to alert visually impaired persons if they are close to a physical object, such as a wall, by making a beeping sound. This sensor is already available to our member organisations and is an excellent example of innovation within our industry.

If you’d like to suggest D&I technology or get involved with the program, please email

This story originally appeared on Inside Water.

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