5. Miriam Pepper: the Murray-Darling river basin - a case study in ecology, history and politics

Episode Five: A Dying River?

"Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"

- Amos 5.24

What does it mean when a river stops flowing? Australia's longest, largest, most crucial and most controversial river system is the Murray-Darling. Winding its way across thousands of kilometres and draining a basin one seventh of the continent in area, the waters of the Murray Darling have sustained many Aboriginal nations for thousands of years, are now also the lifeblood of dozens of towns, irrigate a large chunk of Australian agriculture and are home to a broad diversity of species. Yet this great system is polluted, parched and partitioned: its fish dying, its flow interrupted, its management hotly disputed.

In this episode, we depart somewhat from our usual format to explore the causes of and challenges resulting from a river in crisis, as well as what might be done about it.

Byron Smith talks with Dr Miriam Pepper, Researcher with National Church Life Survey, Research Fellow at Charles Sturt University, Sessional Lecturer at United Theological College and former host of Ecofaith on the Air. For the last five years, Miriam has been part of a fact-finding team with the Uniting Church listening to communities in different parts of the Murray-Darling Basin, seeking understanding and a deeper care.


Note: unfortunately, the sound quality of this episode is lower than hoped for. Future recordings will all be made on better equipment and with some important lessons learned.


References mentioned in the episode, and further reading:

Murray-Darling Royal Commission Report (full report)

Investigation of the causes of mass fish kills in the Menindee Region NSW over the summer of 2018-2019 (Report from Australian Academy of Science)

Murray-Darling basin royal commission report find gross maladministration

Aboriginal voices are missing from the Murray-Darling Basin crisis

First Nations groups unite to call for Murray-Darling Royal Commission

After the Royal Commission, what next for Murray-Darling Basin law reform?

The fury of the Murray-Darling royal commission finding has fallen on deaf ears

New South Wales government largely culpable for fish kill, report finds

Australia gets UN to delete criticism of Murray-Darling basin plan from report

The Good Dirt (Facebook page)



  • Host - Byron Smith
  • Producer - Simon Bunstead
  • Sound - Byron Smith
  • Music - Francis Preve
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