The corporate control of the Murray-Darling Basin is failing all communities who want sustainable livelihoods along our rivers. This disproportionately impacts our First Nations communities whose cultural rights have been ignored.
On our recent trip to Menindee, River Country spoke to some residents about their memories of the Darling/Baarka River and what needs to change so the health of this vital ecosystem can be restored. Here we present the stories of Susannah, a Menindee local who has witnessed drastic changes to the river due to poor government policy, and Kirrie, Mia & LaPeta, three young girls from Menindee.
Susannah, Menindee local
What do you see the problem with the rivers is?
"They're taking our water. Seeing the end of it, sort of. We had a couple of campgrounds out there but it's really sad now, there's nothing out there. I'm really heartbroken for the young kids and the rest of the community, but especially the children. There's nothing here. It's affected me as an Indigenous person, not having our totems like kangaroos and emus... seeing them all dead is heartbreaking.
"The problem is that... it's a really big problem and it should have never have happened. The river has dried up... Sorry, I get really emotional over this. Taking our water... All our birdlife, our fish, the major fish kills you know about and seen, and that's... there's no more walking along the rivers and lakes anymore and that's the problem, not being able to take our children out to see our wildlife anymore.
"The problem is thirsty cotton crops taking all our water."
What do you think can be done about it?
"What can be done about it is... the government up in the cities really need to hear us, we shouldn't be having to have people bring water into us here. We've never ever had that, I've never come across that in my life living out here in Menindee. My children, three children go through it, and a lot of the other children out here go through it. There's a lot of health problems with some children.
"Let the waters go, stop selling Australia out - that's all I can say. Stop... stop... Just stop. Stop selling us out, y'know, this is our country.
"Aboriginal people everywhere near and far, and white Australians... C'mon government, stop selling us out. We need it, our friends, everywhere."
LaPeta, 9, Mia, 9 & Kirrie, 9
What does the river mean to you?
LaPeta: "The river means a lot of things because the river we love, we always go down fishing in the river and since there's no more fish down there or water we can't go fishing anymore, so it's very disappointing."
How does it make you feel now that the river is all dried up?
Kirrie & Mia: "Sad."
How long has it been like that for?
Mia: "Maybe like a year?"
LaPeta: "Over a year."
And you've seen it getting drier and drier?
Mia: "And all the fish coming up floating."
So you're not able to go fishing down there anymore?
Kirrie, Mia & LaPeta: "No."
And no fishing either?
Kirrie, Mia & LaPeta: "No."
If you could say anything to the government of Australia about the rivers, what would you say?
LaPeta: "I would say they need to put more water in it because it's not fair that we have no water."
Mia: "And the government has to empty the dirtiness out of the river and make it clean because then we can have more water and we will survive."
Kirrie: "Also I wanted to say to the government I want them to put new freshwater, new fishes and we can go down and swim and stuff like that."
Managing consumption is the only way to address the water crisis facing Australia. Tell Federal Water Minister David Littleproud to restore integrity to the Murray-Darling by emailing the Minister.