Water is life
PUBLIC servant, Darlene Rumler has lived in Ballarat for 20 years, but as a proud Ngiyampaa Barkindji woman originally from New South Wales, has been touched deeply by the Darling River crisis.
She thought she was up to date with news of the river’s supply, but after hearing from her aunties up north in Wilcannia, Menindee and Broken Hill, she got a new perspective.
Mrs Rumler discovered that they were in desperate need of water for everyday use and knew she had to do something about it.
“That’s my people, that’s my mob,” she said, and decided to give back, rallying around on social media to gather donations of bottled water from Ballarat people and businesses to take up north.
She was met, however, with more questions than donations – ‘where is the Darling River?’ was a common one, and people were unsure where their water would go.
But regardless of the initial hesitance, she was still able to collect 2000 litres locally before heading to Menindee last week and picked up another 1200 on the way through Mildura.
This was done, Mrs Rumler said, on “100 per cent generic people power and social media.”
With her husband Matthew, they completed the successful run last week, driving two cars and two large tandem trailers and delivering the water to Menindee’s community of 500 people with help from elders.
Mrs Rumler said it’s like visiting a third world country. The area swelters in 40-degree heat, bore water is sometimes accessible but it’s filthy, and children are getting sores.
Water tanks being rationed will barely last a month and there is too little infrastructure to bring in tankers with water.
Many communities up there, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, normally enjoy traditional lifestyles where they eat off the land, but the wildlife isn’t tolerating the conditions either.
It’s a bizarre scenario where “fish are getting news, but the people aren’t.
“It’s heartbreaking. It brought tears to my eyes,” Mrs Rumler said. “It was their third week of dire straits.
“We had community members meet us in Menindee and personally took us to people’s homes. There was one elderly lady that guided us in in tears.
“It was like watching a little child’s face light up for Christmas and seeing Santa coming,” Mrs Rumler said. “She squeezed me that hard.
“We went on our merry way… we were four blocks down and she tracked us down to thank us again.
“Those people that are elderly and sick, they need it more than ever… and I met the youngest resident, young River, who was a week and a half old. So we need to look after the nursing mothers as well.”
Ballarat people will remember the sadness the city felt when Lake Wendouree dried up a decade ago.
Mrs Rumler asks people to consider how they would have coped if it was their only source of water for drinking, bathing and daily chores.
“It makes you appreciate,” she said. “It’s our basic human right for water. Water’s life.”
Ballarat City Caravans are a strong supporter of the Rumlers’ initiative with a huge section of their clientele passionate about fishing. They are currently accepting donations of bottled water from the public at their store in Sebastopol.
Mrs Rumler will head up to Wilcannia on 2 March to do it all over again and hopes to gather more support across Ballarat from residents and businesses, and therefore, much more water.
Those willing to donate water are recommended to head to the supermarket and grab 10 litre tubs, or slabs of 600ml drink bottles.
In South Australia and NSW, smaller drink bottles can also be traded in for 10 cents cash back.
More donation points have been set up across the two states in Geelong, Avoca, Mildura, Sydney and Broken Hill.