Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Drought in a small town... A common Australian Experience.

Drought in a small town... A common Australian Experience

Winner Year 9/10

Talisen Magee

Year 10, Coonabarabran High School

Although it's only early in the day, it's already starting to heat up. The heat feels as though it's bouncing off the streets.  It's going to be one of those days when the sweat sits on your forehead and runs down your back and your mouth is as dry as a desert.

Weather forecast: NO RAIN.

I started the familiar journey to my country high school. Dead lawns that were once green and lush, and thirsty trees fill our town. A picture, not of neglect, but a statement of the severity of the drought.

The heat of this day is rising still. It's a dry heat here, or so I am told.  I see an elderly lady carrying a heavy, full bucket of water to her roses in an attempt to keep them alive. The ease of a garden hose is a banned luxury.

Every second ute that drives by is carting a square water tank on its back. This is a dry little town of lost gardens and water restrictions.

It makes me think about all the animals that the farmers are struggling to take care of with the lack of water and not to mention their crops, if they even have any left. Stories of livestock being hand fed everyday are common. No holidays, no break, no days off for these farmers.

I continued past the empty Castlereagh. How the mighty has fallen. Cracked earth is the only remnant of a once abundant landscape. Memories of fishing here return to me. Days spent in the green grass beside a full, fast flowing river. Now it's dry and empty. I see a lone duck optimistically swimming in the one remaining puddle.

Rain is the hot topic around here. It's all anyone is talking about. Maybe it's always been a hot topic. Australian farmers throughout history have always encountered drought.

 Happiness measured in millilitres.

 “When is it going to rain?”

 “Did you get any rain at your place?”

 “How much rain did you get?”

 “Did it miss you?”

Stories of huge, looming, billowing clouds forming are told.  These enormous, imposing, Armageddon like clouds that fill the horizon, contain no water. They carry with them only huge amounts of dust. Thankfully they don't last too long and only come around occasionally. They do leave everything very dusty after they pass though.

What our small town lacks in rain, we make up for in community spirit. Bales are donated, volunteers helping out however they can.  It is in these times that a town gets to know itself and show itself to others.

I arrived at school to see my friends all talking and I walked up to them.I remember talking to them about the drought and one of them brings up the weather forecast which would be the same as it has been for a while: NO RAIN.