I come from a family of farmers, fruit growers and fishers and life has always revolved around the river.

I grew up on the Murray where the Nyah Vinifera Forest flanks its edge. The red gums there were part of my growing up and are still such an important part of my life.

I know healthy rivers are vital to my community and my children's future and the Rivers Fellowship helped me to get that message out to the world.

Peta Thornton at her farm

The Rivers Fellowship was life changing for me.

Following a break from campaigning on other related issues, the fellowship enabled me to get skilled up and gain confidence. Campaigning locally has always been important to me, but being part of a wider, Basin-wide campaign felt so much more effective. It was also much more fun.

The fellowship helped me stay up to date with the politics and the policy. I felt more effective and was able to put my limited time to better use.

Now, I feel connected to a whole community of people who feel the way I do and want to make a positive change. 

I feel like I have helped to change the story in my community and that's really powerful.

Together, the we did some incredible things.

Some of the 20 emerging leaders on their first training retreat in Mildura

Some of the 20 emerging leaders on their first training retreat in Mildura. Photo: Ali Sanderson

We helped expose the corrupt underbelly of river-water theft, building on ABC Four Corners' program Pumped.

We changed the story in local and national media. Many of us were interviewed on radio and shared our stories in print media and on TV. 

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River Fellow Kate McBride beside the dry Darling River at her family's farm in Western NSW.

We recruited and organised our neighbours, friends and community into teams who are campaigning with us for the rivers.

We all wrote petitions asking for Malcolm Turnbull to finish what he started and deliver the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. We delivered tens of thousands of signatures to Canberra.

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River fellows delivering petitions to our elected representatives in Canberra. 

At our first ever Water Week Summit, we talked to 18 decision makers at 13 meetings. We brought with us the voices of 24,177 people from across the Basin, all calling on our elected representatives to enact the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

2017 Rivers Fellows with CAF staff outside of Parliament House

We are midwives, fishers, Traditional Owners, pastoralists, card-carrying Liberal Party members, scientists, grandparents, irrigators and teachers. By joining arms in solidarity, together we challenged the myths about who cares about nature.

We changed the story. With so many people representing diverse communities across the Murray Darling Basin speaking up, we shifted the narrative of who has a stake in the future of our rivers. There were a few politicians who raised their eyebrows at our group!

We built people power. We brought the voices of 24,177 people with us who want a fairer deal for our rivers. We learnt how to lobby effectively and made plans for what we'll all do back to our home towns. We got connected to one another and the wider movement.

We are fixing the system. We shared our personal stories of why river policy matters to us with key decision makers in Canberra. We strengthened the support of political allies and even managed to get support from unexpected corners.

I want to thank the ACF community for supporting us. The Rivers Fellowship means I now have the skills now to build a local group which, together with others, will become a powerful force in regional Australia.

It means we are changing the story in my community. Farmers like me are standing up for a better future, for our communities and for the land and rivers that nourish us. 

So thank you for backing us. You’ve been a part of this too.  

Peta Thornton

2017 Rivers Fellow