Restoring access to the Barwon river has been a long and bitter battle for a group of Indigenous elders and now they've finally been able to celebrate.
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Now with the gate open and the river accessible, the group's secretary Virginia Robinson said locals are celebrating.
"[This] is an historic occasion because ever since 2003 - that is 20 years ago - Dharriwaa Elders Group has been working with its legal advisors to ensure that the Walgett community and its visitors, have the right to access this road down to the Baawan," she said.
"When we first started asking for the locked gates to be opened, we found out that it was a Crown Public Road and had been since the early days of Walgett white settlement. Locked gates on crown roads were unlawful, but the NSW government would not ensure they were kept open.
"It is our opinion that its public servants were instead acting in the interests of landholders who did not want our community to access the river. We learnt this from the exchange of legal letters back and forth, and regularly photographing the locked gates."
Eight years after the group first requested the gate to the road to the weir be unlocked, they wrote to the general manager of the Walgett Shire Council requesting that council take over management of the crown road in order to keep it public.
"We knew that they had been funded to raise the weir so would probably need to use the road for the work," Ms Robinson said.
"Meanwhile we were doing lobbying and community education to explain why a fishway is absolutely essential at a weir - against a lot of resistance from many in this town."
Between 2013 and 2017 the elders group lobbied council and the state government to open the gate.
Eventually they were told the road was council managed and was supposed to be public, but the gate remained locked.
It wasn't until the elders raised their concerns with Water NSW and NSW Fisheries in 2021 that the campaign gained traction.
"We didn't give up - and went to Water NSW and NSW Fisheries to find out when the weir and fishladder would be working, and to explain DEG's desire to have the road opened so all could enjoy the weir and that it become a public place just like similar weirs are in other western river towns," Ms Robinson said.
After their intervention, Walgett Council finally opened the road for good over Christmas 2022.
To celebrate the opening, the Dharriwaa Elders Group held a ceremony on November 1, 2023 featuring a traditional welcome to country and a performance from a local school's dance troupe.
"What we are going to do now is have a small ceremony of opening the gate," Ms Robinson told crowds gathered on the day.
"We have invited Water NSW, NSW Public Works, NSW Fisheries and our collaborator - independent scientist Martin Mallen Cooper, to join us today to explain how it all works, because we want our community to have the best available information."
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