Saving Wee Waa – the town that killed Eddie Murray

Keep an eye out for the demise of the National Party in the coming Federal election. In recent NSW State Elections, country NSW voted the National Party out with swings of up to 20% to the right-wing Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF). This was partly because of water supply problems and mass fish kills in the Murray Darling river system. Roy Butler (SFF) took the seat of Barwon which takes in much of Gomeroi country including small towns like Wee Waa, Condoblin, Collarenebri in a vast mid-west electorate.

Here’s a video about Wee Waa on the Namoi River which tells one side of the story of water that has caused this political upheaval.

Californian cotton farmers, Paul Kahl, Frank Hadley, Jean Kahl and Norma Hadley came to town in the early 1960s claiming there was too much regulation in the cotton industry in the US. One of those farmers, Frank Hadley features in this recent video. Big Cotton took over and the Namoi Rover suffered as a result. Frank Hadley, reflecting on its origins in the early 1960s had this to say about the use of water:

“At that time you got a water licence per property, and if you had a man and a wife own a property in a joint name you could get a 400-acre [161-hectare] licence, but if you had it in two names you could get two 400-acre licences.

“So knowing that when we bought our land, we bought it in as many different names as you could, so we expanded that way.”

Eddie Murray murdered by police in Wee Waa.

Murder Clouds
Wee Waa is the town where Eddie Murray was murdered in 1981 by local police because his family were struggling for decent conditions from the cotton farmers for the aboriginal cotton chippers.

Eddie’s dad, Arthur, had death threats from townspeople prior to his son’s murder. Arthur and a mate, Keith Morris, had campaigned hard to get justice for their people, but to no avail.

Local newspaper’s take on Keith Morris being awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM). Clipping: Radical Times Archive

The Wee Waa Echo called aboriginal activists “radicals and professional troublemakers”, adding that “it is not fanciful to see the Aboriginal problem as the powder keg for Communist aggression in Australia”. Abused as “boongs” and “niggers”, the Murrays’ riverside camp was attacked and the cotton workers’ tents smashed or burned down.

The town is well known for its racism. Townspeople placed this boomerang with the sarcastic inscription ‘OAM King Koon‘ on the bar of a local pub.

Keith said that ‘he had mixed emotions about receiving the medal’ because of the racist attitudes of many of the towns people.

Racist slogan above the bar of a hotel in Wee Waa Photo: Radical Times Archive.

Mr. Keith Raymond Morris of Delta Pine Place, Wee Waa, had been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for ‘welfare work’. Keith and Arthur had been organising itinerant cotton chippers in the the town to fight for better wages and conditions.

Will Wee Waa learn its lesson, give up on racism and embrace more sustainable custodianship of the land? We hope so.

Ian Curr
13 May 2019

One response to “Saving Wee Waa – the town that killed Eddie Murray

  1. I can not hope that WeeWaa would learn from its racist past unless the Community has radically changed its population. I CAN hope that an influx of better informed ppl have moved in since the 80s.
    Shame on their past actions and attitudes.

    Liked by 1 person

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