Pas­sion for Chan­nel Coun­try

Central and North Rural Weekly - - NEWS -

LEONIE Nunn is Deputy Mayor of Lon­greach as well as a gra­zier. As part of the Our Liv­ing Out­back pro­ject she has sub­mit­ted a col­umn.

For Leonie Nunn, a life­time spent liv­ing near the rivers and flood­plains of Queens­land’s Chan­nel Coun­try has grown into a deeply-felt pas­sion for the wa­ter­ways which have sus­tained lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties for gen­er­a­tions.

Leonie tells her story.

I’M a gra­zier from west­ern Queens­land and my hus­band and I have lived at Sun­ny­side, a 32,000 hectare prop­erty south­west of Lon­greach, for 35 years.

We live in an in­cred­i­ble part of the world. In this area – and fur­ther west – are three of the last healthy desert rivers in the world. The water from nat­u­ral floods from the trop­i­cal north comes down the three big Chan­nel Coun­try rivers – the Ge­orgina, Dia­mantina and the Cooper Creek – and spreads out over mil­lions of acres of west­ern Queens­land, cre­at­ing nat­u­rally ir­ri­gated pas­tures. These rivers and flood­plains are the pow­er­house of Queens­land’s beef pro­duc­tion and the lifeblood of our com­mu­ni­ties. Our sea­sons are de­fined by the ebbs and flows, and our agri­cul­tural life­style is com­pletely re­liant on it.

Some of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries are of the flooded Cooper Creek, of­ten claimed to be the most vari­able river in the world. From a se­ries of dis­con­nected water­holes, it can swell to a huge in­land river that swal­lows the land­scape be­neath it.

I grew up at the bot­tom of the Birdsville track at a place called Mar­ree and one of my ear­li­est mem­o­ries is cross­ing the flooded Cooper in a punt. In flood, it’s truly a sight to be­hold.

I’m a teacher by pro­fes­sion but now I serve as the Deputy Mayor of the Lon­greach Coun­cil, which al­lows me to share my love of this area widely – a re­spon­si­bil­ity I take very se­ri­ously.

The down­side of what I do is that I’m also reg­u­larly con­fronted by the many chal­lenges we have to over­come liv­ing in an Out­back Queens­land com­mu­nity.

Peo­ple leav­ing the land is an is­sue faced across ru­ral Aus­tralia and it’s no dif­fer­ent here.

I’ve seen many peo­ple leave the land and it con­cerns me. I worry about the fu­ture health and sus­tain­abil­ity of our com­mu­ni­ties. Peo­ple leave be­cause they crave a life­style change, or they need to be closer to health ser­vices, or their prop­er­ties are be­com­ing less vi­able or too tough to man­age, or their chil­dren just aren’t in­ter­ested in com­ing back here any more.

I’ve raised four sons at Sun­ny­side – they’d all be on the prop­erty if our place was big enough!

I know that we’re in a drought and have been for six or seven years but we’re not on our knees. We still have hopes and as­pi­ra­tions. There’s still a liv­ing to be made, along with plenty of mem­o­ries and an in­cred­i­ble com­mu­nity of peo­ple un­like any you find in the city.

I’d like to see more young peo­ple come back. I’d like to see a fu­ture for them and for all of us here.

What re­ally sets this place apart is the sense of com­mu­nity. We don’t see one an­other a lot – but when things hap­pen, peo­ple pull to­gether just as they al­ways have done.

This isn’t al­ways an easy life, but it’s a great one.

I’m con­cerned about the risk of in­dus­tries like un­con­ven­tional gas min­ing in our rivers and flood­plains and what this would mean for our pas­toral, cul­tural, tourism and eco­log­i­cal val­ues, not to men­tion the health of our com­mu­nity. I’m a big be­liever in the need for re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, new in­come streams and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for our com­mu­nity and those of the Out­back.

But we must be very care­ful that these do not come at the ex­pense of ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries and the unique nat­u­ral and cul­tural val­ues of our area. The flood­plains and rivers are the heart of our com­mu­ni­ties and our pas­toral and tourism in­dus­tries. They’re our biggest as­set and we must pro­tect them from de­struc­tion and pol­lu­tion.

We need to build and sup­port in­dus­tries that work with our land, not against it. We need to build a fu­ture for the Chan­nel Coun­try that sus­tains the land­scape and al­lows our agri­cul­tural and tourism sec­tors to thrive.

We need to sup­port the peo­ple who want to live in our com­mu­ni­ties and build rea­sons for our chil­dren to stay and raise their own chil­dren, well into the fu­ture.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

OUT­BACK CHAM­PION: Leonie Nunn is a Lon­greach gra­zier.I be­lieve the best way to keep peo­ple on the land is sup­port­ing our strong agri­cul­tural sec­tor and build­ing new in­dus­tries that are not cli­mate de­pen­dent and sus­tain the health of our rivers and land­scape. Tourism is a bur­geon­ing in­dus­try and the re­gion has so much to of­fer.

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