These days most Australian children are driven to school, but things are very different for some teenagers living on the Darling River between Wentworth and Pooncarie in south west New South Wales.

Key points:

  • It’s been 10 years since Georgia Strachan and her family have had to travel by boat across the Darling River to meet the school bus
  • In early 2018 the farmers on the lower Darling played a cricket match on the dry river bed
  • The high river levels are expected to continue until March, so the boat is likely to be needed for the school run into 2022

They are having to take a boat to get to school because the Darling River is finally running high again for the first time in years.

At 7:30am each school day Georgia Strachan, 14, climbs aboard the family’s tinny for the very short ride to the other side of the river, then it’s a one-kilometre car ride to the bus stop before a 50 minute trip on the minibus to reach Coomealla High School.

“The teachers are quite surprised that I’m very committed to get to school, apparently,” Georgia said.

Georgia’s family runs Tulney Point Station which runs alongside a section of the lower Darling River.

There’s a bridge that usually provides the property with access to Pooncarie Road, but the Darling is now so high that the river crossing is a metre underwater.

Roads are visible on both sides of the river but the bridge connecting the banks is underwater

The Tulney Point bridge across the Darling River is at least a metre underwater(ABC Rural: Kellie Hollingworth)

“It’s pretty cool. We haven’t seen the river up so high in a fair while, so it’s pretty nice to see it flowing,” Georgia said.

At the moment the mornings are warm, but it’s not so idyllic in winter when the steep riverbank is slippery and the water is icy cold.

Georgia was just four years old the last time the river was this high and as a preschooler, she was restrained in the boat using a car seat.

‘We were quite young then, so we needed something to keep us in the boat,” she said.

Georgia Strachan is dressed in her Coomealla High School uniform. She has her backpack on and is about to walk onto a mini bus

Georgia Strachan, 14,uses three modes of transport to get to school each day — boat, car and bus.(ABC Rural: Kellie Hollingworth)

Darling ‘back to life’

The Darling River is flowing quickly due to the releases from the Menindee Lakes.

It’s a welcome sight — given not long ago the same river bed was bone dry.

Georgia doesn’t remember a lot from 2010 but recalls the property was “pretty” and she expects the environment will spring back to life again.

The 14-year-old finishes school for the year on Friday and it’s very likely she’ll be taking the boat to school when classes resume in 2022.

“Apparently the river is meant to be staying up until about March, so I think we’ll be catching a boat for a while,” she said

Georgia is looking forward to spending her summer holidays swimming in the river.

“When I was 10 there was no water, and now that I am 14 and the river is finally up, I might be able to do it,” Georgia said.

Teenager catches a ‘tinny’ to get to school as the Darling flows ‘back to life’
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