Women for a Living Basin

Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (09:42): A group of determined women from my Riverina electorate have banded together and will descend upon Canberra this month to champion their fight for a sensible outcome in the water debate. It is now more than halfway through the consultation period for the Murray-Darling Basin draft.

People in regional communities are desperately worried about whether they have a future, and whether the government even cares. Helen Dalton from Binya is organising a group called Women for a Living Basin, the members of which are all passionate that a triple-bottom-line approach is adopted in any decisions made about the Murray-Darling system and the people whose lives depend upon it. Women for a Living Basin will be in Parliament House on Wednesday, 29 February, and meetings have been arranged with people who can make a real difference to the water issue.
I am pleased that the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has agreed to see the group. I hope he listens to and takes on board what they will tell him. He was in Griffith, as was the Opposition Leader, for the community rally on 15 December last year when 12,000 proud locals turned out to air their deep, warranted and united concerns about the latest draft. It was people power at its best, and I was so proud that so many attended in support of their communities, their livelihoods and their children's futures.
Women for a Living Basin also includes Brigitte Bode from Merungle Hill; Debbie Buller from Griffith, who is
also the president of the Murrumbidgee Valley Food and Fibre Association Inc.; Shona Hando from Coleambally and Virginia Tropeano from Hanwood, as well as many others. These are all committed, driven and vocal women who want common sense and fairness to prevail and who want to see their fantastic region able to continue to grow the food to feed this nation and other nations.
Coleambally irrigator Mrs Hando told her local newspaper, the Observer:
Rural women want to know if there is a future for their families in communities like Coleambally that were
established specifically for the purpose of irrigation.
… … …
To maintain these facilities, community population needs to be maintained. Less water in the CIA—
the Coleambally Irrigation Area— would mean less jobs and less people. Critical mass would be lost.
The delegation was originally formed as the women were aware there were others with similar thoughts who had ideas about the Murray-Darling Basin and who wanted to make these thoughts known.
The Leader of the Nationals, the shadow minister for regional development, local government and water and the shadow minister for agriculture and food security will also meet the delegation. The offer is open to all members of parliament and senators to meet with and, more importantly, listen to the Women for a Living Basin and hear their concerns. Invitations have been sent. These women feel that it is now or never and that they need to be in there fighting before decisions are made which will permanently affect their communities.

Cristy Houghton