Australian Story: May 6

Australian Story profiles campaigner Kate McBride and the devastating catastrophe of the Darling River.

This episode is introduced by TV’s Mal Leyland.

When 21-year-old Menindee farmer Kate McBride came across thousands of dying fish in her beloved Darling River she was determined to tell the country what was happening.

Accompanied by her father they filmed the carnage and posted it on the family’s Facebook page. It was the height of summer in early January and an algal bloom and low water flows had combined with deadly consequences, depriving the fish of enough oxygen. For Kate it was a turning point and a call to action.

“I don’t think there’s a way to put into words what seeing millions of dead fish on the river that you’ve called home for your whole life is,” she remembers. “It was just pure devastation… these animals were suffering.”

By the time truckloads of fish had been disposed of at the town dump, Kate was emerging as a fierce advocate for the health of the Darling River and a leader to watch.

“The world wanted to speak to Kate, she was the voice of Australian youth,” says her father Rob McBride, owner of Tolarno Station on the banks of the Darling near Menindee.

Kate is now spearheading a campaign to fight for the Darling River. She is testing the water, documenting locals’ concerns about health issues and is suggesting a Federal Royal Commission.

“Kate’s speaking out about one of the most controversial issues in the region and she is something of a polarising figure,” says Mike Foley, a journalist with Farm Online.

Undeterred by criticism Kate is weighing up a future career in politics as a rural representative after she finishes her university degree.

“I think a lot of people that are young don’t have many good thoughts about politics,” she says. “I want to change that.”

8pm Monday on ABC.

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