Where is the world’s lowest life expectancy? Not in Africa but in Wilcannia—the canary in the coal mine for Australia’s managed decline.
This once thriving town in northwest New South Wales has been described by Josephine Cashman, an Indigenous Australian lawyer, as a community in a continual state of mourning with unsafe water and decades of broken promises.
Wilcannia was once home to 3,000 people and was the third largest port on the Darling River, with 222 steamers stopping there. It was known as the “Queen City of the West” and boasted 13 hotels and its own brewery, the Red Lion, built by Edmund Resch. However, after the Federation Drought that ended in 1903, the population was reduced significantly.
However, according to a local man from the area, this figure has not been proven by proper data.
If correct, this is 34 years less than the average life expectancy for Indigenous males in 2015–2017, which was 71.6 years and 75.6 years for Indigenous females.
This drop in life expectancy could be, in part, due to the water supply to the town. Ms. Cashman said in her Twitter feed that the water is toxic and has caused the Indigenous to lose their hair and stop their menstrual cycles.
“After decades of broken promises and lies. They do not believe the public servants’ reassurances that the water is safe. Refusing to drink toxic water, families search for “churchie” coins to scrap up $7 for a 5-litre flagon of drinking water. To have the privilege of not being poisoned to death,” Ms. Cashman said.
Wilcannia was to be part of a multi-million-dollar deal building three treatment plants to improve the quality of water across the Central Darling Shire. This would have improved potable water for the town.
Increasing costs now means that the treatment plans in Wilcannia and sister towns in the area like Ivanhoe are unlikely.
What Do The Locals Say?
The Epoch Times contacted locals in the town to learn their views on Wilcannia and was told by the Aboriginal Land Council that they were “far too busy to speak to you.”
One local told the Epoch Times that with at least 11 of the council workers not living in the shire but working from places such as Byron Bay, Adelaide, Orange, Dubbo, Brisbane, and Sydney, they are not living and understanding what is necessary for Wilcannia to continue and build.
A worker from the Ampol Roadhouse said that the water was fine, as did a local tourism operator.
The Epoch Times also spoke to a local clothing store called Cooee, who said they needed to go through official channels in order to make any