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Aboriginal council acts on river crisis

Friday, 15th February, 2019

By Emily McInerney

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council has called a statewide Day of Action next month to drive change for towns on the Murray-Darling system.

The river system was in crisis, said NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See and Western Region Councillor William Murray who recently visited Menindee and Wilcannia.

“Menindee and Wilcannia are two towns severely affected by this water crisis, but this is not an isolated issue,” NSWALC Chair Roy Ah-See said.

“It is far-reaching and is taking a sickening and crippling toll on river communities along the Murray Darling Barwon,” he said.

“We have seen graphic images of fish population deaths in extreme numbers.

“But as NSWALC has continuously stressed, while sad and distressing to see, this is not about marine life. 

“This is about the well-being of a river system which is central to the spiritual beliefs of Australia’s First Nations people and now, the chronic health ramifications people are being forced to tolerate due to no fault of their own.”

A consolidated day of action will be held in six townships on March 3. 

“NSWALC stands shoulder to shoulder with our people throughout the state,” Cr Ah-See said.

“Right now, our mobs along the Murray Darling Barwon need our support, everyone’s support. NSWALC is leading those efforts.”

Menindee Aboriginal Land Council’s Cindy Bates encouraged everyone to come out on the day.

“It will be held at the Burke and Wills Oval and then we will march to the new bridge,” she said. “Then we will go back to the oval for speeches and a barbecue.

“Everyone is welcome. It’s important to show how we feel.”

Ms Bates said she hoped the politicians would stand up and listen.

“Everyone is rallying behind the river system. We have to make some sort of stand.”

Darling River Action Group’s Mark Hutton said they will be attending.

“It’s great that ALC’s are getting on board and are calling for a Federal Royal Commission, Mr Hutton said.

“With pressure from them and other activist groups including DRAG there could be enough pressure for a new or existing government to instigate a Federal Royal Commission.”

Mr Hutton said a Royal Commission was needed especially to find out how Murray-Darlign Basin funding was spent.

“The main thing we want to find out, is where has the money gone?

“DRAG approached the Auditor-General to do an audit on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and ask where the $8 billion has gone.

“It’s been a tightly-held secret that no one is giving up.

“But we need an itemised account of where it all has gone. Has it been spent properly?

“We don’t believe it has, we believe it has gone to big irrigators to help with their infrastructure. It probably helped them grow even more cotton.

“Until the audit we are in the dark. It’s our money - it belongs to the taxpayers.

“The Auditor-General told us that ‘at this time’ they don’t intend to do an audit.”

The day of action will be held in Menindee, Wilcannia, Dareton, Walgett, Bourke and Dubbo. 

DRAG will be hold its AGM on February 28 at Thyme on Argent at 6pm. Mr Hutton said all existing members and any new members were welcome to attend.


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