SOMETHING has gone horribly wrong along the Barka.
Fish have been dying in masses in the Darling River at Menindee, and the locals have been struggling to stomach the water coming out of their taps.
Bendigo has been Eileen Ballangarry’s home for 39 years, but her heart is still on Barkindji land.
And it’s breaking with every fresh story the 71-year-old woman sees stories about people on her country struggling to source fresh water.
“Some stories I can’t even read them all,” Mrs Ballangarry said.
“People with little babies can’t even bathe them… they have to bathe them in bottled water.”
A week ago, Mrs Ballangarry decided to take action.
She said she had read a story about a teenage boy who was washing trucks on weekends to raise money to send water to those living along the Darling.
“If that 14-year-old boy can do this, so can I,” Mrs Ballangarry thought.
And so the Bendigo bottled water drive for the communities of Menindee and Pooncarie started.
Mrs Ballangarry said she had never done anything like it before.
She had expected the initiative to be low-key. Initially, she thought she might be able to tack a trailer-load of bottled water from Bendigo on to a truck from Ballarat, which is also doing a water run.
But Mrs Ballangarry said she’d received a lot of interest since posting about it on social media.
“I’m pretty excited and optimistic there will be more water than a trailer-load,” she said.
Her connection to country was part of the motivation to help, but Mrs Ballangarry said it went deeper than that.
“Even if it wasn’t my country, I would still do the same thing,” she said.
Mrs Ballangarry believed water should be a right, not a luxury.
People, she knew, were fighting for the river.
“They try not to let things get to them, but it does. They’re just like me – they say it breaks their heart,” Mrs Ballangarry said.
The artist is likely to be on the truck when it heads for New South Wales on March 2 to make the delivery.
“There’s nothing like walking on your traditional land with no shoes on,” she said.
“You feel the spirit of your ancestors.”
Mrs Ballangarry said people keen to donate to the water drive could contact her on 0427 151 947.
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