The wide west

Last week I left my highlands to travel to the flatlands. The very, very flat lands. So flat they are grand, in scale and scope.

I went at the invitation of the tireless Anne Kennedy of the Great Artesian Basin Group and the Coonamble Action Group and I went to talk at the Coonamble Show about the book and the issue, which out here is CSG, the threat is Santos, and at risk is the Great Artesian Basin itself.

This is bore-dependent country; there’s not been much joy from the rain lately.

Anne and her group have done wonders in raising awareness here, as they have been doing for years re capping bores. Anne and her husband Neil kindly put me up at their ‘Yuma’ property and took me to the Show.


That’s the house ‘oasis’ on the right, and Neil tells me that the wiry balls fretting at the fences are ‘roly-polies,’ not tumbleweed. Thinking of Triffids, I hope they can’t climb.

The Show was a nostalgic treat for me — ah, the smell of Pluto Pups on the breeze! — the Coonamble Action Group are fantastic, and despite hiccups like the 100 Rich Land, Wasteland books ordered by Anne being lost — twice — one lot arrived minutes before my afternoon talk, and  the day was a success. They sold 48 books!

Coonamble is awake and on guard; the Landmark branch even displays and sells the Lock the Gate signs. What a difference one small persistent and passionate woman can make; and she now has really strong local support, informed, innovative and keen.


Driving out next day, I passed other properties where the roly-polies were not kept in check, had jumped the fence, and were biding their time, playing ‘doggo’ amongst the emus.


As I said, this is seriously flat land; the blue cotton bales floated in mirage water on the horizon.


I was heading for Burren Junction, where Sonya Marshall is trying to wake up her region to the looming threat to their water. My route took me through Pilliga and on a long dirt road with foot-thick dust.


Sonya and Mick’s property, ‘Teranna’, is even more drought-affected than Coonamble, so even more dependent on their bores. They kindly hosted me that night and told me a bit about their area.

I hope the talk at the Burren CWA Hall raised the alarm levels. The audience was small but involved, and the post-talk dinner at the pub was both enjoyable and enlightening.

Next day, a different route to Pilliga took me through vast paddocks of impressive perspectives.


Just outside Pilliga a mass of Winnebagos and minor mates were clustered around the Pilliga Bore Baths; the adjacent lagoon and wetlands were indeed warm, with carp swimming in them!

I wonder if the tourists realise what will likely happen to these pressurised bores if Santos succeed in their CSG plans for the Pilliga?

I did drive through the edge of the Pilliga and got a small sense of its magic. After calling in at the interesting NP Pilliga Discovery Centre in Barradine, I vowed to go back for a week at least to ‘taste’ the Pilliga in more detail.

7 thoughts on “The wide west”

  1. Hi Cherie,
    Thanks for the comments and for the terrific work you and your group are doing in Coonamble. Every town needs one like it!

  2. I am from Coonamble also and I am one of the group GABCSGAG with Pam and Anne I also heard you speak and thoroughly enjoyed listening to you – I also bought your book and have read some of it and am appalled at the Coal Management to the people down in the Hunter Valley – have only just returned from a trip to Newcastle for a specialist appointment for my husband and was able to see the devastatiopn and all the ugly black terrain – I haven’t been that for five years and can notice a big difference in the growth and spread of the black monster – thank you for your book and hard work and dedication to our Australia. Cherie

  3. Thanks Pam & Julia. It was a real pleasure to come to Coonamble! Great story re sneaky Santos being put back in their box by parents and school. (Have just been with Anne at the Kurri Beyond Coal weekend.)

  4. Hello Sharyn, just to say thank you for being at our Show and giving us your perspective on the destruction that is going on with our precious water, and to instill in all of us the determination to get out there and stop it. I have so much respect for people like you and Anne, that put your lives on hold to make this a better place for our futures, and I hope that people listening to you the other day will feel the same and do something about it. There are those that need a good kick out of their ‘apathy’!! Thanks again, Julia (fromCoonamble)

  5. Thank you Sharyn for your talk at the show it is amasing how many people came up to me to say that they enjoyed your talk . if we can get the message through one at a time it is worth it! Santos came to St Bridgits school last week under the guise of the Dorothea McKellar Foundation Poetry competition which they are sponsoring and proceeded to hand out balloons, pencils etc to the children. The principal was not aware they were doing it until some of the parents started to complain and I confronted the school the next day.
    Santos got a very strong message via the principal that they would not have given permission if they had asked.
    The McKellar foundation also rang from Gunnedah to apologise to the community.
    So the fight goes on!
    Many thanks for you time with us,
    Regards Pam Goldsmith

  6. Sharyn
    You are indeed a tireless worker for the environment and the community at large
    May they recognise your effort, worth and the personal cost – and I don’t mean in $s


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