In Wilcannia, a tiny outback town with 75% indigenous population, we hung with Uncle Owen and his mob. We heard stories of the Darling River when it had seen better times. Now, like the Murrumbidgee where we had camped a week earlier, the river is low at best, full of green algae and the destructive European carp and pollutants from the water-hungry cotton industry further up the River. When the river is sick like this, its people, the Barkandji in this region, lack health too. Such is the intricate connection between people and land. Uncle Owen and leaders from other tribes in the region are on the verge of launching the first ever Indigenous Party in Australia to bring more awareness to this and other issues which are in strong need of more equality. When we visited early January they only needed another 20 people to sign up. If you’d like to learn more check out the Indigenous Party of Australia link.
Ian tells us how the Aboriginal fishtraps used to serve various purposes, including the slow down of the river so that the occasional flooding wouldn’t leave the river banks even more depleted, but would help the soil to hold water thus enabling affluent flora and fauna for longer. He’s trying to get every settlement along the Darling to stand up on Invasion Day, on January 26th, to raise the issue. Check Ian’s Facebook for more insightful videos, photos and interviews on what’s happening along the inland rivers… Our young friend Emilia sums it up, ‘Some people are happy ’cause they got what they want. Many are unhappy ’cause they didn’t get what they need.’
So far we’ve seen so many great, good, bad and ugly things along this deep journey both into the outback and inwards in ourselves which hours and hours of red desert driving bring. Flabbergasting sunsets, amazing adaptability in fascinating flora and fauna, interesting stories and curious insights, as well as alcohol even more engrained in daily living than in Australian cities, destroyed and close-to-dried our rivers even in this wet la nina year and ugly and expansive mines raping the Earth of all life.
We bumped into a few mine surveyors who for days on end flew up and down the desert planes in long lines searching for more gold for the greedy mining companies. In NSW such exploitation is easier, they told us, as its vastness keeps it away from people’s eyes and no one cares. Thus environmental reports are almost as easy to get ticked off, over and done with, as in Western Australia, whereas in Victoria mine companies are holding back. People care more, environmental reports need detail and authenticity and once all’s been taken regreening needs to take place. None of that here. That says a lot.