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Corroboree on the river

Saturday, 5th October, 2019

The Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree on the banks of the Darling River at Wilcannia on Tuesday. About 300 people watched the historic event that was held to bring the destruction of the river to the attention of the world. A similar number attended the corroboree at Menindee the following night. PICTURE: Mark Merritt, Earthling Studios The Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree on the banks of the Darling River at Wilcannia on Tuesday. About 300 people watched the historic event that was held to bring the destruction of the river to the attention of the world. A similar number attended the corroboree at Menindee the following night. PICTURE: Mark Merritt, Earthling Studios

By Myles Burt

A magical night on the dry lake bed of Lake Pamamaroo officially closed the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree Festival this week.

The week-long festival with Aboriginal dance performances travelled down the Darling River from Walgett to Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia to Menindee.

The Wilcannia Dance Group, Menindee Dance Group and the Tal-Kin-Jeri Dance Group from Adelaide performed under the stars near the Burke and Wills campground on Wednesday.

Murawari-Budgiti man and festival director Bruce Shillingsworth said he was prompted to do something big to highlight the crisis on the Darling River after the mass fish deaths at Menindee last summer.

“We wanted to do the biggest gathering, the biggest corroboree they’ve ever seen and we wanted to include the communities,” Mr Shillingsworth said.

“We wanted to do a gathering on the rivers but we also wanted to listen to the voice of those that denied a voice.

“We wanted to get out there to empower those communities, we wanted to bring back encouragement and say ‘we care’.”

Mr Shillingsworth hopes that the large gatherings at the festival would put more pressure on the government to take action for the river towns.

“We need to do something about it, we need to fix our river and get water back into our rivers.

“They’re the ones that are suffering, they’re the ones still bearing the brunt of no water in our rivers.”

Mr Shillingsworth said the festival was a great success, with dance groups from Menindee, Wilcannia, Enngonia, Cunnamulla, Walgett, Moree, Goodooga, Brewarrina, Bourke, Trangie, Katoomba, Sydney, Adelaide and Quilpie taking part.

“It’s showing our young people and our old people that we must be continuing our dances and our music of singing the rivers, and protecting our rivers.

“That’s what our community wants - to see that outside of their communities they’ve got this overwhelming support from people all over Australia.

“We give them that extra energy, we’ve boosted their spirit.”

Mr Shillingsworth said the people who travelled from all over the country to witness the historic corroboree were now well aware of the destruction of the Darling.

“They saw what’s really happening with those rivers and the waters.

“I want our non-indigenous people to get out and see it with their own eyes, and they will go back and spread that message about our rivers.

“That’s the experience I wanted them to have.”

Radio broadcaster, Mark Merritt, was among the crowd who followed the corroborree along the length of the Darling in a convoy of buses and cars.

“About 300 set out from Sydney and about 200 made it all the way to Menindee,” Mr Merritt said.

“There were people from Queensland, Victoria and from Sydney and all the way up the coast. About a quarter of them were media - radio producers, filmmakers, journos, some of them international, including a guy from Reuters. 

“When their stories come out, the world will know what’s been done to the river.”

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