Schools are often the hub of communities and with Dirranbandi’s strong commitment to sporting and cultural opportunities families have had every reason to make the region their home, until now.
The Murray Darling Basin Authority’s water buybacks have not only affected agricultural extremities but local Dirranbandi and Hebel schools with flow on effects trickling from there into all aspects of community.
Dirranbandi State School P&C president Karen Sullivan, Tooroora, said a reduction in the local population as a result of the buybacks was taking its toll on school enrollments.
“Numbers at the school have halved- we’re down from 120 kids at Dirranbandi to about 65,” she said.
“Reduced enrollments therefore reduces the number of families involved at the school which therefore lessens the number of P&C members.
“That effects our ability to help other community organisations and its gotten to the point where there is only about four of us who’ve been doing it for the last five years and we’re ready to move on- we’ve got kids at boarding school and we’re ready to hand our hats over but there doesn’t seem to be people filtering through to take it on.”
Mrs Sullivan said the Hebel State School was also feeling the pinch with numbers falling to about nine students from between 15 and 25 at times.
“The Hebel Hotel has also shut down and it is the oldest pub in Australia. Imagine if they buy back more water, we’ll all become ghost towns.”
Karena Wilson, Wilgunya, Dirranbandi, owns The Linen Cupboard in the town’s main street and said times were tough for her business.
“The loss of custom from four irrigation farms selling their water has been noticeable. Some of those farms had four or more families living and working on property and if each of those families spent $500 per year, it all adds up,” Mrs Wilson said.