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Share this event. FilmMedia Performance. FilmMedia Class. FilmMedia Screening. Fri, 13 Sep PM Summer of '89! Save This Event Log in or sign up for Eventbrite to save events you're interested in. Sign Up. When we visited, those towns were without reliable, safe drinking water but had a keen register of their limited social capital, political voice or economic power to affect change.

In the far west of NSW, Aboriginal people have engaged with the settler political-economy for a period of years and not been eliminated. Still, the impact of colonisation cannot be measured as a moment, but rather as an enduring process. As we came to understand from Barkandji people, the crisis on the Barwon-Darling represents the biggest threat to their continued survival on country since the sheep invaded. It calls for a new order of government, with alternative economies and a central role for the Barkandji world view. Stories of settler violence struck fear in areas yet to feel the full brunt of it.

By the s, Wilcannia was the third largest river port in NSW; many grand sandstone buildings from this era still stand in the town. After the s drought and recession, struggling stations were portioned off. Later, the allocation of smaller soldier settlement grants, mostly family farmed, meant a shrinking demand for Aboriginal labour. From the s, Barkandji settled in more permanent camps and humpies, which stretched from Wilcannia for kilometres along the eastern and lower, flood prone side of the Darling, and to supervised government missions at Menindee.

But from the s, for-profit sheep farming collapsed in the region, and Wilcannia in particular. This was caused in part by land degradation, the advent of equal wages, mechanisation and a decline in state-funded enterprises. Along with the emergence of the Department of Commonwealth Aboriginal Affairs, these factors ushered in a welfare-based economy. From the s, white people literally shifted to greener pastures.

In the last 18 months, Barkandji people have held three rallies during which they briefly blocked the Barrier Highway, which passes from the east through Wilcannia to Adelaide. But their campaign and concern for the river goes back decades if not since In recent months they have grown increasingly despairing as they watch the water levels get lower and lower. The mass fish kills downstream at Menindee Lakes in late January brought the horror to a national audience.

Television images of cod fish cradled as if slain children in the arms of grieving farmers reverberated with a concerned public.

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But for Barkandji people, this underscored their powerlessness in the debate over their river. Well before the fish kill in Menindee. Well before that we tried to get people to listen…. Wilcannia has a population of around They say upstream big irrigators are storing water on feeder rivers and over extracting. Low rainfall and record temperatures A few years back we had two years in a row where we had high rivers.

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Every day of the week there were people fishing on the river… Everyone was happy. Kangaroos, emus, the people. Cattermole says local parrots and kingfishers are gone now. For me growing up, it always had … flowing water in it; you could always come down to the river and catch a feed of fish or yabbies or duck eggs. It was so easy to find duck eggs.

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He bows his head in grief as he recites, yet again, the conditions on the river. We stand in the dry river bed, pushing the coarse sand around with our feet. It is baking hot. We stand close, listening intently to each other.

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He gestures to the desolate chasm,. They drank the water from out of this river, they lived off this river, this river fed us. It gave us water, it gave us life. Kennedy regularly returns in our conversation to his memories of the river as a child. He laments the inability to do this with his own son. There will be no stories for the kids. There will be nothing for them. The future for anyone living in Wilcannia today is uncertain. It breaks our heart. We feel happy, we feel good, we feel healthy.

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There are very few prospects of the Barwon-Darling river recovering any time soon. The collapse of the river system now almost certainly ends farming along the mid Darling and any remaining jobs. Surviving industries, cotton mostly, are largely mechanised and draw heavily on upstream water thereby exacerbating the mid-Darling water crisis. Properties held by the Wilcannia land council, including Weinteriga sheep station, were purchased in the late s.

With Darling River frontage it had been celebrated as offering employment and training opportunities and profitable enterprise, not unlike the old pastoral station days. With no water in the river, the property has been emptied of sheep and the sole caretaker runs a feral goat enterprise. Tough and hardy, the goats will eat anything — and everything — and need little water. But their voracious and indiscriminate appetite carries environmental risks.

And you just sit there with them and watch them pass on. At the headwaters of the Barwon-Darling down to Wilcannia, the towns that sit along the river are majority Aboriginal populations: Mungindi, Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia.