The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the homeland of [yellow tail]
by Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
Before we go any further let’s get one thing completely straight: the creature depicted on the [yellow tail] label is not a kangaroo. It is a yellow-footed wallaby, and what’s more there are no yellow-footed wallabies anywhere near the Riverina region of New South Wales (NSW) where Casella Wines, the producer of [yellow tail] is based. That means [no kangaroo] and [yellow feet]! I speak as an Australian Marsupial, to be precise as an Eastern Grey Kangaroo, so I know what I’m talking about. I was selected by the Great Council of Australian Marsupials to correct what we feel to be a serious eurocentric bias to this story. They chose me, because many of you know me as „Skippy the Bush Kangaroo“ from the 1966-71 TV series of the same title which was shown around the world, and it was felt that for you might be more inclined to listen to what I have to say.
The white killers who made their first brief appearances on our continent four centuries ago are very different to the black killers who came to this land roughly 50,000 years before them. Most of the black Australiens are very good at remembering, but the white Australiens are world champions at forgetting, particularly if the truth doesn’t suit their current purposes. Let me remind you how the Dutchman Dirk Hartog, one of the first white Europeans to visit Australia described what he found in 1616. „This land is cursed; the animals hop, not run, birds run, not fly and the swans are black, not white.“ Today the coat of arms of Australia contains a kangaroo and an emu, though most of the white race in this land still regard both creatures as something between vermin and a pest. For them, black swans are symbols of sudden financial disaster.
Do some of you find it outrageous when I call Australians of European descent „white killers“?Many of them shoot us Eastern Grey Kangaroos with the permission of the state, which in the case of the Riverina means the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW). For example, its figures for the Griffith Kangaroo Management Zone estimated that the population of Eastern Grey Kanagaroos fell from 638,262 in 2008 to 321,138 in 2009 due to drought. This resulted in the usual quota of roughly 3% of the population of my species for the annual „harvest“ being replaced by a year long ban. However, many white Australians kept on shooting us without the permission of the DECCW, just as they had did before and continue to do. They call it sport!
The white Killers are very proud of the country they have forged here with the help of their guns, irrigation systems, and the plants and animals they imported to try and make the driest and hotest continent on the planet more like Europe. The very name New South Wales expresses this urge to ignore reality. Of course, almost all of them have forgetten that when Captain James Cook „discovered“ Botany Bay (now Sydney) in 1770 he mistook the wet season for the dry one. The result of this was that the Europeans’ first colony in Australia very nearly failled due to a series of disastrous crop faillures.
The stories of the land which became the Riverina region is typical of the story of White Australia since then. When John Oxley became the first white killer to see this piece of the contintent in 1817 he wrote that it was, „country which, for barrenness and desolation, can I think have no equal.“ But he greatly underestimated both the drive of the white race to transform and dominate this land. He also did not realize how many black killers, or Wiradjuri Aborigines, were living nearby along the banks of the Murrumbidge River. They sometimes killed us for food, but only when the fishing in the Murrumbidge was poor. Soon the white killers were at war with the Wiradjuri who vigorously resisted the loss of their fishing grounds and sacred sites for about 20 years from 1821. If an Aborigine were writing this instead of me, then probably they choose the double Wimbeldon womens’ singles champion Evonne Goolagong, a Wiradjuri born in Griffith in 1951, to do so.
The other thing which John Oxley failled to see coming was the gold rush which began in the neighbouring state of Victoria in 1851. For the next twenty years Australia was the largest gold producer in the world. During the three years to 1854 the white population of Melbourne more than quadrupled and within the decade which ended in 1861 the white population of Australia grew from 437,655 to 1,151,947. Australia would look very different today if that gold had not been discovered, but it would also be a rather different place if the iron ore, diamonds, uranium and other mineral resources currently being exploited were not in such a great demand by China. It is also clear to us Marsupials that, unlike the Aborigines, the great majority of the white race would prefer to extract wealth from the ground, rather than manage the land for further generations. Their agriculture is also often an „extractive“ industry which either depletes soil fertility, results in soil erosion or increases soil salinity until it can no longer support crops. The history of the white man is one of how he has repeatedly destroyed the soil beneath his own feet.
But just how was the Riverina transformed by the white race from „desolation“ in 1817 into what the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of November 13th 2008 called „the richest tract of agrciultural land in Australia“? At first the landscape of the Riverina changed only slowly, at least to the naked eye. In 1853 the first riverboats came up the Murrumbidgee, then in 1876 the iron horse followed and the region became a major supplier of beef and lamb to Melbourne and of wool to the mighty British textile industry. The arrival of sheep and rabbits lead to the extinction of some marsupials and a drastic reduction in the numbers of others as our habitats changed irreversibly. Since the white killers arrived in Australia they have eradicated 23 species of Marsupials here.
Then in 1912 came a change that would make everything that went before seem insignifcant. In that year the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) was founded, and during subsequent decades the construction of the Hume, Burrinjuck and Blowering dams enabled its expansion to the present 1,820 square kilometers. The diverted river water instantly transformed the hot semi-arid climate of the Riverina from a problem for the White Race into a great advantage for all manner of crops be artificially more than doubling the rainfall. Today the region produces 80% of all grapes and wine in NSW, 90% of all citrus fruits, all the gherkins used by MacDonalds in Australia and the vast majority of Australian rice. As Italian immigrants to the region after the Second World War discovered, the combination of climate and irrigation is also ideal for marijauna growing. This is so profitable that only major police crackdowns like that described in the SMH article of April 3rd 2011 „Griffith mafia returns to its grass roots“ can keep it in check. During the two weeks prior to this report the NSW police siezed AUS$ 23 million worth of marijauna plants growing in orchards and vineyards around the town of Griffith. Which finally brings us to the vines!
The Riverina is one of a handful of intensively irriagted winegrowing regions in Murray-Darling Basin which dominate bulk wine production in Australia. By bulk wine I mean wines which end up in bag-in-box and cheap bottles on supermarket shelves around the world. In common with most [yellow tail] bottlings, they are invariably marketed under the georgraphical designation „Southeastern Australia“ which enables wines from those intensively irrigated regions to be blended together. For a Marsupial like me who has a very clear sense of home whose contours are particular rocks, trees and bilabongs this designation says everything about the disrespect for the land of the majority of white Australians. Thankfully, some of them now see things the same way as us. The following words are from a white Australian who grew up in one of these winegrowing regions and left for reasons which his words make clear. „Where I come from the vineyard yield can be up to 45 tons per hectare, which is grape skins filled with river water. I never wanted to see vines again!“ The enviromental cost? The website of the Australian Broadcasting Corportation (www.abc.com.au) declares the MIA to be one of three areas in NSW at greatest risk from increased soil salinity. The problem? Irrigation results in a rising water table and the ground water carries salt from deep under the surface up into the soil. This threatens the future of agriculture, and of winegrowing. What did I say: white killers!