Still working for communities

By Southern Riverina News

Protecting regional communities continued to be the focus for the Speak Up Campaign during 2018.

It coordinated a vast range of activities to help achieve this aim, its recent annual meeting was told.

Chair Shelley Scoullar reported on an action-packed year for the fledgling organisation which has established itself as a leading community advocacy group, especially in the NSW Murray region, but also in northern Victoria and the Murrumbidgee.

‘‘Speak Up, as a voice for our communities, has primarily been involved in advocating for better water policy to ensure we can continue to be vibrant and prosperous, growing food for our nation and the world. This cannot be done without water and we will not give up the fight until politicians accept this indisputable fact and give us the support we need,’’ she said in her annual report.

Mrs Scoullar said there had been a focus on building networks at political and bureaucratic level.

‘‘The ignorance within politics of the damage being caused by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan continues to be a concern, however I believe our education programs are gradually bearing fruit.

‘‘I am proud that Speak Up is now the ‘go to’ group on water policy, communication and advocacy for a vast range of organisations and individuals. This was highlighted when Speak Up was invited to represent the region at the (December) MinCo ‘meet and greet’ session.’’

Mrs Scoullar said the contacts and networks built to this point have laid a solid foundation to build on, and continue promoting the need for better water policy to protect our region.

‘‘This will only be achieved with a strategic approach that involves targeted messaging coupled with sensible, well-informed dialogue that includes presenting solutions,’’ she said.

She provided details of events which Speak Up had organised throughout the year, including a water forum in Moama attended by more than 300, a crisis rally in Deniliquin attended by more than 600, and the December march and rally in Melbourne.

‘‘Each of these events takes a huge amount of organising and I would like to thank everyone who has made a positive contribution to ensuring each has been a success.

‘‘Speak Up, in a very short time, has developed an enviable reputation for organising events which generate political and media attention, and highlight the issues affecting our region. We will continue to try and influence public debate to secure the water on which our region’s prosperity relies.’’

At the AGM the senior executive was re-elected unopposed — chair Mrs Scoullar, vice chair Vicki Meyer and secretary/treasurer Linda Fawns.

Mrs Scoullar encouraged people interested in the region’s future to join the organisation.

‘‘Thanks to everyone for their membership contributions — we value this support and have done everything possible to ensure your contribution is put to positive use.’’