113 11 Clean green beef – the importance of free-flowing rivers in the Lake Eyre Basin David Brook Introduction My wife Nell and I, with our family, own and operate 30 000 km2 of certified organic farms for beef production in the pristine Channel Country, on the floodplains of the Georgina and Diamantina Rivers. The floodplains, covering ~50 000 ha, are the most productive part of our properties (Fig. 11.1). The bush poet Colleen McLaughlin beautifully captured the essence of our Diamantina country as well as our lives and sentiments in her poem ‘Song of the River’ (McLaughlin 2006). Song of the River – Colleen McLaughlin (2006) I am swinging to the northward, I am curving to the south, I am spreading, I am splitting, running free. I am creeping past the sandhills, going steady as the land fills, For all my channels lie ahead of me. Through the grasslands and the mulga, past the rocks, eroded bare, I will cover up the secrets buried deep. For if man thinks he can beat me, I will tell him, come and meet me, But the signs to show the way are mine to keep. Because I’m Diamantina, and I rule the great outback. I’m its heartbeat, I’m its keeper, it’s my land. With my channels full and flowing, and the grasses, green and growing, I’m the power that man must learn to understand. I will take your heart and hold it. I will commandeer your soul – If you listen to my voice and stand up tall. If you can hear me singing, and your answer comes back ringing, Then I’ll know that you have recognised my call. For this is my direction, as the sovereign of this land, You must learn to read the rhythm of its ways. If you want to know and share it, do not take its heart and tear it, For I’ll tell you now – the loser always pays. Listen hard – I’m Diamantina – and the sand hills and the plains Need my water as their lifeblood – it’s my land. Should my channels cease their flowing, then with dusty, dry winds blowing, I know you have not learned to understand.
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