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Darling-Baaka wins council’s backing

Wednesday, 15th January, 2020

Mayor Darriea Turley with Barkindji Native Title Group Corporation’s (from left) David Doyle, Derek Hardman, Badger Bates and Anthony Hayward. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Mayor Darriea Turley with Barkindji Native Title Group Corporation’s (from left) David Doyle, Derek Hardman, Badger Bates and Anthony Hayward. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

City Council has supported a move by the Barkindji Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation to recognise the Darling River’s traditional name of ‘Baaka.’

The native title group has made an application to the Geographical Names Board and a majority of councillors backed it at Monday night’s extraordinary council meeting. 

Only councillors Tom Kennedy and Bob Algate voted against it.

Clr Tom Kennedy said the matter was a “distraction”.

“I think it’s important that the Darling River be acknowledged the Darling River around the country,” he said.

“It’s a distraction. What all communities want along the Darling River is water.

“I would not like factions developed all because of this name.”

But Clr Maureen Clark said the intention was to have the river known by both names

“There’s not a move to remove ‘Darling’ from the river,” she replied.

After the meeting, Mayor Turley explained why it was important council supported the Barkindji Native Title Group Corporation’s proposal. 

“Council understands the reason this is being proposed is that the state of the Darling, before the drought, was absolutely catastrophic,” she said.

“We know that with the supply of water the state government had to build a half a billion dollar pipeline to get water to a community of over 20,000.

“We know that it was catastrophic. We know that it needed attention.

“But if we don’t actually recognise the traditional lands for which the Darling and the Baaka co-exist - if we don’t actually recognise the importance of our Aboriginal community - then I’m concerned that the issue of the Darling will be that the government won’t ever give it the importance that it needs.

“We believe that if we stand with our Aboriginal community and recognise that the lands on which we meet are of the traditional lands of the Barkindji people - and that is recognised in native title - then their river, our river, should have dual name.”

Mayor Turley said the recognition the river could receive by referring to it as the ‘Baaka’ and the Darling could have a similar cultural affect as the move from Ayers Rock to Uluru.

“The world did not fall apart when we stopped calling it Uluru/Ayers Rock,” she said.

“In fact, it really gained momentum and we started using and recognising the importance of such an iconic site.

“I think for the Baaka that’s what the native title Barkindji Corporation is saying. If we call it the Baaka then we will give it that recognition that it deserves.

“I was quite happy to take a Mayoral Minute forward. I was pleased it was supported.

“I was hoping for a unanimous vote but I was very pleased that council supported the motion.”

Council’s support was welcomed by members of the Barkindji Native Title Group Aboriginal Corporation yesterday.

“It’s a pretty important first step for us to get some recognition back into the river, the lifeblood of our community and our culture,” said BNTGAC’s David Doyle.

“It’s also an opportunity for us younger people to be able to carry on our traditions, using the river for all the camps that we have held in the past as well as being able to teach our kids to hunt and fish, like we were taught by our Elders.”

Asked whether the name would apply to just the Barkindji native title area or the whole river, Mr Doyle said historical documents showed the use of the name ‘Baaka’ across the whole river system.

“We did some research and for the length of the river, the upper, middle and lower Darling, everybody uses the same word, Baaka , to describe the river,” he said.

“Uncle Badger’s found documents dating back to the 1880s where it was used by all the people that lived along the river as the Baaka and also the Darling as well.

“It already had a dual name from way back then.”

Badger Bates said people could chose to call the river the Darling, the ‘Baaka’, or both.

“Black people and white people have some responsibility for the river. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

“It’s not about us taking nothing away from everybody,” added BNTGAC CEO Derek Hardman.

“It will always be about working together with the communities and all our communities up and down the river.

“All we’re doing is giving it a dual name. It doesn’t take away the issue we’ve got no water and it’s being mismanaged.

“We’re not there to say ‘ focus on something else.’ 

“This is the focus on recognition for the Aboriginal name, the shared history, as well as the past and ancient history that’s always been there. 

“We’re not creating a distraction. We all know there’s no water in the river and we’re all still fighting the fight and will continue to do it.”

Badger Bates said everyone needed the river.

“We’ve got a stupid pipeline but we can’t teach country out of a pipe,” he said.

“Everyone needs the river, but it’s 100km away from us and we’ve got nothing.”

Mr Doyle said he agreed with Badger that “Broken Hill was built from the Darling River. 

“It’s an important part of Broken Hill as much as it is Wilcannia and all the other river towns.”

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