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Blockade goes national

Wednesday, 26th February, 2020

Beryl Carmichael: “It’s open to everyone who wants to join us - black, white, brindle or polka dot - because this is about saving our country for all of us.” Beryl Carmichael: “It’s open to everyone who wants to join us - black, white, brindle or polka dot - because this is about saving our country for all of us.”

By Craig Brealey

A day after the local plan to block the Wilcannia bridge was announced, public support has been flooding in from around the nation, organisers said yesterday.

On March 13, traffic on the Barrier Highway will be stopped from crossing the bridge over the Darling/Baaka River to get government to finally rectify the destruction being wrought. 

“I got a phone call this morning from Parramatta. They’re going to blockade their bridge,” said Barry Stone who is helping to coordinate the protest. 

“Up in Queensland they’ll blockade bridges in Brisbane and out at Adani. The coal seam gas protestors say they will be doing the same,” he said.

“This is getting way bigger than we anticipated. It’s snowballing and gaining a life of its own.”

Brewarrina, Walgett, Bourke and more than 50 other places have already pledged their support and will be closing their crossings, Mr Stone said.

“Bourke’s got issues with the cotton farms and the poison they’re putting in the river, and Walgett (at the confluence of the Namoi and Barwon rivers) was going to be the first town to be moved off the river because of their severe water shortage.”

The flows coming down the river now might make it appear that everything will be alright again, but Mr Stone said it was an illusion.

“Until real change is made, it will go back to how it was - the river dry, the lakes empty and all the water held in private dams. That will be the new normal for us.

“Queensland thinks because it rains in their territory they can keep it and bugger everyone here and in South Australia.”

Yesterday the protest organisers sent a letter explaining their demands to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

They want a Royal Commission into the management of the Murray-Darling Basin, the rivers and people put before the needs of corporate irrigators (as required by the Water Act), and the trading of water outlawed. 

“Water has to come off the trading market,” Mr Stone said.

“How many politicians own water licences? If a single politician has a water licence, they’re making decisions about our future to benefit themselves. The fox is in charge of the hen house.”

The letter was posted by Aboriginal Elder, Beryl Carmichael of Menindee, who is also helping with the protest and conducting a mourning ceremony for the river with other Elders on the day of the blockade at Wilcannia.

“This will be the best thing that has ever happened,” Ms Carmichael said.

“All our pleas to parliament and water ministers have fallen on deaf ears,” she said.

“Now the voices of people all over New South Wales will be heard.”

The ceremony will be conducted on the bridge and, unlike previous rallies in which traffic was let through at short intervals, this time none would pass, Ms Carmichael said.

“Only emergencies will be allowed through,” she said.

“The bridge will be closed for as long as we can hold it.”

Ms Carmichael said that the momentum was building quickly for the protest and everybody should come aboard for the historic event.

“It’s open to everyone who wants to join us - black, white, brindle or polka dot - because this is about saving our country for all of us.”

Rob McBride of Tolarno Station said the protest had his “total support”.

“I’d like to see bridges closed from Perth to Sydney to make a stand for our rivers against this corruption because we need action for our long term water security,” said Mr McBride.

“Menindee lakes must be filled but I fear they are going to push the flush down quickly, so it’s all looking nice. Three months later and we’ll have no water again.

“Please, everyone, come out and make the effort on March 13th because all we’ve had from the government for years is empty words.”

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