They call themselves the Darling Baaka River Convoy.
And over four weeks in April this collective of creative boat makers are giving voice to the river and calling for Climate Action Now.
This crew and their five boats are travelling the Darling Baaka — from Menindee in north-west New South Wales, to where it meets the Murray at Wentworth, near Mildura.
That’s about 520kms as the river flows. But for much of that, erosion, human-made obstructions and varied water levels mean they can’t get their boats into the river.
There’s a fair amount of hopping in and out, driving the boats to the next section of the river.
But this is part of the purpose.
To highlight the plight of our mighty waterways: the degradation of the river flow, its poor health, floodplain harvesting, and the devastating impacts of climate change.
Along the way, the group are making visible their #ClimateActionNow signs, temporarily peppering them in the landscapes that border the river “to bring attention to everyone who is voting,” says convoy co-founder Carol Carney.
“They might see this and choose to vote for the environment and climate action.”
The water might be flowing after all the recent rain but “current flows are not a sign of broader river health and not because of good management” says Tuesday Browell — the other co-founder of this project.
“Because we’ve had a La Niña year, when the rain goes, it’s going to be the same. Two more years and this river could be dry.”
Tuesday hails from Torrumbarry, on the Murray River, where she has lived and breathed river for much of her life.
“It's intrinsic to my nature. I can't imagine my life without it. I don't want to ever leave the river,” she says.
In 2021, her and Carol came up with the idea to elevate the story of the dying river through the creative action of building their own boats.
This is the second year the Darling Baaka Convoy has come to the river. And they invite anyone and everyone to join them at any point along the journey — to “bring your own vessel, be it a tinny, a canoe, kayak, SUP, or dingy.”
Tuesday’s boat is a beautiful Egyptian-styled Feluca that glints gold in the afternoon sun.
“She's solar powered. She's silent. She's handmade — even the ropes are handmade. She's created with love and inspiration. And she's a pleasure to be on,” says Tuesday.
“I wanted to be able to get on the river and leave a really small footprint … and bring attention to the river.”
“Without water, there is no life and to be surrounded by it and to be on water, it just feels like home.”
The Darling-Baaka and Murray River region are just one of 19 Australian ecosystems facing collapse from climate damage and lack of protection.
And even though there is more water now than in years, it’s far from a healthy, thriving ecosystem.
Even in this trip, the convoy witnessed hundreds of small silver dead fish from Menindee to Pooncarie.
“Some say they are only silver bream but a fish is a fish, and it’s dead for some reason,” says Tuesday.
“Drought, dry rivers, dead animals, fish kills and a global pandemic-have all layered themselves uncomfortably onto this river.
"Even though there is water flowing, it is still recovering from the negligence and cruelty of no water being allowed in the river — water buy-backs still need to come from the northern basin."
And we urgently need action on climate change, now.
“A healthy river has canopies … plants, trees, herbs right next to the river.
"There are fish and animals and lizards and monitors and all sorts of critters, you know — the kangaroos, the swamp wallabies, the koalas, and so many birds. It’s paradise."
“Our poor Darling Baaka River has got virtually no herbs left. Even the sages and the rushes and the reeds are disappearing. It's got trees, but they're struggling … dying.”
“You can’t just talk about water in economic terms. Water belongs to the planet. Water belongs to rivers. It belongs in marshes. It’s for children to swim in … it belongs to everybody."
"The river is not an economic resource we can use and buy and sell."
Carol, Tuesday and the rest of the convoy say that while this trip is to bring attention to the plight of the river, they are also celebrating the new water that flows
“I hope this will be powerful because people will see the image of people caring about this place,” says Tuesday.
“This is a revered and mighty waterway that speaks volumes if you care to stop and listen.”
The Darling Baaka River Convoy are raising their voice for #ClimateActionNow
Raise yours too. Add your name to the petition to end coal and gas in Australia.