Posted 04 September 2011, by Troy Rowling, Queensland Country Life (Fairfax Media), qcl.farmonline.com.au
SALLY Conway and Storm Powell have not finished high school, yet they are already learning the harsh realities of rural life.
The 14-year-old girls dream of careers in agriculture, but believe their ambitions are being taken away by the mining industry.
The young women want to tell their story to inspire other young people to take up the fight to protect prime agricultural land for their generation.
Sally’s parents owned three beef properties at Wandoan, the blocks accumulated over two decades of hard work.
They had hoped to provide a property for each of their three children – including Sally – when they were old enough.
However, Sally was nine when Xstrata announced plans to construct the largest open-cut coalmine in the southern hemisphere in her backyard.
After years of resisting the company, her parents reluctantly sold a property to Xstrata. The remaining two properties are now also under threat from the second stage of the mine’s development.
“It’s all I’ve ever dreamed of doing and it is being taken away,” she said. “We all have our rights and they need to be recognised.”
Storm can watch the mining blasts from her verandah at the family property near Dysart.
The BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) open-cut mine, which has been in the region for more than two decades, has taken over 2800 hectares of her family property, almost half of which was cultivated land on the cattle and grain property.
Storm dreams of studying veterinarian science and specialising in equine medicine, but with mining taking over agricultural land, she does not know how viable her own vet practice might be.
She said she had witnessed Dysart become an increasingly mining-driven community.
“I don’t know if it will be possible to be an equine vet with my own business in Dysart with all the mining going on,” she said.
“We can’t muster in certain parts of our property because the mine is there. Everywhere you ride you look out and what was once beautiful country is now just rock.”
Sally said the State Government should think beyond the anticipated 30-year mining boom and focus on food security for next century.
“Our dads are the smartest people we know. They’ve taken nothing and worked their whole lives to build it into a business so we can take it over. They’ve given us the biggest push-start to help us, and then the mining comes along.
“The companies can give you all the money in the world but you don’t want to give it up for what you love. The money is not worth anything.”