The Clarence River looks vastly different today than it did in 2018.
The Clarence River looks vastly different today than it did in 2018.

Film crew shocked by river find

"JUST stop for a second and look around, we are in a bad way."

That was the message Bianca Monaghan had for a water cart operator pumping water from a shallow creek outside of Baryulgil.

And it was also representative of her thoughts on the "big picture" debate around water use.

Just before Christmas the owner of Bundjalung Cultural Experiences, Ms Monaghan, was with a film crew when they made the startling discovery at Washpool Creek.

"We showed them what the river looks like at the moment and some of the devastation," she said.

"When we came to Washpool, there was a big water tanker siphoning water out. It was very surprising and upsetting given the state of our environment."

Ms Monaghan said the truck was well hidden and it was like the group "were meant to be there" as Desert Pea Media shot footage for a documentary on the state of the Clarence River.

"It reaffirmed these river systems are not being cared for properly," she said,

"We have nan talking about what the river used to be like and how heartbreaking it is and there is a truck in the background pumping out of it."

It was unknown if what occurred was illegal, but Ms Monaghan said it represented "mismanagement" of the river system generally and passed on the information to the local Aboriginal Land Council and Native Title holders.

"At the end of the day we are draining our river systems, when does it stop?" she said.

Baryulgil Aboriginal Land Council board member Robert Monaghan (Ms Monaghan's father) said the board would meet soon to discuss the issue.

"We will definitely investigate it and pass on any information to the Department of Primary Industries," Mr Monaghan said.

Water restrictions have only just now come into force but the state of the river upstream was not good, with fish die-offs as flow dried to a trickle. Ms Monaghan said it "doesn't really hit home" the river was so dry upstream when the wider community only saw the river flowing freely in town.

"We are in a really bad situation up here and the size of our river in town does not reflect what is really happening in the our river system at the moment," she said.

Desert Pea Media is an Aboriginal media organisation telling the stories from Aboriginal and Torres Straight communities around Australia. The documentary will premiere on February 6 at Baryulgil Community Centre.

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