After featuring as the inaugural young Australian advocate interviewee, Kate McBride explains where her passion for the Murray-Darling Basin comes from in an exclusive blog piece. G’day Everyone,
My name is Kate McBride, I’m 19 years old and I’m a Jillaroo at my family’s sheep, cattle and goat property in western NSW. Tolarno is a 670,000 acre property located along the darling river and is where I was born and brought up. I’m third generation to run Tolarno but my family has actually been farming in South Australia for 162 years but it’s the red earth of the western region that flows through my veins. At the same time as that I’m also a uni student down in Adelaide, western region local land services board member and also a healthy river ambassador for the Murray- Darling Basin with particular interest to the lower Darling and Menindee Lakes.
With all the work I do I have a pretty full on and interesting life. It's hard to give you an
average day because every day of my life is completely different which keeps my life pretty interesting. I am constantly on the move when I’m not studying or working at the station and in the past month alone have done around 15,000kms travelling around the country, learning about different places and soaking up every experience I can.
I grew up at the station but did all my schooling in Adelaide which I’m really thankful for
because its given me a great base to start all the work I’m doing. I’m a really passionate and motivated person (most of the time) and because of this, and a love for the river, I’ve become really involved with the plight of the Darling River and the mismanagement that has caused it.
If you hadn’t heard already, during 2015 the lower Darling spent over 8 months completely and utterly dry. I rode a motorbike down the base of it for kilometers. I saw dozens of dead and dying animals, from Murray cod to native animals which was absolutely heartbreaking. Not only were we unable to supply much needed water to our stock as well but the water we wash in and rely on on a daily basis was all of a sudden gone. Our taps were literally turned off and when we asked the government about it we were told it was due to drought. Now this puzzled us a bit, not only because NSW were having a season with above average rainfall, but also because my family has lived through decade long droughts in the past and the river had never been completely dry for this long.
I realised at that point something was going on that wasn’t right. We could sit down and hope for the best or we could stand up and fight for change, not only for ourselves, but for the people who don’t have the opportunity to speak out. I’ve never been one to run away from a fight and Tolarno is my absolute heart and soul so it really was no choice. My father and I began creating short videos on social media which really started creating a conversation and got us some media attention from radio and newspapers. This was then followed by the ABC's Four Corners program airing a report named ‘Pumped’ (which if you haven’t seen I’d highly recommend having a watch ) which got the issue national attention.
This journey also lead me to joining the ‘River Fellows’ program. The group consisted of about 20 people from different areas around the Murray-Darling Basin, including four states and very different backgrounds from environmentalist to scientists to fishermen, all with the same goal; to protect our rivers. I took place in a few retreats and we decided as a group to start a petition to get the ‘Murray Darling Basin Plan’ implemented on time and in full. (I wont go into the plan because its hugely complex but essentially it is an agreement between all the states on how much water everyone can take, with water also being set aside for environmental and cultural purposes).
Thankfully, after eight of the longest months of my life, water returned to the parched river and the ecosystem we all rely on began to recover. My family and I definitely helped with this happening but we worked with numerous people and it was truly a great team effort from all the communities along the river. However, our river is set to be dry again by December 2018, so the fight against water theft upstream and mismanagement of the entire system continues.
The water journey I’ve had over the past year or two has been incredibly empowering. I’ve
grown so much as an individual and and I’ve learnt so much by getting more and more involved in my community with both the farming and the indigenous communities as well. The traditional owners of my area are called the Barkindji people, and their name literally translates to ‘belonging to the river’. They’ve taught me that the river and water doesn’t belong to us, it provides for us, but for too long we’ve been taking that for granted. Personally, I’ve still got a long way to go but I hope with this basin plan being implemented we can have a healthy basin system for many years to come. I just pray its not too late for the lower Darling.
If you haven’t heard about what’s been going on with one of our nations great rivers, then I’d highly recommend having a little look into it because it honestly effects us all. Whether you live on the Murray, the Darling or any of the other rivers in the Basin you’ve got to think of the system as a living breathing organism, if one dies, the rest can never be completely healthy. Applications for the 2018 river fellows are now open so if you want to make a difference this year and care about our Murray Darling Basin chuck me a message and I’ll let you know how to get involved. Now that’s enough from me, hopefully I haven’t bored you too much, but if you have any questions or want to keep up to date or get involved with what I’m doing here’s are some options to contact me;
Facebook page- Tolarno Station
Hope you all have a brilliant 2018 and please keep up to date with what’s going on with our incredible rivers that we are so privileged to have.