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Saturday, 2nd March, 2019

Menindee residents have spared no expense in making protest signs and decorating the town for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s ‘When the River Runs Dry’ campaign this Sunday.PICTURE: Myles Burt Menindee residents have spared no expense in making protest signs and decorating the town for the NSW Aboriginal Land Council’s ‘When the River Runs Dry’ campaign this Sunday.PICTURE: Myles Burt

By Myles Burt

Tensions are reaching boiling point as Menindee locals prepare to protest in the NSW Aboriginal Land Council water rally.

Menindee will join river towns such as Dareton, Wilcannia, Bourke, Walgett and Dubbo for the NSWALC’s ‘When the River Runs Dry’ campaign.

They are demanding a Commonwealth royal commission into the management of the Murray-Darling Basin, and a state-level special inquiry to address NSW water mismanagement.

They also want equal partnership with aboriginal people, including Aboriginal Land Councils, in all decisions on water planning and management along with a suspension of water trading in the Barwon-Darling River System.

The rally will take place this Sunday, with Menindee locals gearing up for the event, stringing signs around the town and painting inside Menindee’s Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

Resident Rita Parker said being able to use the church as a base of operations has been “the greatest gift of the lot”.

“This is the only donation we have had,” Ms Parker said.

“Other than that everything is out of the local people’s pockets.”

Ms Parker has been a Menindee resident for 70 years. She has never seen the river so desperate and the town so fractured.

“I think we’re all tired, we’re not getting any answers as to what’s going to become of us,” Ms Parker said.

“They’ve taken our water, what’s going to be next? What are they going to do with the people here?

“Are they going to close up Menindee or what, we don’t know?

“We’ve just had a mum in a minute ago with a baby that’s only a couple of weeks old, she’s trying to bath that baby in this water.

“What’s her future? What’s that baby’s future?

“Most of us go back five to six generations, the aboriginal people go back so many generations they couldn’t count.

“We need water, we need the water to stop being blocked off in Queensland which is under a Labor Government.

“They have to stop that blocking off and allow the water to come down to its natural place.

“It’s just ridiculous and it’s killing the town, it’s killing the morale, everyone’s fracturing.

“I suppose we get very upset about it but I think we’ve got a right to.”

One of the biggest insults to Menindee, according to Ms Parker, was that 16 politicians have come to see the water crisis in Menindee and every one of them has met at the local pub. 

“Most of these people (locals), they’re not pub people,” Ms Parker said.

“We’ve got a civic hall there, they’re government people and that’s a government hall.

“But they haven’t even got that much respect for us that they’ll come to our civic hall.

 “Go to the pub, I mean that’s degrading, absolutely degrading.”

Ms Parker was critical over the choice of the Maiden’s Hotel for a public meeting with Deputy PM Michael McCormack, Parkes MP Mark Coulton and MDBA boss Phillip Glyde on February 7.

She has also criticised Broken Hill water advocates at the meeting, wondering if they really cared for the Menindee township, or just their right to fish.

“There was no room there, most of the room was taken up by Broken Hill people who have come out complaining because they can’t go fishing anymore,” Ms Parker said.

“We wanted to know what was happening to us, our lives.

“We couldn’t get a word in, half the people got up and walked out they were so disgusted.

“Every single meeting we’ve had with the politicians we’ve had the Broken Hill fishermen coming out.

“When they do come out and fish, they bring their own food, their own beer, their own bait, their own fuel and they don’t spend one cent in this town.

“We’re getting no support from Broken Hill, and on paydays we go into Broken Hill and spend all our money.

“People come out to Copi Hollow, they wouldn’t know what it was like to turn left when they came out.

“They just don’t come in, they don’t support anything we’ve got.”

Broken Hill City Council has allocated $15,000 to investigate a potential class action against the NSW State Government and the Murray Darling Basin Authority. Ms Parker believed the class action investigation was a publicity stunt and wouldn’t achieve much at all. 

“They haven’t consulted with one person along the Darling River,” Ms Parker said.

“Everyone has to work together here, but we don’t need to be treated like idiots.

“At the least they could’ve consulted us instead of treating us like the rest of the government’s treating us, like second-class citizens.

“It’s only their leisure time that’s affected by it, this is our livelihood.

“We’ve had all the employments gone and all the hearts gone out of the whole town.

“Even the young kids they’ve got no future here, we’ve got nothing left because there’s no water.”

“We’re getting a bit of water out of Copi Hollow while it’s still able to be filtered, but once it can’t be filtered anymore, we’ve got nothing.

“Not one level of government have brought in one bottle of drinking water.

“Everything we’ve got comes from charitable people donating water and sending it to the town.

“There’s nobody in government at all that could give a rats about Menindee.”

Menindee will be holding their water rally this Sunday at 11am (EST) at Burke and Wills Park.

Other towns such as Wilcannia will be holding their water rally on Sunday as well at 11.30am (EST) on the Old Bridge.

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