Sunday, March 11, 2012


When I was a kid at primary school, more than half a century ago, I had to regularly chant the following mantra:
"Burrinjuck Dam on the Murrimbidgee River", "Burrinjuck Dam on the Murrimbidgee River",
"Burrinjuck Dam on the Murrimbidgee River"...
Ad infinitum.
The words were indelibly written on white butcher's paper slung over a large free-standing blackboard.
There were no such things as fountain pens then.
Us Aussie kids of the 1950s were still using dip pens and ink wells.
Oh, and good old blotting paper!
Kids of today would not know about any of this, about ink-stained fingers and hand-writing accentuated by unwanted blobs of ink
Back in those far distant days, Australians were very proud of their dams.
Not so now.
I can't remember the last time I heard the Burrinjuck Dam mentioned in the media.
A couple of years ago when I was driving along the Hume Highway heading towards Yass, I saw the sign, 'Burrinjuck Dam'.
Suddenly all these powerful feelings came welling up inside me from my past.
Here was that magical mysterious place with the funny name that I had been introduced to all those years ago.
It was worth taking a detour to see just what it was all about.
What an amazing place it turned out to be!
A narrow winding road led down through steep mountain terrain to what looked like, at first glimpse, a very large, very blue lake with an island.
Conifers interspersed among the gum trees give it an alpine feel.
By the time I reached the small village of Burrinjuck at the end of the road, I felt I was in Austria or Switzerland.
The place definitely had an 'other worldly' feel about it.
I wondered if it had been an Aboriginal sacred site where corroborees had been held by the land's original owners.
The word 'Burrinjuck' is derived from the local Aboriginal Wiradjuri language, interpreted as 'Barren Jack' and meaning 'steep mountain'.
The mighty Burrinjuck was the first dam built in NSW for the purpose of irrigation.
Work started on it in 1907 and was not completed until more than 10 years later in 1828.
Its purpose was to supply water to farmers in the Murrimbidgee Irrigation Area which included the recently flooded town of Griffith, as well as nearby Yanco and Leeton.
I was there at the time of the dam's centenary, but as far as I was aware, no major celebrations were taking place.
This was a great pity, because it is a very special place.
The dam is located within Burrinjuck Waters State Park and boasts walking tracks, king parrots and crimson rosellas, and fish like murray cod, golden perch, rainbow trout, and redfin.
Another fish, the fully protected Macquarie perch, has to be returned to the water unharmed by anyone lucky enough to catch one.
Burrinjuck Dam is just four hours drive from Sydney and is well worth going off the beaten track to visit.
(c) Pamela Mawbey 2007 (unpublished)