I’m using a few hundred words here to talk about the Murray River—a creature whose entire essence cannot be done justice in any number of words, written or spoken.
I recently stood on the banks of the Murray for the first time in my life—and I am not ashamed to say it made me cry. I grew up in Queensland, where we are lucky enough to house the headwaters of the Murray’s equally majestic sister, the Darling.
But rivers are different up there. I’ve had quiet moments with some of the Darling’s northern tributaries, like the Warrego and the Condamine, and they are most definitely beautiful. But their beauty has a naïve innocence. Those first few kilometres of youthful water are oblivious to the gravity of their future, like a captivated child playing adult games—all glorious costumes and empty words.
Further south, things change. The Murray is not just a waterway, she’s alive. The sight of her doesn’t just grab your heart, it speaks to your soul, you feel her whispering in every moment.
The lower reaches of the Murray-Darling system echo with the trials of adulthood—down here she’s an enchanting lady of the land, her face lined with the honours of tragedy and heartache and her eyes smouldering with the defiance of a setting sun. Standing beside her at this stage of her life, after kilometres of neglect and abuse, she still manages to take your breath away and inspire you to achieve greatness.
Multiple jurisdictions and too many stakeholders, an epidemic of blame-shifters and a lack of respect and understanding for the true reach of a river system have forced this lady into retreat. Downstream from Wentworth, where all the tributaries finally meet, you feel her hesitation as she faces a dishonourable demise on the sandbars of Lake Alexandrina.
© Manu Saunders 2010