4 March 2019

Statement re When The River Runs Dry Day of Action from NSWALC Chairman Roy Ah-See

The When The River Runs Dry campaign was a true reflection of what is possible through strong leadership and people power.

The New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council in partnership with our Local Aboriginal Land Councils at Bourke, Dareton, Dubbo, Menindee, Walgett and Wilcannia, took a lead in organising community gatherings in six townships along the Murray Darling and Barwon rivers because we listened to the cries for help from our members and residents and witnessed the hardship they are enduring first-hand. Together we took a stand and galvanised communities at a time when all levels of government are doing nothing to address the problems these people are forced to deal with every single day.

Together we did this on behalf of communities. This isn't just an Aboriginal issue. This is a human rights issue for all. Water doesn't discriminate and after seeing what this putrid supply has done to the fish population in places like Menindee and Wilcannia, it raised the question, how long before we see human casualties due to the poor quality of water on offer.

Something needed to be done and together we have taken the first step to not only show support and solidarity for our communities, but to bring awareness to the issue and hold government at all levels to account.

The When The River Dry day of action is just the start. Together we have planted the seed, prompted conversation and demonstrated how seriously these communities are taking this water crisis. Now it's up to government to play their part to bring about change through swift and effective solutions.

Communities across New South Wales are without water. This is a disgrace and is unacceptable. It's time for a Federal Royal Commission to provide answers. We need to put a stop to water trading and we need a state level inquiry. It's time the Aboriginal community were given a seat at the table when it comes to the management of the Murray Darling catchment. Our people managed these waterways for 60,000 years. Since then, the deterioration and destruction has been rapid.

Communities have spoken. They have stood tall and asked for change. Now, in return, we ask all levels of government to listen because we have the solutions these residents so rightfully deserve.