Saving the Mary

B4C’s Catchment Manager Wayne Cameron went to the Mary River Festival on the weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Saving the Mary”.


By Wayne Cameron

10 years ago a decision was made by Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, to stop the Traveston Crossing Dam proposal, and thereby – Save the Mary River.

Jerry Coleby-Williams, Glenda Pickersgill & Wayne Cameron

At the 2019 Mary River Festival, in Kadanga, Peter Garret and Jerry Coleby-Williams were honoured guests. Jerry has been a long-time supporter of the campaign to save the Mary. There was a reunion of the campaigners also at the 2019 Festival, and B4C was invited as a key contributor.

Over 10 years ago, B4C organised with the European Rivers Network and the International Rivers Network to have their delegates, to River Symposium, attend the 2007 campaign in the Mary River Valley. From there we received their support to initiate a multi-media presentation, on the threat to the Mary, to be taken to the World Expo in Zaragosa, Spain.

B4C project managed the entire project, employing an author, filmmaker and photographer and  pulling together archival information and photos of the Mary River. It was a tall ask, but somehow we did it and took our place with leading campaigner, Glenda Pickersgill, in Zaragosa in 2009 in the El Faro Pavilion, with over 160 other exhibitors.

A “Green Dragon Award” was presented to Glenda and our delegation for the quality of the presentation to protect the Mary.

Looking out from the stage to the crowd enjoying speakers and personalities. Kadanga

Glenda said at the Anniversary in Kadanga, that she returned a new person and was invigorated to continue the fight wholeheartedly. That alone was really something.

The Lantern Parade included the threatened Lungfish, helped by Jerry Coleby-Williams.

That is a brief history of a momentous campaign and the support gathered,  but it was a terrible time for the people living in the Mary River catchment areas. Only 15% of them held onto their land, with 85% succumbing and selling out to the State Government.

All through these terrible times, the Save the Mary campaigners maintained their great credibility – they were organised and dedicated, even inspired. They  were also civil, behaved and played the ball not the man all the  way through.

To meet up with them again was an inspiration in itself. They won a great battle against the odds and against some of the worst things that a government can inflict on people, but maintained their peaceful  and civil campaign.

Peter Garrett spoke of his decision to stop the Dam. It was based entirely on the science – the impact on threatened species – the Mary River Lungfish, Cod and Turtle for a start.

What does this say to us?

It says that governments have a responsibility to abide by their own regulations and the Constitution of Australia in deciding such things. Using scientific evidence and not getting spin-doctors to get around it with words and deeds not in the common interest.

Commonwealth Government: Common wealth means vested interests do not call the shots. Common means all Australians!

It says that people who peacefully protest, do the hard yards in research and science, and present a credible reasoning for protecting a natural resource and a community – can prevail, and this can flow on to the right decision.

To this day the people of the Mary, the campaigners and supporters have stuck together and are still working hard to protect the Mary, its community and its threatened species.

I would like to thank them for making all this possible by being able to come through the tribulations, impacts and in some cases great mental anguish.

They walked through the fire to victory!

Festival entry with Glenda Pickersgill and Peter Garrett welcoming guests

One Comment

  1. Glenda Pickersgill

    What a special day… Thank you Wayne for the lovely reflection of a great campaign to Save the Mary.

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