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Wilcannia’s Owen Whyman stands for election

Friday, 9th November, 2018

Owen Whyman is standing up for the river at the state election in March. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Owen Whyman is standing up for the river at the state election in March. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

The shocking state of the Darling River was what drove Owen Whyman from Wilcannia to stand as an independent for next year’s NSW election.

The Barkindji man gave a stirring speech at last weekend’s protest rally in Sturt Park in which he described  the river when he was a child and compared it to how it is now. 

He said that along with campaigning for the river, he wanted to helping struggling farmers, engage with communities and save the Eagle Arts and Vocational College.

But the Barka-Darling river was number one, Mr Whyman said. 

“If you have a look at the state of our river it’s a disgrace, not only for the Indigenous people but also the non-Indigenous too,” he said. 

“It’s killing the animals along the river and the plants. It’s the last blood of the people. 

“Our community is now coming over (to Broken Hill) on a $5 bus that runs five days a week. People are coming over and spending their own money just to buy water. 

“As Barkindji people, Barka means river, so we’re ‘river people’, it’s the saddest thing for us to have to do that.”

Mr Whyman said that if he were elected he’d try to arrange a cross-state meeting with Queensland to address denial flow.

“One of the main things would be to try and organise a meeting with the Queensland government, because as we all know the water’s staying upstream,” he said.

“There should be a fair share of water for everyone including the farmers so we can hunt, gather and fish.”

Mr Whyman said he hoped to inspire other Aboriginal people to run for politics. 

“Why not have a go at it? The government’s almost putting us Indigenous people in a place where we’re third level and to me that’s not right,” he said. 

“We’re willing to step up and have a go. We’re there for everyone and we can make it work for the betterment of everyone. 

“This day and age they need some inspiration from someone with an Indigenous background, especially coming from a small country town, not a city. 

Mr Whyman said his campaigning in the Barwon electorate would begin next week with a trip from Dubbo to Wilcannia, and a run up the river to Bourke, Brewarrina and Walgett the week after. 

“One of the main things I’ll put across to people is that when I speak, I speak from the heart,” he said.

“People want someone who’s going to get in there and say what they’re going to do, not double-cross them. So when I say I’m going to do something, I’ll fight for it.

“I’m a Barkindji river man and I’m proud to be standing for the people of the Barwon district.”

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