Class A recycled water partnerships – learning curves and laughter

Mentee: Nova Irawati, Yarra Valley Water
Mentor: Sarah Gaskill, Melbourne Water

Sarah (left) and Nova (right) out on one of their field trips.  Photo: Sarah Gaskill

Why did we do Twinning?

Nova’s story:

A couple of colleagues highly recommended the Twinning program to me. Around the same time, I was also looking for a mentor who can help me with my professional development. So, I signed up! I was excited and hopeful, as this program sounded just like what I needed. But I was also nervous, knowing I will need to face one of my biggest fears (public speaking) and improve my networking skills, which I struggle with as an introvert.

The project I chose was developing an implementation plan of producing and supplying 1 GL of Class A Recycled Water to our customers, by the next 3 years (2022). The project was an important one for me personally. One of my favourite quote is “The earth we live in is not given to you by your parents. We borrow it from our children”. Our drinking water is a precious resource and we are responsible to sustain it for the future generation. I truly believe recycled water is the way into the future. The implementation plan was a vague bunch of ideas in my head, so I was really hoping I would get a much help in developing a consolidated and realistic implementation plan by the end of the twinning program.

After meeting my lovely mentor, Sarah, we realised the Twinning would be a great platform to build greater networks between Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water, particularly in the world of Class A recycled water, where it is relatively a new learning curve in the water industry.

Sarah’s story:

One of my core values is sharing knowledge, it’s in my DNA coming from a family of teachers and educators! I was aware of the wonderful Twinning Program through colleagues at Melbourne Water and across the waterways world. With a quarter of a century (argh!) of experience in natural resource management in the UK and Australia, I felt I had much technical and project management content to share. My sporting and musical background has taught me how to support others and let them shine.

Over the years I have been fortunate to have the guidance of some highly skilled mentors and I would like to give a little back to the waterway management community. I love sharing knowledge, making connections, listening and learning.

Overall I get joy in seeing others grow and progress and I can always learn. In the words of Phil Collins – “in learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”  So I placed an application to the program to become a mentor.

I recall chatting to Nova before our first meeting and was instantly taken in by this well organised, calm and thoughtful lady with a vision. Yet I knew little about recycled water, though many at Melbourne Water do – what a great opportunity to connect with Nova, Recycled Water Production at Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water! The journey began.

So did we achieve our goals?


We took turns visiting each other at our different offices and being introduced to people who would be helpful with our projects. We had plenty of coffee/tea catch up to discuss the plan in more details. Initially we identified 100+ actions and we realised it is important to focus on a few actions to be achieved by the end of the Twinning program. ‘Don’t boil the ocean!’ is advice we learnt from the workshop, and a great reminder not to be too ambitious.

We also organised field trips to a few treatment plants. We went to the Eastern Treatment Plant to learn about how Melbourne Water produced their Class A recycled water, and explored the differences in the technology they use. The trip was attended by both planning engineers and treatment plant operators from Yarra Valley Water (YVW) and Melbourne Water (MW). This visit not only improved our knowledge, but also built networking relationship between MW and YVW operators.

We also had a trip to the Brushy Creek Treatment Plant, one of Yarra Valley Water’s Class A recycled water treatment plant, followed with a visit to Brushy Creek wetland area, managed by Melbourne Water. This allowed us to see how both MW and YVW plays different roles, but just as equally important, in contributing to a healthy waterway.

As the trips had been successful, we organised another one, this time visiting Upper Yarra Treatment Plant, where Sarah’s Manager (Scott Hubber) managed construction of the treatment plant while working at YVW many years ago! It was fantastic hearing some great stories from Scott!

The amazing connections we built between Melbourne Water and Yarra Valley Water.

Scott Hubber and team sharing some of their stories about the Upper Yarra Treatment Plant.  Photos: Sarah Gaskill and Nova Irawati

Highlights from the journey?

“Twinning has been my personal highlight for the whole year.

The amazing connection we have as a result of Twinning program! I was excited when I found out our operators have been connecting with MW operator out of their own initiatives.

I am so grateful to be paired up with Sarah, she is a fantastic mentor. Throughout my conversation with her, she has taught me it’s ok not to have the answers all the time. Ask the right questions to bring the people in the journey of finding the right answers. We also shared some challenges we have in our personal lives, and encouraged each other.

The workshop has also helped me to understand the importance of why.”

– Nova

“What a wonderful journey. For me it was the power of three:

  • People – I enjoyed meeting new people in our Twinning Program, across YVW and MW, making old connections and in particularly spending time with Nova. It is ok to be vulnerable.
  • Purpose – we had a plan and provided wonderful outcomes to connect YVW and MW. The program also provided purpose in technical content and personal development. Nova’s personal growth was wonderful to watch – especially at the final presentation where she really thrived in our ‘who wants to win a gigalitre of recycled water’ quiz!
  • Positivity – the workshops and content was perfectly timed to support me through the three different roles I undertook at MW during this time. The support of Nova and the group was invaluable – a wonderful new network of professionals and now friends.

Thank you for a wonderful opportunity – I love my smiley face on my desk – such a strong reminder of ‘why’.

Great mentoring, great friendship.  Photo: Scott Hubber

Thank you to our managers for supporting us in this fantastic program.

Thank you to the Twinning team, in particular Siwan, Jan and Simone, for their dedication and hard work to make this program successful. And well done to everyone else, it had been a privilege to get to know you all and be a part of your twinning journey.”

– Sarah

Sarah and Nova wrote a lovely poem about their Twinning journey: Read ‘An ode to our precious’ here ?

…or watch their short video below:


Nova Irawati –
Sarah Gaskill –

Join the Twinning Program

The Waterway Management Twinning Program is a structured mentoring program, focusing on improving the on-ground delivery of current Victorian riparian restoration projects. This Program provides an opportunity for the most effective approaches to be shared and adopted between all those working in waterway management across the State.