Adrian Brown grew up along the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in the upper reaches of the Murray Darling system, fishing and swimming in places his Ngunnawal ancestors had known for thousands of years. Here, Adrian reflects upon how the river has traditionally served to connect different mobs of people across the country.
When David Connor launched his brand new Murray River paddle steamer in 1913, he chose to name the boat after the newly proclaimed national capital. A century later, the PS Canberra now operates as a tourist craft out of the Port of Echuca. Here, River Captain Peter Garfield suggests that the story of Connor and his boat is still an instructive one today.
Filmmaker Malcolm McKinnon spent the best days of his childhood swimming in water channelled from the River Murray to his grandfather's fruit block at Red Cliffs in the Victorian Sunraysia. In telling this family story, he laments the disappearance of a fondly remembered place and lifestyle.
In the latter part of his life, farmer Jack McLean took photographs of significant river redgum trees around the Angas River, close to Lake Alexandrina and the mouth of the Murray River. Here, Jack's son Trevor stands amongst some of the same redgums and contemplates the value and meaning of the trees and the photographs.
At Ngaut Ngaut, just downstream from Swan Reach in South Australia, carvings in the soft, red cliff face signify an important camp and ceremonial ground for the Nganguraku Aboriginal people. Carvings at Ngaut Ngaut provide graphic evidence of a time when the Murray River was unregulated by locks and barrages. Here, Anita Hunter and Ivy Campbell reflect on the meaning of this place for all Australians. In doing so, they evoke the spirit of one their ancestors, Tenbury, a figure celebrated in the Murray River exploration journal of Charles Sturt.
Kerry and Nick Lowing grow rice at "Burrindi", their farm on the Niemur River near Moulamein in the NSW Riverina. Irrigated with water drawn from the channel system and from the river itself, rice grows in clay soil, laser-levelled bays designed to maximise watering efficiency. Here, Kerry Lowing advocates the value of high-yield food production and explains the realities of farming in an environment where available water is never a guaranteed commodity.
In south-west Queensland, members of the Surat Fishing & Restocking Club are returning native fish to the Balonne River. At the same time, the Queensland Murray Darling Committee is running programs to fight the ever-present pest of European Carp, a great scourge of the river system and of native fish in particular. These are epic undertakings, requiring ongoing cooperative endeavour.
Jeff Campbell has lived at Currawarra, a pastoral property on the Maranoa River in western Queensland, all of his life. Like his father Colin before him, he can recount all the years when big floods have come down the river, isolating Currawarra sometimes for months at a time. Here, Jeff and Colin describe the behaviour of the Maranoa and reflect on the value of floods in their part of the Murray Darling Basin.
The rivers of the Murray Darling Basin have always offered material and spiritual sustenance to people who have dwelled beside their banks. Rivers have supported people in hard times, when a lack of material wealth hasn't limited ability to catch a fish or swim on a hot day or simply to commune with nature. Ray and Sandy Alchin are "river people" in an old-fashioned sense, spending much of their lives beside the Murrumbidgee River and, more recently, beside the Barwon River at Collarenebri in western NSW.