Peter Cullen (scientist)

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Peter Cullen
Born(1943-05-18)18 May 1943
Died14 March 2008(2008-03-14) (aged 64)
EducationMAgrSc, DipEd (Melbourne)
Alma materUniversity of Melbourne
OccupationWater scientist
Spouse(s)Vicky Cullen
AwardsAO FTSE, Hon DUniv (Canberra)

Peter Cullen AO FTSE, MAgrSc, DipEd (Melb), Hon DUniv (Canb), (18 May 1943 – 14 March 2008) was a leading Australian water scientist.


The son of an engineer, Cullen got his start as a water expert very early in life when his father moved to Tallangatta to oversee that town's relocation to accommodate an expanded Hume Dam. Cullen studied agricultural science at the University of Melbourne and soon turned to detailed studies of irrigation and the problems it can bring to the land it makes productive.


Cullen's major professional work was related to water in the environment, notably nutrient dynamics, freshwater and lake ecology, environmental flows, and catchment management.

Cullen retired from the University of Canberra in 2002 and actively continued his advocacy for water in the environment, notably as a founder of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and as a regular interviewee on radio and television when water ecology was discussed.




Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said, "Peter Cullen was a giant in terms of his contribution to natural resource management and water management in Australia.".[3]

Dr Paul Sinclair from the Australian Conservation Foundation said, "there are academics who like to bang on in the ivory tower and there are academics who like to be down and dirty in the swamp. Peter Cullen... liked to be down and dirty in the swamp.... When he retired from his academic post, it appeared to me that there was ... no change in his work regime and he appeared to be busier than ever."[4]

On the first anniversary of Peter Cullen's death, Senator Penny Wong (as Minister for Climate Change and Water) announced $1 million to establish a Peter Cullen Water and Environment Trust, stating[5][6]

"The creation of a perpetual legacy in name of Peter Cullen is a fitting tribute to this great Australian on the anniversary of his death a year ago today .. Professor Cullen made an enormous contribution to the management of natural resources in Australia, most of all around rivers and freshwater ecology .. As a founding National Water Commissioner, a leading member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and in his many other roles, Professor Cullen was an inspiring and influential leader in the important debate about water in this country"


Cullen lived with his wife, Rev. Vicky Cullen, at their home at Gunning, New South Wales, near Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, where Vicky was the Rector. Cullen was active in the Anglican Church of Australia, notably the Cursillo movement. He had two daughters, Michelle and Belinda.

Cullen collapsed at his home on 11 March and, after a time at Goulburn hospital, was admitted to Canberra Hospital where he died on 14 March 2008.[7]


  1. ^ Department of Premier and Cabinet, Peter Cullen (1943–2008), Government of South Australia, archived from the original on 12 March 2011
  2. ^ Dalby, Paul (2007), Peter Cullen at the Schultz Oration, archived from the original on 26 March 2015
  3. ^ Siewert, Rachel (14 March 2008). "Cullen was a conservation giant: Greens" (Press release). Australian Greens. Archived from the original on 24 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Tributes flow for water expert Cullen". ABC Online. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 14 March 2008. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008.
  5. ^ Wong, Penny (13 March 2009). "$1 million for new trust to honour Peter Cullen" (Press release). Australian Government. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  6. ^ "Trust set up to aid water lobbying". News Limited. AAP. 13 March 2009.
  7. ^ Locke, Sarina (14 March 2008). "Patron of rivers - Peter Cullen dies". ABC Rural. Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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