In November, Tess Lea and Christen Cornell visited the Northwest towns of Dubbo and Walgett to conduct fieldwork for the ‘Climate change, housing and health’ research project (funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage). Meeting with community services providers, Aboriginal elders and medical workers, tenancy advocates, and staff at Local Land Councils, they heard a range of urgent and passionately concerns about land care, housing and health in the region, and in particular, problems of water quality and quantity.
These images show the devastating state of the Barwon and Namoi Rivers, after which the ‘Twin Rivers’ town of Walgett is named. For the Dharriwaa Elders and the communities they lead, the sickness of the river translates directly into a sickness of body and soul. For small-scale farmers, the drier the river the further families are drowning in debt.
A clear value of this project thus far has been identification of the lack of policy frameworks and discussions regarding how these issues of housing, health and climate change are intimately connected. Rather than simply prescribing what policy should do, therefore, our report will rather be emphasising the need for policy to recognise these issues’ interconnectedness, so that the coordination that will be increasingly required (between agencies, organisations, communities) can begin.
With this in mind, we are planning a return visit to Walgett in February, both to report on our research findings to the Dharriwaa Elders Group and Aboriginal Medical Service, and to continue the process of coalition building with these and other concerned organisations and individuals in the region.