Professor Erika Techera was UWA’s first female Dean of Law, and at the start of the year she made another groundbreaking step when she was appointed Director of the Oceans Institute.
The environmental lawyer is relishing the opportunity to not only lead the Institute but also drive the University’s involvement in the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre (IOMRC), a collaboration of multidisciplinary research teams from UWA, CSIRO, AIMS and Fisheries.
This is a way of working that suits Erika’s style and philosophy perfectly.
“The huge challenges facing our oceans can’t be addressed without strong collaboration across disciplines, countries, industries, government; we share the oceans, the solutions must also be shared.
“At the Institute we partner in-state and across Australia but also throughout the Indian Ocean and Pacific rims and South East Asia.
“We focus on delivering solutions however it’s not enough to produce good research, we have an obligation to ensure it is accessible and useful,” she says.
It is this integral need for collaboration that will bring policymakers, leaders and influencers together to discuss all things blue at In The Zone in October.
“It is a very rare opportunity to bring all these stakeholders together to talk about such a wide-reaching topic.
“That’s why In The Zone is so important - we must take this opportunity to talk about the challenges we are facing and what we must do to solve them as a collective.
“No one has the resources to work alone; we must pool our expertise, experience, knowledge and skills if we want to ensure the health and viability of our oceans,” she says.
It’s no wonder collaboration will be a key theme of the conference, to be held at UWA on 2 October. Tackling an issue like marine debris and land-based pollution encompasses a very large supply chain.
“There are lots of policies on pollution and we’ve solved the easy ones. For example the number of oil spills from boats has declined because for the most part we’ve learnt to build better boats.
“But there’s far less work done on reducing waste. If you take plastics as an example there’s a number of issues that must all be addressed; how do we reduce consumption, change the production, increase the effectiveness of recycling and collect the debris from the ocean?
“We don’t really even know the extent of the problem it’s that large; it’s what we call a wicked problem,” she says.
Erika is quick to point out there will always be tensions between ideologies, but nine times out of 10 parties agree on most aspects and there are just a few areas of contention that can then be worked through.
“There is a balance to be found between what we want to use the ocean for; energy, food and tourism.
“I know one thing for sure - we want to see our oceans healthy and productive now and into the future,” she says.
In the Zone is being held in Perth on Monday 2 October and more information is available here.
Speakers include Foreign Minister Hon. Julie Bishop, Former President of the General Assembly of the United Nations Dr Han Sueng-soo, Senator Penny Wong, the Hon. Mark McGowan and representatives from the UWA Oceans Institute, Woodside, Shell, CSIRO and Austral Fisheries.
Tickets are $165 for staff and $82.50 for students. Buy online.