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'Australia Needs To Wake Up': Fiery Confrontation Over Water In Murray Darling

A raw and emotional episode of Q&A aired on the ABC on Monday night, where farmers and Aboriginal leaders revealed the toll water mismanagement has had on their communities.

First Nations rights activist Bruce Shillingsworth said he was determined to speak for voiceless members of his community, suffering from poverty and a plethora of health issues as a result of water mismanagement.

He said he'd recently returned from the Yaama Ngunna Baaka Corroboree on the Walgett, Brewarrina, Bourke, Wilcannia and Menindee rivers where he was confronted with widespread community suffering.

"A lot of First Nation people are leaving ... the lands they have lived on for thousands and thousands of years ... How do we bring back the aquatic life, the ecosystem and the animals? ... They are now completely dead. They're extinct," Shillingsworth said on Q&A as David Littleproud, federal minister for water resources and drought, watched on.

Bruce Shillingsworth spoke passionately on the program. Image: Twitter/QandA.

"The impact of the water mismanagement and the corruption and the corporate greed and capitalism in this country has killed our rivers ...They have killed our communities."

"Australia needs to wake up."

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Shillingsworth slammed the trade of selling water for-profit and the devastating impact it has on people's health, animal welfare and the environment.

"Why are we selling water to make a profit? That's why I am here and here are my people on the river that relied on those animals for a food source for thousands of years are now dying. This is the second wave of genocide," Shillingsworth passionately told the panel.

The panel on Monday evening, with grazier Kate McBride (far left). Image: Twitter/QandA.

Shillingsworth wasn't the only speaker who openly criticised the government and their mismanagement of water.

Kate McBride, a 21-year-old grazier from the NSW township of Menindee, went head-to-head with politicians David Littleproud and Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon. McBride, who was seated next to Littleproud, shot him a series of furious looks as he repeatedly defended claims the government mismanaged water and failed farmers.

Kate McBride and David Little Proud. Image: Twitter/QandA.

“The lowest ever inflows into Menindee Lakes and that’s not just because of drought. Point the finger at mismanagement and over-extraction. How can you say to those people, and myself included that live along there, ‘we’re not going to put any more water back in the river from buybacks. You guys have to sit at the end of the river and die’. That’s what you’re telling us right now," McBride said.

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"Please don't forget us."

McBride also said government complacency with water is not only failing current farmers but future generations as well.

“As a young farmer, I’m 21 years old, where is my future in all this? I spoke to people this week saying there were people in their communities taking kids out of boarding school because they can’t afford it anymore,” she said.

“What are we doing and how are we helping these kids?”

The dry river bed of the Darling River. Image: AAP Photos.

McBride also called for a Royal Commission into the handling of the Murray Darling Basin, which saw the audience erupt with applause.

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au