The country landscape is what first drew Marion Matthews and her family to Horsham 25 years ago, but she quickly fell in love with the Wimmera River.
Marion, Development Officer for Regional Arts Victoria in Horsham, works in partnership with local councils to promote art and cultural events across the region.
Marion made the cross-state move from Gippsland to a place she still happily describes as a “really striking landscape, with the brightness of the blue sky and a river that plays an important part within the community.”
“I am very fortunate because I live along the river and I get to see it everyday, but the river has looked better. I enjoy walking on the southern side; the beautiful billabong areas there are gorgeous.” Marion’s husband instigated a wetland improvement program along the river along with other environmental works, further cementing their affection and connection with the Wimmera River.
The couple has two children and is concerned future generations may miss out on seeing the mighty Wimmera River at its peak.
“Will we ever see it flood again? Nearly two generations of kids have not seen the river flood – we have altered it so much and taken so much.”
Today the Wimmera is just a trickle of what it once was, with very low water levels and water quality that many don’t consider healthy enough to swim in.
”In the past the river was the centre of so many recreational and social activities where you could walk, bike or swim when there was water, and fish,” Marion said. Marion said the Wimmera River was special because – unlike most rivers in Australia – it does not flow into the ocean.
“In such a dry arid place, the river is very important to us all in the community.”
Marion remembers the good old days when the river was healthy, with enough water to swim and play in.
“On a hot summer night of say 40-42 degrees, you would talk to swimmers across from you, it was really social – it was just one of the lovely things about where we lived.”
“But you see the river now – how empty it is, it has a real insidious doom and gloom about it. It is really a shame, as it has such a huge impact on everyone in the community. If the river is doing well – the towns are doing well.” Despite the setbacks, Marion believes local residents are still hopeful of seeing the river return to its glory days.
Marion says the Horsham community had done exceptionally well in minimising water use, but the wider Victorian community needed to take the water-saving issue more seriously.
“I think it is very important we talk about water issues seriously, we (Horsham) have three per cent of water in our reservoirs whereas Melbourne has 46 per cent.”
Story by Adam Olive, December 2006