his is Water is a web-series exploring the human connection to water and land in far west NSW. The Darling River is the third longest river in Australia and supplies the Menindee Lake system, an ancient chain of lakes which has provided habitat for animals, birds, fish and people for tens of thousands of years. The Darling river connects the top tributaries of the Murray-Darling Basin, from Queensland through NSW, all the way to the mighty Murray river which continues the flow of water into Victoria and eventually out to sea in South Australia.
The Darling carries water across a vast tract of inland Australia, supplying towns with drinking water and irrigators with an income. The Darling river has been under threat from drought, a rapidly changing climate and the over-extraction of water resources.
The story of water in Australia is a critical window into the condition of our society: culturally, ecologically and politically. Our past behaviours and mismanagement have created deep suffering for communities along the river. The future vitality of all Australian communities will be largely informed by how we choose to relate to the great necessity that is water.
In this series we explore the vitality, history and energy of the people in the far west who are still connected to this endangered ecosystem. This film project aims to glean some clues about our past and our collective future by investigating the humanity that continues to thrive in this ancient place.
Epsiode 5: Save Our Lakes
Back to The Baaka
In March 2020 the town of Wilcannia experienced the first flow of water down the Darling-Baaka river in over three years. In this episode, community leader Brendon Adams discusses the connection between the land and its waterways and the health of the people in far western NSW.
The people of Wilcannia demonstrate how the cultural practices of the Barkindji are under threat from a collapsing ecology and the mismanagement of the river. In the weeks following the return of the river, town residents demonstrate the connection and the life that the entity of the Baaka gives to the community.
The Cod and The Economy
In January 2019 the town of Menindee found itself at the centre of an unfolding ecological disaster. Residents woke to hundreds of thousands of oxygen starved fish floating lifelessly on the surface of their Darling-Baaka River.
This episode follows a group of fish rescue volunteers, who under the instruction of NSW Department of Primary Industries relocated native fish including Murray Cod from isolated refuge pools to a healthier part of the river. Dr Paul Sinclair discusses the valuable role Murray Cod has historically played in generating human connections to the river and land. Dr Sinclair outlines how out financial systems preference large irrigation projects at the expense of the people, communities and creatures that rely on a healthy river system. As an indicator species the Murray Cod are key to understanding the health of the river, and can offer insights into how misguided value systems have critically endangered river ecologies. 'The Cod and the Economy' explores the lives of the people on the Darling-Baaka river who are compelled to action by the mass suffering of these ancient fish.
Revolt on the River
On the 25th of February 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was contacted by members of the Darling-Baaka community and asked to respond to the crisis in the lower Darling River.
A letter was authored by Elder Dr Beryl Philp-Carmichael, Menindee Resident Barry Stone and River Campaigner Ian Sutton, recognising that corporate ownership of water is damaging the livelihoods of those on the Darling-Baaka River and that First Nations water rights are being ignored. Compelled by the lack of response, Wilcannia Township and concerned citizens blockaded the town bridge, demanding water trading cease. In this episode we follow the events of the blockade and the continual dispossession of Aboriginal people from their land and waterways. Dr Emma Carmody, water law expert from the Environmental Defenders Office, explains the necessity of Aboriginal water rights to the future survival of the Murray-Darling Basin. We also feature Elders, Dr Beryl Philp-Carmichael from Menindee, David Clark and Muriel Riley from Wilcannia, Bradley Hardy from Brewarrina and Carolyn Kirk from Gundabooka Mountain, as well as host of other characters compelled to action by ecological collapse. Episode 3: Revolt On The River investigates the absence of First Nation’s water rights, the importance of Aboriginal water management and the consequences of water trading on the Darling-Baaka community.
A Pulse in the System
In March 2020 the first flows in three years came down the Darling-Baaka and filled lakes Wetherell and Pamamaroo of the Menindee Lake System, creating much needed habitat for native fish.
In this episode we talk to Fisheries Manager Iain Ellis about the significance of the Darling-Baaka and the Menindee Lakes for the survival of Murray Cod, Golden Perch and other unique Australian fish species that suffered huge losses during the fish kills in early 2019. We explore the incremental damage done to native fish habitat in 230 years of land and water modification in the Murray-Darling Basin and how human interference has created a challenging environment for these ancient fish. Episode 4: A Pulse In The System also considers some of the strategies for repairing the health of our inland rivers and how a human controlled system might better accommodate these extraordinary creatures.