Girl’s heartfelt plea to save NSW fishing industry
A 13-YEAR-OLD girl has fronted a packed room in NSW Parliament House to urge the government to rethink commercial fishing reforms which she said were destroying her family's livelihood.
Maddison Blanch spoke before a meeting of fishing professionals, industry leaders and politicians on Wednesday, although no one from the Liberal or National parties attended.
She told the crowd her third-generation fisher father, Phillip Blanch, had been hit hard by a scheme forcing him to buy back his right to work.
"My father, like the majority of fishers in NSW, goes to work rain, hail or shine," she said.
"My dad goes to work and provides Australia with fresh Aussie seafood and brings an income home for his family just like every other Aussie dad.
"My dad loves what he does but, because of reforms, my dad needs to buy more shares to continue to work as he does now, for 2017.
"So basically he needs to buy back his job, like most fishers."
Ms Blanch said her father could not buy shares because no one was selling them, and he should not have to take out a loan to be able to afford to do his own job.
"Put yourself in the Region 4 (Central Coast) fishers' shoes, not being able to work, through no fault of your own," she said.
"Watching your family, job, passion go down the drain. Not being able to help everything and everyone that meant something to you slowly slipping away.
"Unable to support your family. Be honest - you know you can't because it's not happening to you and your loved ones.
"Like I said before, I'm 13. I have watched my dad go through all this and slowly I can see him giving up.
"It hurts me because I can't do anything about it. This is not just about my dad; this is about every fisher across NSW."
Ms Blanch told the room she drew a picture last year of her family and other fishing families - an image showing "passion, pain and heartbreak".
"The fishermen's lives have been stripped to nothing and they're expected to start again," she said.
"Their future is looking cloudy. The picture brings me to tears because it means so much.
"Everything that's happening to the fishers is unfair and they don't deserve this.
"They've done nothing wrong."
Labor MP Kate Washington repeated the speech in parliament for the benefit of government members who declined to attend the previous day's meeting.
She said some fourth and fifth generation fishers she spoke to were facing up to $450,000 bills to maintain their current workload.
"In Australia, we seem to hold farmers in our hearts but see commercial fishers as the plunderers of the sea," Ms Washington said.
"Nothing can be further from the truth.
"We are talking about small family-run operations, which, over generations, have managed resources sustainably.
"It is in their own interests to ensure that the area they fish is healthy."