It’s quarter to midnight, and we are driving as fast as we can in a twin cab ute named Djinn on a dirt road that is mostly potholes, avoiding kangaroos and stopping only to pop a squat on the red dirt. We sing along to Aussie prog rock and admire all the stars in the clear sky. We have driven 800 kms from Narrm to advocate for a dying river system with queer drag and performance art.
We say our goodbyes to Tolarno then get in the car and drive another hour to the once great Menindee Lake, now bone dry, it is a very sad sight to say the least. We set up next to a couple of unsuspecting camper vans while a bevy of locals and activists pour in with their fold out chairs to watch our drag show and hear our plight for the river. Petitions are signed that we are compiling to send to the Minister of Water to stop corruption in river management, and to implore them to keep environmental water in the river where it belongs!
The following day our hard work pays off as we have made the front page of Broken Hill’s “Barrier Daily Truth”! This coincides perfectly with Broken Heel Festival, a three day event celebrating all things drag inspired by Priscilla Queen of The Desert. What appears to be your classic country mining town is painted pink and the LGBTQI+ community of Broken Hill, and greater Australia, fill the town with colour and flare. As well as drag shows at night in the amazing Palace Hotel, there is a huge parade through the town which we walk in holding our banner proudly, Megan dressed as a Murray Cod “swims” the whole length of the street to the delight of all onlookers. Having seen us in the paper many locals thank us for our support and advocacy for the river, asking how they too can help stop the corruption and signing the petition. We even enter the best dressed competition and have the hosts ask everyone to pay attention to the importance of our cause. It is obvious that the issue of the river drying up is felt so deeply by many
We finish the weekend off heading out to Silverton pub to share a beer and a laugh with the staff and some local donkeys (literally). Reflecting on what we have done it feels like a small splash in the face of the on going devastation and disrespect to the Murray-Darling Basin, but we sit and plan how we can do it bigger, queerer and more inclusive next time. Using drag and performance to make our splash turn into a whole monsoon of action and activation to save the Barka. As Megan Williams said “Drag is the art of resistance. We are dancing in solidarity with endangered species and communities who have been left out to dry. The queer community has fought for our existence for generations and we are here to give voice to threatened species to say “I will survive”.’
Watch the video here
Story written by Fox Pflueger