The importance of water . . .
Water is essential to my soul. For my ancestors and me, it means life, survival and it runs through our veins.
Moving from my country on the Murray River, to Bendigo, I struggled for the first 12 months with constantly feeling dehydrated. I figured out that it was because I didn’t have my river, running water. I got used to it, but still need to go back to country every now and then.
Where do you go to get away from it all?
Daily, I get on my bicycle and ride outside in the fresh air. It’s a good chance to clear the head, or to think things over. I’m a bit of a dreamer, so my coach is always seeing when I stop on rides, usually to look at things in the environment.
More generally, I escape out into the forest near Barmah as much as I can. It is incredibly healing for me. I feel grounded when I do.
I’ve had plenty of rough times in my short life. But, when everything is in chaos, I sit with my feet in the river and it is instant calm.
How often do you go there?
Not often enough! Probably once every month, but more often if I need to or if I can. Whenever I feel down, stressed or ungrounded, I go back there.
What do you like to do there?
I am a bike rider and a horse rider, so I enjoy riding along the roads and bush tracks. Kayaking and going out on the Barmah and Moira Lakes is a must, checking on places and seeing what health they’re in, letting my ancestors tell me what the land needs. I also visit the sea eagle nests to see if they’re breeding or not. I also love camping and chilling out on the river banks.
How do you feel when you are there?
I feel centred and grounded – like I can finally breathe again.
Why is water an important part of your relaxation?
Water is central to my wellbeing. Without being by the water, my body starts to suffer. Not physically, but spiritually. Being by the smooth, slow, flowing waters has a calming effect, like meditation.
There are too many to list! Probably some of my fondest memories are with my cousins at Yanga Creek, on my pop’s station, near Balranald. We would camp out the back of the homestead on the banks of the river, in between two huge oak trees. Most of our time was spent in the water because it could get up to 50 degrees Celsius up there.
We had a rope swing in the tree overhanging the waterhole, and all the cousins would spend literally all day in the water. We had multiple tricks on the swing, like ‘out-and-back’ and ‘around-the-world’. Ultimate bragging rights were reserved for anyone who could do the ‘around-the-world’ double!
I’ve also got fond memories of being at the Barmah Lake, walking around and looking for freshwater mussels, or riding the horses into the water and using them as diving boards. They didn’t seem to mind - they would stand still and enjoy the cool.
Finish this sentence
When I was little, we used to go to...
‘The Bend’ at Balranald, on the Murrumbidgee River. It was the local waterhole. I first learned to swim there and it remains a special place for me always.
An elder once told me that, on the banks of the Murrumbidgee is where my spirit entered my body. I feel very connected to that land.
The place holds a fond memory from every stage in my life, and my cousin’s. Learning to swim as a two-year-old, swimming with my cousin there, swimming with the horses in our early teens, swimming with boys and underage drinking in our mid-teens, ‘parking’ there with boys in our late teens and barbecues there in our early 20s. Right up until now, in my late 20s - now we swim there with my cousin’s daughter – my god-daughter. It’s the circle of life. I hope that she grows up with the same fond memories.
I also hope that I return and grow old there. If I’m in a nursing home, they will have to take me there every week for a swim. I will accept nothing less!
I love to get away from it all and...
Simply sit on the banks of the river – fishing, swimming and chilling out. Our camps are always open to visitors. People come and go all day.
The biggest fish I ever caught...
Was bigger in my stories than it ever was in real life – ha, ha! I’m not big on fishing, but I love cray-fishing. My biggest claim to fame was catching a crayfish that was bigger than the one mounted on the wall at the Barmah Pub.
The funniest thing happened when we were...
Riding the horses in the Barmah Forest, when we lived there. I was about seven and had my little pony while my mum was on her big thoroughbred. The floods had been through and there were still big puddles lying around. We had to walk the horses through a large puddle on the road. The problem was, when I got halfway through, my pony stopped. No amount of effort could get him going again! He sniffed the water, the knees buckled, and he sat down, saddle and all! I aborted mission, but exited into the muddy, murky water. Drenched and dirty and wild with him, mum could barely contain her laughter. I was laughing too, despite having water up my nose!
I saw an amazing bird/fish/frog/lizard when I was...
We had an amazing emu that would visit us every year when we lived in the Barmah Forest. My uncle named her ‘Whinya’, which means beautiful woman in the Yorta Yorta language. She would come and camp on our front lawn for a week or so every breeding season, and do her mating dance periodically throughout the week. It was beautiful – like a ballerina.
Problem was, she would also terrorise our household while she was there. She would eat the dog food, chase me and the dog. She also scared the horses. She probably thought that it was hilarious. She visited every year for around four years, then one year, she didn’t come back. I like to think that she found true love and didn’t need to return.