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Byron Shire
May 10, 2021

Dalwood Falls claims another life

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Dalwood Falls, near Alstonville. The falls have been the site of three deaths and numerous spinal injuries but remain popular.

Chris Dobney

Ballina Mayor David Wright says Ballina Council has ‘done everything the Coroner asked us to do’ in trying to prevent accidents and tragedies at Dalwood Falls but that ‘if people are going to climb a 1.5 metre-high barrier covered with signs, we can’t stop them’.

The comments follow the police discovery on Sunday (April 8) of the body of a 30-year-old Alstonville woman at the base of the falls.

Inspector Suzie Johnson told Echonetdaily there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death.

Cr Wright said the council had drawn up management plans for Killen and Tosha falls – including paths, parking and toilets – but Dalwood, with its high cliffs surrounding a waterhole, proves too difficult for council staff to manage.

‘We’ve tried everything possible – we’ve put up signs and sent rangers out there – but nothing seems to work. No matter what we do, if people want to use it, they’ll use it for whatever purpose,’ he told Echonetdaily.

‘At the moment, nobody can observe it, so we’re looking at what else we can do.’

Council resolved in March last year to place the site on the market and simultaneously entered into discussions with the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council about it taking over management of the falls.

Asked whether that wouldn’t just be transferring the responsibility to a body with even fewer resources, Cr Wright said the Jali had expressed an interest in a possible caretaker arrangement as the land was sacred to them.

‘They don’t have to take it on, and we haven’t reached an agreement with them at this stage, they’re still discussing it.

‘There’s also the possibility that people might respect it more if its an Indigenous site.

‘At Killen Falls and Tosha Falls you have lookouts, or you can go in the water, but this one they actually jump into the waterhole.

We’ve cut all the trees down that people used to swing off, we’ve done everything the coroner thought was the right thing to do,’ he said.

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  1. I spent Summers in my teens and my 20’s swimming at the various waterholes and waterfalls around the region. We jumped into Dalwood Falls, and other falls around the Alstonville Wollongbar area. We also swam at Minyon Falls. The Green Pool, The Blue Pool, and Bexhill quarry were all quarries where we swam. In a time where life was easier, we would camp at these falls or waterholes overnight, sometimes setting up a primus or a small campfire to heat a kettle. The morning meant another swim, tidying up the site, and leaving. Sometimes people would have a few drinks or a joint. We all looked out for each other. There were no mobile phones then.
    I look now at 2018. Many of the swimming spots from my childhood are now CLOSED due to “safety issues”. Children and youths may have mobile phones to get help in an emergency, but they are not growing up with the same access to and love of the country life, as we had the pleasure years ago. Land clearing and water mining will mean that all of these special places will eventually be concreted in, bulldozed or sold off. This makes me sad.
    Australia went stupid in the early 1990’s when a few court cases followed the American precidents. Until then we had ät fault”clauses in our judgements. (eg: He stuck his head out of a train window, which had a sign saying not to put any body part out of the train window. His head hit a post, and caused bnrain damage. It was 90% his fault, and 10% the railways, as trhe windows were able to open.) . When our legal courts removed the ät fault”clauses from judgement, Australia became a country subject to threats and people sueing each other for everything. Suddenly, our free way of living was impacted by fear. Walls went up. Creeks became cement drains, or fenced off. Insurance became the norm, and prices went up as more people sued each other.
    I sure miss the FAIR GO MATE attitude of Australia’s past. Plus if somebody acts like a “galah”and hurts themselves doing something unsafe, that was their lesson.
    Please cant we have a system where people are told “Use this area at ÿour own risk. No responsibility taken if you are injured” for these places, rather than stopping access to them?


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