In July 2016 I was travelling through western New South Wales when my by bus Atlantis broke a fuel line. I repaired the bus with the help of a local earthmoving business. I got on my way the next day and had a blow out ten kilometers out of town.
The desert was green from a few recent showers but the Darling River was low and I was not leaving Wilcannia until I had replaced the tyre in Broken Hill. It so happened that the Barkindji mob and some other local had organised a protest to stop traffic on the only bridge over the Darling River for half an hour, every hour, all weekend.
During my stay in Wilcannia, I met the kindest and most welcoming people in all of my travels but I also met a people struggling to hold on to their traditions and way of life because the Darling River or Barka as it’s known locally is drying up.
In Queensland and New South Wales, corruption and water theft and harvesting has stopped the flow of the mighty Darling River which once flowed all year round and is a vital source of food, culture and recreation for the Barkindji people of Wilcannia. The Barka is now not even a trickle but a series of muddy billabongs with dying fish, yabbies, turtles and andthing else that once lived there.
The Barkindji people of Wilcannia are tough and self sufficient but their community orchard and garden can’t be watered and fresh produce is prohibitively expensive due to the freight costs. Without access to freshly caught fish and fresh produce, the health of the Brakindji people is being adversely impacted. There are also important social and cultural remifications of the Barka not flowing. There are a whole generation of young people who aren’t getting to fish, swim or go camping on the river and learn culture. This also leads to depression and alcohol abuse in the community.
In 2016 vwhen I stayed in Wilcannia there was still water in the river for the town because of the weir but in January 2019 the situation is dire and the water quality is decreasing in town all allong the river to the point of being undrinkable.
This problem is not isolated to Wilcannia but ultimately affect the whole Murray Darling Basin and the ecosystem of the continent.
Why has thias happened?
Two main reasons:
1. The drought caused by 200+ years of land clearing and deforestation has lead to a vastly different and drier climate in Auastralia.
2. Mismanagemant and corruption by politicians, farmers and large corporate cotton agriculture.
The solution is simple. Restore stream flow and mass tree planting and reforestation accross the entire catchment of the Darling. This could be done by a National River and Forest Brigade and reassigning the military forces to productive and nurturing purposes instead of destructive purposes.
The management of the Murray Darling should be by a single national body and responsibility taken away from the states as the Murray-Darling crosses borders.
There are some many other steps including the covering of irrigation canals, changing from cotton to hemp farming for fibre, restoring cross land flows by removing artifical barriers. However for now, I have written the following song/poem to raise awareness of this important national issue of environmental, ecological and socio-cultural significance. Please share to bring awareness to this issue.
Our Darling is Dying
Our Darling is dying and running quite dry
The Barkindji man said, I just want to cry
I went to the Darling and all I could see
Was a dry river bed, no longer flowing free
Dead fish were floating with poison and sick
Long muddy billabong, blue green algae slick
“Our river would always flow to the sea
Even in drought she always flowed free”
“There was always abundance and plenty of feed
But now she’s exploited by corporate greed”
Dinners and deals and networks of corruption
The Darling River is dying, this is it’s destruction
National politicians take donations of greed
From cotton corporations with their GMO seed
Four hundred thousand Megalitres for just Cubbie Station
But no water or fish for the Barkindji Nation
Other farm’s water theft is also a crime
The new laws don’t stop them our Darling is dying
Cotton farms, water theft, corruption as donations
The Darling is dying because of greedy cotton stations
Out there in Wilcannia there’s no fishing for feeds
No water for veggies so the garden’s just weeds
Two dollars for an apple, a lettuce ten or more
A dry river makes us sick and keeps us all poor
Just drinking and fighting and wearing a frown
Waiting for the Darling River to flow down
There’s no fishing, or swimming or camping anymore
There’s nothing to do and life is a bore
A dead roo in the river but it didn’t drown
It died when it drank the poison river water down
It’s time that we started the Barkindji man said
If the river doesn’t flow the whole country will be dead
Free up the Darling River and bring it back to life
Or the whole ecosystem is in trouble and strife
Everything must be done and we have what it takes
To naturally refill the whole Menindee lakes
To bring back silver perch, yellow belly and cod
Our Darling, Our source of life, Rainbow serpent God
If we don’t let the water flow I will sing this song
Till the Darling River is no more a muddy billabong
Clean up the river and make it like long before
and the Darling can waltz and flow forever more
But our Darling River’s is dying and our Darling is dry
The Barkindji man said, I just want to cry
Song Copyright James Arthur Warren, Thundercloud Reparian
Sung to the tune of Music Waltzing Matilda composed by Christina McPherson 1895 all instruments played by Charles Whitmer https://youtu.be/L-jftwjDzc4
You can contact me below if you are interested in using this song.