This continent would be uninhabitable without its ancient rivers, deep aquifers and wetlands bursting with abundant wildlife.
But inland rivers have taken a hiding in the last 130 years, with unlimited irrigation up to the mid 1990's bringing the Murray-Darling Basin to its knees during the shocking millennial drought.
And so a Plan was made. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a world-first across borders plan. A bold plan to manage the vast, intricate Basin as a connected whole.
Political compromises diluted the Plan, and a decade of political inaction has derailed it even further. How can we get the Plan back on track?
How can we truly manage the entire basin - from the Mighty Murray to the Darling-Baaka - as an interconnected whole?
We heard loud and clear from Gamilaraay Elders Aunty Polly Cutmore, Aunty Marlene Weribone and Aunty Judith Duke that their rivers are dying, and that as a consequence, so are they. First Nations people have had their rights to manage water stripped off them, and with it their ability to live strong, healthy lives on their own terms is significantly diminished.
The NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders, NSW Environment Minister James Griffin, Member for Barwon Roy Butler and NSW Water Minister Kevin Anderson sent their apologies.
Former Independent Member for New England Tony Windsor was in the think of Basin Plan politics during it's inception. He reflects on his experience of the political resistance to the Basin Plan by Coalition Governments, and his concerns that the connection between ground water and rivers is not well understood.
Professor Richard Kingsford described the impacts decades of water diversions are having on floodplains and wetlands. He explained the importance of using actual recorded data, and taking the predicted impacts of climate change into account when decisions about water use are made.
Professor Stuart Khan explained that new dams do not create new water in a fully allocated system. All that happens is that water if taken off those downstream and transferred to industries upstream.
Independent candidate for the NSW Upper House, Elizabeth Farrelly encourages wholistic thinking about land and water management, employing the principles of regenerative agriculture.
Greens Water Spokesperson Cate Faehrmann MLC showed her depth of knowledge of water management as she spoke to the Green's Plan to Save the Darling-Baaka River. The Green's plan includes fully implementing the recommendations of the 2020 ICAC investigation into NSW Water Management.
Shadow Water Minister, Labor's Rose Jackson MLC was then given the floor, and assured the crowd that a NSW Labor Government would fully support the implementation of the Basin Plan in full. Rose also spoke with feeling about the horrendous quality issues facing regional First Nations communities, often worse than many third world countries.