Dis­ap­point­ing Day

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

Ma­jor Gen­eral Stephen Day re­ceived di­rect and hon­est sto­ries from Fin­ley High School stu­dents dur­ing his tour of the area last week.

The na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor Gen­eral for Drought, along with fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley, toured the lo­cal area early last week, which also in­cluded a visit to chan­nels along the Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

He spoke with about 20 stu­dents cov­er­ing dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics across the re­gion in­clud­ing stu­dents from agri­cul­tural back­grounds and oth­ers from small busi­nesses.

Two Year 11 stu­dents — Molly McGrath and Niamh Ma­son — both live on South­ern Rive­rina farms and spent a long pe­riod of time talk­ing to the two guests.

Molly said she told the Ma­jor-Gen­eral about the ef­fects zero wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion has had on her fam­ily.

‘‘The wa­ter is by­pass­ing us and is be­ing sent to the ocean. There has been environmental flushes to ecosys­tems that don’t need it.

‘‘An ex­am­ple of this was when they flooded the Barmah For­est.

‘‘He asked us what ef­fect the drought had on me per­son­ally. I told him that it hurts the com­mu­nity which hurts us and our well­be­ing.

‘‘If our par­ents are find­ing it re­ally hard then that makes it hard on us as well be­cause it’s never easy to see your par­ents like that.’’

Molly said she wasn’t happy with Ma­jor Gen­eral Day’s re­sponse to her ex­pe­ri­ences.

‘‘He kind of thought of us as if we didn’t know any­thing; (he was a) lit­tle bit pa­tro­n­is­ing. We know he can’t pro­vide so­lu­tions then and there.

‘‘We’re peo­ple who have to live with this ev­ery­day and I don’t know if he’s had any per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence (like ours).

‘‘It’s great he came to talk to us but I don’t know ex­actly what to make of it. Hope­fully more politi­cians can make their way to this area be­fore the elec­tion.

‘‘It’s not just peo­ple like Ma­jor Gen­eral Day but also peo­ple in the cities. I know peo­ple in the cities and they have no idea what’s go­ing on.’’

Niamh said she didn’t be­lieve the Co­or­di­na­tor-Gen­eral for Drought com­pletely un­der­stood the predica­ment faced by farm­ers.

‘‘When I asked him what is he go­ing to do with the wa­ter, he said ‘there’s a lot of things a soldier can do but I can’t make it rain.’

‘‘I said to him ‘we’re not in this po­si­tion be­cause of rain, we’re in this po­si­tion be­cause of poor man­age­ment’.’’

Both girls said they would say ‘‘the same thing’’ to other wa­ter pol­icy mak­ers and politi­cians.

‘‘Those types of peo­ple need to know what it’s ac­tu­ally like,’’ Molly said.

‘‘There are some peo­ple out there who need wa­ter trucked into the farm. If there is no wa­ter here then Fin­ley doesn’t ex­ist.

‘‘We won’t be able to go to school or shop in the main street.’’

Fin­ley High School prin­ci­pal Jeff Ward said the mes­sage sent by his stu­dents was they want to be heard.

‘‘I told him that I worry about these kids. I worry if they can’t get to an ex­cur­sion or if their well­be­ing is af­fected and what the im­pact is on their learning.

‘‘All of these things that cost money are putting stress on their fam­i­lies,’’ Mr Ward.

The Ber­ri­gan Shire wasn’t listed among coun­cils in the Far­rer elec­torate to re­ceive much needed drought fund­ing, whereas it was re­ceived by sur­round­ing coun­cils in­clud­ing Ed­ward River and Mur­rumbidgee.

Al­though the shire hasn’t pub­licly de­nounced the move some sources have ex­pressed anger to the SOUTH­ERN RIVE­RINA NEWS the Ber­ri­gan Shire is be­ing for­got­ten about by higher lev­els of gov­ern­ment.

Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley said it’s a top pri­or­ity for her to help se­cure drought fund­ing for the Ber­ri­gan Shire.

‘‘My agenda for last week was to re­ally push home the mes­sage that the Ber­ri­gan Shire and a cou­ple of other shires fur­ther west (Hay and Bal­ranald) need the same level of fund­ing as the Ed­ward River Coun­cil.

‘‘It’s on top of my wish list with Stephen Day, and I’m not say­ing he can de­liver it but I’m em­pha­sis­ing how im­por­tant it is.

‘‘The other thing I want to push in drought pol­icy is mak­ing small busi­nesses able to ac­cess farm house­hold sup­port so that’s why I wanted him to speak with small busi­ness own­ers, who he spoke with in De­niliquin and Grif­fith.’’

Ms Ley said she se­lected Fin­ley High School as place for Ma­jor Gen­eral Day to visit due to the hon­esty of the stu­dents.

‘‘I can re­mem­ber bring­ing John Howard (for­mer Prime Min­is­ter) dur­ing the drought to Fin­ley and this time we have the PM’s eyes and ears on the ground.

‘‘I wanted him to speak di­rectly to the stu­dents to hear the un­var­nished truth from them about how hard it is, when they know their fam­i­lies are do­ing it tough; they have their stud­ies and are wor­ried about their fu­ture and par­ents.

‘‘We both spoke to stu­dents and there are some great am­bas­sadors for the re­gion at Fin­ley High School.

‘‘They talked very frankly and had some per­sonal con­ver­sa­tions, which can be quite heart break­ing to hear,’’ Ms Ley said.

(From left) Fin­ley High School prin­ci­pal Jeff Ward, stu­dent Ben Ash­ley-Cooper and Ma­jor Gen­eral Stephen Day. In the back­ground Hay­ley Doohan speaks with Sus­san Ley.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.