Historic Day of Action – When The River Runs Dry

16 January, 2020

5 March 2019

Historic Day of Action - When The River Runs Dry

It was an historic day for the Land Rights movement on Sunday as NSWALC led a series of community gatherings across the state to bring awareness to the water crisis in the Murray Darling Barwon catchment.

It was culmination of a concerted campaign following extensive discussions and site visits with residents in affected areas.

You can see a collection of photos and video from the day of action on the NSWALC Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nswalc/notifications/

The When The River Runs Dry campaign was rolled out in six river townships where residents are enduring the water crisis.


Mourners carried a coffin to the dry bed of the Barwon at Walgett, signifying the imminent death of the river.

At a symbolic funeral ceremony for the river system, NSWALC Chairman Roy Ah-See stood on the dry creek bed to deliver a eulogy for the river.

"I've been talking to the Elders here at Walgett and they say it's the first time in living memory that the river has run dry," Cr. Ah-See said.

"The Walgett community have looked after their rivers for 60,000, but it's taken less than 200 years to destroy them."

Cr. Ah-See also reiterated the call made at the rally for urgent action.

"They are demanding a Royal Commission as the only effective means to get to the bottom of the water crisis and provide solutions," Cr. Ah-See said.


The day kicked off earlier at Dubbo in unseasonably warm conditions with a morning march down Macquarie Street and a gathering in Victoria Park. 

Dubbo LALC Chairperson Paul Carr said the mismanagement of NSW rivers had reached crisis point.

"What happened at Menindee is very sad, but it's also very bad here in Dubbo," Mr Carr said.

"Our people can't fish in the Burrendong Dam because of the low levels and poor water quality."

"Governments need to consult with Aboriginal people and use our knowledge to help manage our water catchments if solutions are to be found."


The rally at Menindee, attended by over 300 people, commenced with a heart-warming Welcome To Country given by Aunty Evelyn Bates. Community Elder Aunty Beryl Carmichael also spoke.

Cindy Bates, Chairperson of Menindee LALC, said the large crowd in attendance was a strong indication of the importance of the issue across the region.

"We've had people attend not just from Menindee but surrounding towns, that's how much this means to these communities. I just hope the Government listens to us," Ms Bates said.

"The river is in our heart and the cry-out for the Darling has got to be understood."

"I'd just like to thank all local land councils for supporting us and Chairman Roy Ah-See in particular for coming to our Land Council to see what it was like and really get the word out."


The gathering at Wilcannia marched across the bridge and united as one over the near-parched river bed to make their voices heard.

"We gathered so that the government can hear what we are crying out for - that when the drought breaks it should be the river that gets the water first and is taken care of properly," Wilcannia LALC Chairperson Michael Kennedy said.


Close to 100 people rallied at the junction of the Murray and Darling Rivers to deliver a message about the importance of working together to find solutions to the severe water crisis.

"The Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities joined forces for an important cause. They stood together to let government know that enough is enough and the way in which water is managed must change," Dareton LALC CEO Pam Handy said.


The Day of Action concluded at Bourke with a late-afternoon gathering at Central Park.

Nulla Nulla LALC CEO George Orcher was pleased with the turnout.

"It was satisfying to see a good crowd of over 70 people representing a cross-section of the Bourke community," Mr Orcher said.

"It's the worst I've seen the river in 40 years. It's bottled water time in town, but it was heartening today to hear solutions being suggested about how to fix the problems."

"When The River Runs Dry has built momentum and government must work with the land council network to drive the process forward."


We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the lands where we work as well as across the lands we travel through. We also acknowledge our Elders past, present and emerging.

Artwork Credit: Craig Cromelin, from a painting he did titled, "4 favourite fishing holes". It is a snippet of his growing years on the Lachlan River, featuring yabby, turtle, fish and family.