“That out there is Richardson’s Lagoon and it’s now dependent on environmental flows. During the drought it was dry – there was no water in it. It was awful, and to watch all the brolgas and sea eagles and other birds struggling and nowhere for the turtles to nest was awful.
I moved here about 30 years ago to build the Emmy Lou paddle steamer with my husband in Barham. She was launched in 1980/81 and operated through here. It was the first paddle steamer to be built for 70 years, but then my husband and I separated.”
When I first came here I didn’t like it at all. It was a bit of a drain, having seen big rivers overseas, and it was so flat. But it grows on you and I couldn’t think of being anywhere else now. It’s the lifeblood and without the river all these towns wouldn’t be here. I can’t see why there would be trade. If Echuca was just a flat paddock why would you go there, or any of the [Murray] towns?
I believe that environmental flow is important and that we need to be looking after the planet. We need make sure the flora and fauna have some sense of longevity.
The whole national parks thing I think is great. We have to think bigger than just Australia. It’s a global community now and all the water is just we’ve got on the planet. We keep thinking we’re the lucky country but it might be a little unfortunate that we think that she’ll be right, mate. But it won’t be right unless we actively participate in managing it and you’ve got to start that in your own backyard.
Because of the massive amounts of floods and water that was in Australia we just had magpie geese here. In 1975 magpie geese were classified as extinct in Victoria and we just had the first little family [of them] come down from wherever. They had six babies but only one survived because duck shooting started. And the frogs – you couldn’t even hear yourself talk. And then it all started – the birds started eating the frogs and it kept going on. It was just fantastic when we got the first bit of water back. And then the floods, it was beautiful, really. And we’ve got about 13 of the remaining 80 sandalwood trees remaining in Victoria.
We brought English and European farming practices out to Australia but given the right support we could actually change our farming practices to support the environment but that’s a slow process as well because we’ve got families ingrained in ‘This is how we used to do it and this is how we’ve been trained and this is how we’ll continue to do it’. Hopefully new generations of farmers will start to recognise that we can change.”
By Ian Kenins, Environment Victoria, February 2012