Mental health issues and a lack of hope dominate basin plan discussions

By Rodney Woods

The independent panel assessing social and economic conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin has wrapped-up its series of workshops and meetings.

Panel members travelled to 29 locations across the basin over three weeks capturing the broad range of issues, inputs, views and information that people were able to share.

“We’ve listened to what the basin community has had to say throughout the last three weeks,” independent panel chair Robbie Sefton said.

“We have heard that there are deep and real issues common among many communities in the basin.

“The panel has been concerned with the many reports of mental health issues, the sense of hopelessness that many are feeling and the reducing levels of community resilience.”

Ms Sefton said the panel had communicated these concerns to Federal Water Minister David Littleproud.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar responded to Ms Sefton's comments, saying Mr Littleproud simply must build up the courage and admit the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is failing the nation, then take positive steps to help desperate communities.

“He needs to accept it is not just drought, but also the failing basin plan, which is causing so much pain,” Ms Scoullar said.

“It is a horrible, inflexible plan that is hurting the environment, farmers, businesses and Australia’s long-valued food security.”

More than 600 people attended round-tables and drop-in sessions, with more than 400 people so far sharing their thoughts via the panel’s online Community Experience Survey which complemented the face-to-face sessions.

The panel will provide an interim report to Mr Littleproud before the end of the year and will submit a final report in April 2020.

The panel has compiled a Key Messages document of what was heard from the drop-in sessions and round-tables. These messages can be found at:

To complete the online survey, visit:

To find out more about the independent panel’s work, visit: or email