The Water Justice Hub at the Australian National University was officially launched on September 28th 2020. With a wide multidisciplinary membership, the Hub is focused primarily on research surrounding issues of water justice in both Australia and overseas. The Hub has secured funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC). The ARC’s members alongside global leading experts and academics, are engaged in a series of actions and research to strengthen the core mission of the Hub; “Water Justice for All”.
Professor Quentin Grafton, Australian Laureate Fellow and Chairholder of the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance spoke to Woroni regarding the recent launch of the Hub. Professor Grafton is also the current Director of the Food, Energy Environment and Water Network and the Convenor of the ANU Water Justice Hub.
Professor Grafton reflected on how the issue of water injustice is not an Australian issue alone, rather a global one as a lot of people in the world do not have a fair share of water, even for basic use.
Responding to the question on why the Hub was formed, Professor Grafton said “Water justice has been around for long, but hasn’t gotten the attention that it really needs. When we think about water, water justice is at the forefront of things and this echoes the need for adequate water governance as well as decision making. To enrich these aspects of the water domain, the Hub is a place of coming together of people who have different viewpoints but a shared belief of ensuring water justice for all”.
The primary focus of the Hub is on Australia and ensuring water justice, especially for First Nations Australians. Through research and various other initiatives, the Water Justice Hub aligns with Goal 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) – Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Professor Grafton highlighted the importance of the Hub with regards to the current context of a water emergency that Australia is facing. He mentioned “When there is water injustice, there will be water emergency. With thousands of Australians without access to adequate drinking water, along with our rivers drying up, as well as the lack of adequate water rights for Indigenous people, we are in a state of water emergency and something needs to be done now”.
Professor Grafton also noted that the Hub advocates for distributive justice and is committed in bringing about transformative change needed to tackle the current state of water emergency.
In the words of Professor Grafton, water injustice is an issue of social and economic injustice with multiple barriers in the way of ensuring water justice. Inadequate capacities, governance procedures and financial failures make it nearly impossible for SDG 6 to be achieved globally by 2030. He commented “Water justice is not seen as a priority, thus it takes a backseat when it comes to ensuring public funding. More importantly, distributive water justice means someone’s got to pay for it and who would do that? There are people who benefit from the existing situation and don’t necessarily want it to change. This issue requires immediate attention as water emergency is not only affecting people’s short term but also long term health”.
In response to the question about how the pandemic has impacted the state of water justice, Professor Grafton mentioned “The pandemic has been a beam of light uncovering the gaps that exist in our society. It is evident, across global contexts, that Covid-19 has largely affected the poor, vulnerable and the disadvantaged. Inadequate access to clean water puts people at a higher risk of getting infected and is connected to the broader issue of social and economic injustice, it also means that they would not have access to high quality health care”.
The Water Justice Hub promotes truth telling and supports the voice of people in response to water injustice. It urges everyone; students, researchers, community leaders and decision makers to take the lead as ‘Water Warriors’, as a way of supporting the most marginalized sections of our society in gaining and exercising their right to water.