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A Wet Darling River

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Delighted residents welcome return of Darling River after three dry years

After a three-year wait, the community of Wilcannia in far-western New South Wales is celebrating substantial Darling (Baaka) River flows.

Locals had lobbied authorities to prioritise culture and the environment over agriculture as the river struggled through drought and claims of over extraction.

Now, thanks to flooding rain in northern NSW and Queensland and soaking rain locally, the dry riverbed is full again.

The town is the heartland of the Barkindji people whose culture revolves around the river, traditionally known as the Baaka.

Barkindji elder Cyril Hunter said a full river would transform the local community.

“It’s been a long wait,” he said.

“We’ll be camping on the river, people will be taking their kids and going fishing.

“It means a lot, it’s like bloody treasure coming down for us.”

Such was the excitement among local children that teachers brought them to see the water arrive on their lunch break on Friday.

Teacher Sarah Donnelly said the positive impact of water in the river on students was undeniable.

“You can feel the energy and the positivity around town; you can feel it at the school,” she said.

“We’re doing a lot more learning on country at school and we’re so excited that we can be doing more of our lessons, in all of our key learning areas, down by the river more.”

Many residents have relied on drinking water donations for almost a year, preferring to avoid drinking often-unpalatable bore water that was switched on after the river dried up.

The local council expects current flows could mean the town supply is secure for at least 12 months.

Long before millions of fish died in the river downstream at Menindee, the community held regular rallies at the town demanding state and federal governments prioritise water for cultural and environmental purposes.

Mr Hunter said while the flows were welcome, the Barkindji people would continue to demand the government change how it prioritises water needs in the Murray-Darling system.

“They’re selling us out. This is our bloodline running through here today,” he said.own; you can feel it at the school,” she said.

“We’re doing a lot more learning on country at school and we’re so excited that we can be doing more of our lessons, in all of our key learning areas, down by the river more.”

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