2019 Citizens’ Inquiry – More Information

More Details about the 2019 Citizens’ Inquiry into the Health or the Darling River and Menindee Lakes

Menindee Lakes

What is the 2019 Citizen Inquiry into the Health of the Darling River and Menindee Lakes?

The Citizens’ Inquiry is an independent, non-government, civil society initiative, created and managed by community leaders, environmental and human rights lawyers and First Nations Elders, who are volunteering their time to support communities affected by the declining health of the Darling River and Menindee Lakes. The Inquiry offers a safe, unbiased forum for people along the Darling River to share their stories, concerns and solutions.

The Inquiry will run from 21 January to 30 April 2019, with public hearings being held from 19-29 March, in Mildura, Wentworth, Broken Hill, Menindee, Wilcannia, Bourke, Walgett and Brewarrina.

How will the Inquiry help communities along the Darling River?

As a citizens’ initiative, the APT is not a government endorsed activity nor do any of its activities, decisions or recommendations have the force of government-sanctioned law.

The APT follows in the tradition of other Peoples’ Tribunals around the world, including the Permanent Peoples Tribunal and International Rights of Nature Tribunal, which work to give communities a safe, unbiased platform to come together to demand ecological and social justice.

The Tribunal will publicise its findings and recommendations through media and social media channels, and will send its report and recommendations to all relevant government agencies, corporations and interested stakeholders. This will support citizen campaigns aimed at ensuring Governments and Corporations to respect and listen to community concerns and solutions.

What will the Inquiry do?

The Inquiry is inviting people who reside in communities affected by the declining health of the Darling River – including First Nations Peoples, farmers, local councillors, business people and other concerned citizens – to have their voice heard.

  • Written and oral testimonies provided by community members will be made publicly available on the Inquiry website.
  • The testimonies and recommendations given by members of the community, about the Darling River, will be shared with government agencies, corporations and wider Australian society.
  • A final report will be prepared by the Inquiry Panel by late May/early June, which will be publicised through international and national media outlets, social media and presented to government agencies, corporations and the wider community.

The Citizens’ Inquiry is open until 30 April, and will compile all community testimonies and present a report and recommendations to the Federal, NSW, Qld, Vic and SA governments by mid 2019. Community evidence will include testimonies (written and oral/video recorded) by people who reside in communities affected by the decline of the Darling River. The Inquiry will also invite testimonies and evidence from scientists engaged in scientific research and monitoring of the river and its ecosystems, and lawyers with knowledge of the current governance system for the river.

Why was the Inquiry created?

Concerned citizens petitioned the Australian Peoples’ Tribunal in early 2018, inviting the Tribunal to support communities affected by the declining health of the Darling River.

The Darling River featured as one of the case studies in the 2018 Citizens’ Inquiry into the Impacts of Industrial Scale Agriculture on Community and Nature’s Rights. The 2018 Citizens’ Inquiry was held in Brisbane on 27 October 2018. All testimonials from the Darling River case study can be viewed on the 2018 Inquiry webpage. You can also read the Initial Statement from the 2018 Tribunal Panel.

Holding the 2019 Citizens’ Inquiry into the Health of the Darling River was one of the recommendations that came out of the 2018 Australian Peoples’ Tribunal, which was held in Brisbane on 27 October 2018.

Who organises the Tribunal and who sits on the Tribunal Panel?

Secretariat Support for the Tribunal is organised by the Australian Earth Laws Alliance.

The Citizens’ Inquiry Panel includes the following people, who are volunteering their time to manage the Inquiry and participate in the public hearings:

2019 Tribunal Panel

Dr Michelle Maloney

Dr Michelle Maloney is a lawyer and Co-Founder/National Convenor of the Australian Earth Laws Alliance (AELA). She has a Bachelor of Arts/Law (Hons) from the Australian National University and a PhD from Griffith Law School. Michelle has 25 years’ experience managing climate change, environmental justice and cross-cultural projects in Australia, the UK and the United States. She is on the Executive Committee of the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) and Ecological Law and Governance Association (ELGA).


Ross Williams is of the Bindal People in the region now known as Townsville. Ross has three decades’ experience working to support indigenous people’s engagement with natural resource management programs for the Queensland State government, as well as working with his own and other indigenous communities on economic development and caring for country projects. Ross is motivated by a strong desire to help indigenous groups, especially young indigenous people, create their own economic futures through local community development and economic projects.


Gill H. Boehringer is a former Dean of Macquarie University School of Law. He is a member of the Monitoring Committee on Attacks on Lawyers of the International Association of People’s Lawyers. He has served on Peoples’ Tribunals in Australia, the Philippines, and New York City, and as an Observer at a Peoples’ Tribunal in Washington, DC. As a member of the Judges Panel of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, he sat on tribunals in Cambodia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka on the Asian garment industries, and in Mexico on the social crisis in that country. He has published over two hundred book chapters, articles and conference papers, and co-edited a monograph, Critique of Law.

Gwynn MacCarrick

Dr Gwynn MacCarrick has had a career as international counsel, principal lawyer and university lecturer and academic with the University of Tasmania. Gwynn was admitted as a legal practitioner in 1997 and has a doctorate in international law. She was Amicus Curiae to the recent International Monsanto Tribunal (IMT) advising on the question of Ecocide (Environmental Crime). The IMT was a Peoples’ Tribunal, a civil society initiative established to support the efforts of communities world-wide seeking justice by referencing the legal advisory opinion of jurists who made determinations about the environmental impact of this agro-chemical and bio-technology multinational corporation.

Read more about how Panel Members are selected for different Citizens’ Inquiries and Ecological Justice Cases

Invitation for Darling River Communities to Submit Their Testimony and Evidence About the State of the Darling River & Menindee Lakes

People who live in regions and towns connected to the Darling River can participate in the Citizens’ Inquiry in two ways:

  • (i) people are invited to submit written or oral recorded testimony to the Inquiry by 30th April, via the submission portal and/or
  • (ii) people are invited to share their testimony at one of the public hearings being held from 19-29 March.

Terms of Reference

Everyone who submits written or oral testimonies was asked to address any or all of the following Terms of Reference:

  • Are you reliant on the Darling River for drinking water, household water use, business use and/or farming?
  • What is the current state of the Darling where you live? (Describe what you see.)
  • What are the impacts of the Darling River on your personal and family life and your community or township?
  • What are the impacts of the Darling River on your personal business and your community economies?
  • What can you see as being the impacts of the zero-flows of the Darling River on the biodiversity and natural systems that make up the river and connected waterways, catchments and ecosystems?
  • In your view and understanding, what are the prime causes of the current state of the Darling River Basin?
  • In your view, what could or needs to be happening to restore the Darling River and its human and natural communities to a sustainable good health?