Michael Simon (Australia)
Water and natural resource management, human rights, impact assessment and sustainability
Master of Integrated Water Management
Michael has an honours in arts, majoring in Visual Arts and Geography, and a Diploma of Education in Geography from Monash University. With over 20 years experience in international development, Michael has spent this time overseas working in forest campaigning, the environment movement, education and building and managing river-basin and water management programs with Oxfam Australia and Oxfam International.
I have worked extensively on building and managing river-basin and water management/water governance programs overseas, and engaging with hydropower dams and their impacts on communities. This has allowed me to travel extensively – especially throughout Asia. My main focus has been the Mekong region - working with farmer and fishing communities to ensure they have sustainable livelihoods and continued access to their natural resources.
The work has been largely advocacy based – engaging with governments, private sector developers and financing institutions to see improved policy and project development. The main issues I have been tackling relate to land and water ‘grabbing’ – where natural resources are appropriated and ecosystems threatened – to fuel development projects. The priority in this has been to support project-affected communities to understand and claim their rights, and to be part of effective civil society networks.
I currently work as a consultant and have been focusing on the Mekong sub-region - building capacity and awareness on gender impact assessment (GIA) in hydropower. This is especially focused on working with government, dam operators and consultancy companies to implement GIA, and scale up gender analysis in their work. I am also working on a large project developing transboundary basin programs in South Asia’s Himalayan Rivers.
The chance to work overseas has given me many great opportunities to see and to listen and learn from local people about what’s important for them. Being able to support these peoples by linking and scaling up their work and influence has been a real privilege and kept me passionate and “fully charged” over a long period.
I am eager to use the Masters to write academically from my experience base. I spend a lot of time in my work talking with academics and finding common projects to bring together local knowledge with academic research and rigour. Taking some time out to write myself will be good, and allow me to reflect on learning; pushing and testing the experience and findings, through an academic lens.
The MIWM modules provide a consistent framing with that of my professional career on how we need to work on water and natural resource challenges. The MIWM also provides a platform for engagement with other sectors/ stakeholders and, in focusing on integration, it pushes us all out of silos and towards dialogue. The chance to learn together, engaging with other sector perspectives – to push and prod them, and debate them in an academic setting is refreshing. The hands-on approach and flexible delivery is also attractive in balancing work/life/study.
I am also interested to use my time in the MIWM to generate new contacts, consider common topics from different perspectives, and get more of an insight into current Australian water management and governance approaches.
The International WaterCentre Master of Integrated Water Management creates water leaders by drawing on international teaching and research from many fields to provide a transdisciplinary, whole-of-water-cycle approach to water management.