Facing down a massive dust storm

Nyngan mum's dramatic dust photo caught in media 'storm'

Marcia Macmillan's amazing photo of her daughter running into a dust storm east of Nyngan that went around the world - a media feeding frenzy that has shocked her. Photo: Marcia Macmillan.

Marcia Macmillan's amazing photo of her daughter running into a dust storm east of Nyngan that went around the world - a media feeding frenzy that has shocked her. Photo: Marcia Macmillan.


Trying to portray a defiant image, but message left 'dusty'


It's a photo of struggle and defiance that went around the world highlighting how the Australian continent is being besieged. But for the photographer it was not a bid for sympathy.

Special needs teacher Marcia Macmillan, of Mullengudgery Merino Stud east of Nyngan, had no idea her photo she originally only sent to The Land would be used across international media platforms from a dramatic simple shot of her daughter Raphaella, 9, running into a dust storm. It even made the Irish Times in Dublin.

The photo, that is an entry in The Land's Stories of Hope photo competition, was meant to show defiance at the drought. It is something incredible Marcia hopes her daughter never forgets. The Merino stud, that Marcia and her husband Scott manage for the Moxham family, has defied the drought through smart farming practices, building large underground fodder storages and being wise with stocking rates.

It's parched, but the property is surviving, the stud with strong links to rural clients in southern Queensland and northern NSW. It's also a reminder that the drought is still biting hard, as the focus has turned recently to the devastating bushfires along the coast and ranges of NSW.

This dust storm was one of several over five days that was part of the big storm event that brought good rain to many areas of the state, but also left just dust on others. Mullengudgery had just 11mm, and as Marcia, said, it just soaked straight into the ground. It was rain, dust storm and then rain.

The relentless dust storms though have sapped spirits but has not beaten anyone who have to deal with such sights constantly. It also presents a constant struggle to keep a young girl's clothes dust-free.

But the photo sent Marcia into a new storm as some media grabbed it without permission from Instagram and Facebook, and in some interviews Marcia believed her intent was misinterpreted.

"I guess the image was just to serve as an insight into our situation and a reminder of what we are experiencing on a weekly basis," Marcia told The Land.

"We are not wanting sympathy, but just don't want to be forgotten or overlooked. I hope the article builds awareness for our ongoing situation and generates amazement, wonder and support.

"There are many ways to support drought affected communities. For example, rekindle old connections with friends and family who live in drought affected communities, be interested in where your food and fibre is coming from, buy Australian made goods, begin a conversation, take a road trip to visit and stay in one of these communities - there is so much on offer out here despite the dire landscape and present conditions.

"Ensuring our small local businesses survive is paramount to the community's survival. So please continue to support buyfromthebush.com.au and its offshoot Stay In The Bush, which has been a brilliant and life changing initiative by the incredibly humble Grace Brennan, who also hails from this area."

Related: Dust storm, Dubbo, Parkes: Sky turned black as dust rolled over | Video, photos

On one international news website Marcia's photo was shown with a caption that said it was a "handout photo" from her, naming her, but at the end saying "Photograph: Getty". It was used on News Ltd, and Daily Mail (United Kingdom), and National Post (Canada) news websites. Also on the France 24 website it was credited as "photo by Handout / Courtesy of Marcia Macmillan / AFP) / AFP - HANDOUT". She was also quoted on China.org, the image used on the BBC in London, her photo credited as Marcia Macmillan/AFP, The Global Times, with the list of world news outlets using the image still growing on Wednesday.

Several news organisation did the right thing, including Channel Nine, and rang Marcia up for comments about the photo and permission to use it.

"I have no idea where it has gone to or who is using it now," she said.

She spent much of Wednesday phoning some media groups who hadn't asked for permission, asking them to pull it down. But once it had gone "viral", having hashtagged "duststorm" on Instagram, there was little she could do - a teacher from Nyngan ringing an international news desk and trying to get things changed is not easy, she found.

Her photo of a monster dust storm had created its own media monster.

So now exclusively The Land can show Marcia's video of the event, the world hasn't seen yet! (We think).


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