My fascination with rivers, indeed the place water plays in our lives has been a lifetime preoccupation. As a small child I learnt to swim in a river and was educated to take special care not only of the river but the land along it banks.
When I first moved to Western Australia as young woman the amazing coastline captured my imagination, but since then inland waterways have been an important part of my artistic journey. From early days sketching in the Pilbara, visits to Millstream (Traditional country of the Yindjabarndi people) to the mighty Fitzroy River traversing any traditional countries in Kimberley and the King River in far North East of the state which spills out into the ocean where 5 rivers meet, our rivers are spring fed and at times massive tidal rivers. Their story and care of critical importance.
My most recent obsession has been a water course bit closer to home for me. The headwaters of our own Derbal Yerrigan. My starting point for this exploration was in 2013 on Ballardong country in the Wheat belt Town of Beverley Western Australian and developed during a further Residency in March to April 2016, combining with my most recent residency in June 2018
I returned to Beverley for my second residency March to April 2016 with the view to explore the seasonal changes across the six traditional seasons and listen to the stories of local people about their River experiences. I would also begin to undertake study of the land use and water management practices and the aspects of the terrain and vegetation that were tied to the stories of the River and visit across the seasons.
Having walked a dry riverbed, watched the lakes and the River fill and dry again you could be fooled that the project was done. But no, in February 2017 the river flooded and since that time I have continued to see both the river and the Lakes in various cloaks.
My winter visit in 2019 would find the river crowned by mystical fogs that sharpen the eye and have you thinking very differently. The water story of course also takes you on path to appreciate the role the vegetation endemic to the area plays as well as some fascinating stories about people and their relationship to water coming up from the ground be that a cultural and spiritual one or perhaps a more programatic relationship to do with farming practices. The weather and the seasons all implicated.
I hope my interpretation gives you inspiration to join me to build your knowledge and understanding of these ecological , culturally and socially important song lines in our country.
I would like to thank the Beverley community their warm welcomed , as a visiting artist. The country in my heart now.
I am sure I will return time over.
The town of Beverley has a considerable history associated with the early colonization of the state and the Avon River is a major tributary feeding into the Swan River which reaches the sea near Fremantle. In present times the area is essentially a grain growing and sheep farming area approximately 130 kilometer east of Perth in Western Australia.
Before European settlement the River has been described as mostly fresh and teeming with animal and bird life. The river was a prime food source and a profound spiritual resource and remains part of a significant song line for the Ballardong people. Settlement in the early 1830’s introduced stock watering and domestic use, and pools became places for summer recreation.
The river now is in a very different condition, degraded by the cumulative impacts of settlement and efforts to engineer the flow and flood pattern with the River Training Scheme when the river bed and banks were bulldozed. There has also been and inflow of salt and sediment from agricultural practices .
The river might be called an upside down river as its source is not run off from mountain ranges. Instead it rises from the ancient underground river system which brings salt water to the surface. The river system relies of the rainfall to replenish and reduce salinity, so climate change may also be contributing.