Water more precious than Gold: Yarning about the River at Rahamim

Rahamim Ecology Centre has become a centre of contemplative “Craftivism” since Bathurst Regional Council raised a controversial proposal to sell water from the Macquarie River to a gold mine. 

Council plans to divert 10 megalitres (4 Olympic swimming pools) of river water per day, an amount which represents a high percentage of the flows of an already diminished river. Many endangered fish, frogs, platypus, riparian vegetation as well as irrigation rights of farmers are at further risk. 

This is yet another example of the corporatisation of water, the diversion of the world’s water supply for commercial interests, which Sisters of Mercy around the world, motivated by Catherine McAuley’s words “Water is free beverage”, have worked to eradicate.

The proposal was up for public consultation during December 2015, a time when families are focused on the festive season and raising awareness is difficult. After hundreds of concerned residents had made submissions, many still felt a sense of concern, frustration and urgency. They wanted to unite to inform others of the proposal in new ways.

At Rahamim, a space was opened up for a collaborative project that would positively engage the community, celebrate the life of the river, and help to spread the word to residents downstream. A group of women quickly responded, with visions of creating a huge crochet representation of the Macquarie River, including its source, bends, marshes, towns, cities, animals, plants, dams and waste water treatment plants. The project would then be publicly displayed at strategic times and places during Council’s decision-making process.

Using social media, the group has grown quickly across the region and attracted the attention of local print and television media. Many have attended weekly ‘drop-in’ sessions in the Rahamim dining room, enabling lively sharing of concerns as well as periods of contemplative silence and simply ‘being’ together for the river. Those interested in learning more, such as one local Councillor, have had the opportunity to listen and respond to the concerns of residents. Local artists, the spinners and weavers group, school and university students, professionals and elderly people are all participating in the project which is now 60 meters in length and continues to grow.

One of the project’s coordinating team, Tracy Sorensen, a PhD candidate exploring climate change communication, presented on “The Revolutionary Potential of Crochet” at a recent Green Drinks event at Rahamim. “Any social or political change,” she said, “requires long thankless hours of activism before anything shifts. People come to a movement with whatever they’ve got, wherever they are, so if they happen to have a crochet hook and wool then that’s as good a place as any to become an activist.”

“There is a place for quiet in the movement,” she said, “and using traditional craft skills to subvert the traditional power relations in surprising, quirky or confronting ways has been happening since the 1970s.” Sorensen reminds us of the power of contemplative, creative acts to transform our world. 

Council will vote on the proposal in mid-February. 

Join the Facebook group: Don’t mine the Macquarie – No Bathurst water sale to Regis Gold Mine

Watch the River Yarning video:


Engage with us on Twitter: #watermorepreciousthangold #imindifyoumine #don’tminethemacquarie

Sally Neaves

Sustainability Educator, Rahamim Ecology Centre