Hello I’m Badger Bates. I was born in Wilcannia in the Wilcannia hospital on the banks of the Barka in 1947, and I lived on the riverbank in a tin hut for most of my life and I’m 70 years of age now. I met Justine Muller in about, 3 years ago. Justine’s car broke in Wilcannia, that’s where I sort of.. She stayed there, I was telling her about my life and the Darling River and that and she decided we’d have an exhibition. I can see how the river was being treated from about 2004 when I done my first, one of my lino prints was “No More Catfish” and from there on, the river started to deteriorate from the cotton farmers and all that.
2015 they gave us our Native Title rights, but just after that, they took all the water out of the river and it’s a disgrace. How can we, the Barkandji people, teach our culture and our knowledge about the Ngatji and all that, the Rainbow Serpent, when there's no water in the river? We take our name Barkandji Wiimpatja, that means we are Darling River blacks from the river. So what the government done, they gave us rights over Native Title, which is no good without water. Without the river, or Barka, us Darling River people, us Barkandji people, we got nothing. We got no culture, they take our lifeblood, they take everything off us and we can't teach our young people our culture and our heritage what was taught to me, and I'd like to pass it down to the younger people and not only just to Barkandji people, to anyone what's interested in learning about our culture. It’s a disgrace of what’s happening to the river, but we always say, us Barkandji people, that the Ngatji will protect us and look after us and will protect anyone along that river what respect it and look after it. And the government should not be letting the cotton people and other people do what they’re doing to the river. Cotton was only brought to Australia like the sheep and the bullock, but Western New South Wales was built off Aboriginal culture and off the sheep and the bullocks back and they must never ever forget that. Wilcannia was one of the biggest ports in Western New South Wales on the Darling River, a big river port. They used to put paddle steamers up it, now you can't even put a bark canoe up it, up the river. The desecration what they are doing to the Menindee Lakes, what they’ve done to our sites, to white fullas sites, and what they’re doing now for is employment. They should be ashamed of themselves for doing what they're doing to the Barka, the Darling River.
When I talk about Barkandji culture, teaching our young people Barkandji culture, we must never forget that there is other people living on that river. Some of their ancestors come up on paddleboats, some of them got stations on the river. And I’m talking about the white people and other people, how can we as a lot of us now put together teach culture? Because here in Western NSW and anywhere along the river system, to prove that you’ve grown up, you must catch a yabby with a piece of yabby on a piece of string and that means you're grown up. That is culture, that is culture not only for Barkandji people that is for everyone. Then the government and they’ll say “Oh we’ll let some water in the Menindee lakes to let the fish be”; okay big deal bad management to me. Because the fish can swim away, what about the mussels and the other little things what live in the river that can't swim when the waters come down. And native fish will know when the water's coming, it will know when it's going down. Soon as the water drop out of the lake or the river system the fish go, and they go to the deep holes and they get out of it.
Then we talk about humans, some of the people, the white people what’s living along the Barka, the Darling River, they old people, built old houses. Take Talarno Station, it goes right back a long way away about 30km out of Menindee, a fulla by the name of Rod McBride he lives there, that’s where he was reared up, that’s his place. The river can get let down, but people can’t pick up their belongings and fall in the water, what's wrong with people? They should leave the river alone, leave the Barka alone, because like I said us Barkandji people we ain’t going to move off the Barka whether it’s got water in it or not. The government and other people’s duty is to look after the lot of us that live along that river, you know? So that’s what's gotta happen instead of people just going around little places where they're growing some wheat and all this or cotton and saying oh its drought stricken - what about the people? What about the animals what’s dying, the native animals and the sheep and the bullock what’s dying? Soon as you get a bit of wind they got to lay down because they’ll get blown over because they’re bony, they got nothing to drink, that’s what people should be looking at, and people what live on the river, black and white.