Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What lies Underneath

Young Mangrove underwater in Westernport Bay, Victoria.

How do you know what lies beneath until you look.
And then when one looks under the turbid waters how does one interpret what one sees?

I am on a boat with many intrepid lookers, who don their wetsuits in all conditions and enter the water to gain an insight into the world beneath the surface. The data they collect will add to the always increasing store of knowledge about unseen worlds and help the people who are engaged to manage these places more effectively and sensitively.

I am diving too. But I do not have a wetsuit. All I have is deep curiosity and a wide open heart. And of these places underneath. I am finding spaces that I never dared dream existed.

photos by Thierry Rolland

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Two Bays

Boonerwrung Elder Carolyn Briggs - Welcome to Country - Two Bays Launch, Docklands, 2nd December, 2007.

Andrew Denton getting to know Weedy at the Launch.

Weedy Sea Dragon, photographed by Guillaume Martinez an EPA scintist on the project. Flinders Pier.

The Nerd Centre of the Project

Two Bays is now well underway. We launched last Sunday, almost a week ago now. The State Environment Minister, Gavin Jennings, helped launch as well as our patron, Andrew Denton and a Welcome to Country and Ceremony by Carolyn Briggs. The event ran incredibly smoothly and I think I finally relaxed about the whole deal the following day. It is amazing how much time and effort can go into 45 minutes!

Time for blogging has been very scarce as I have been frantically putting this project together and at the same time been in a period of personal crisis. Matters of the heart.

The project is falling into place and as I write I can hear the chirpy sounds of a bunch of volunteer divers who have just emerged from snorkling, studying and exploring the Yaringa Marine Park in Western Port Bay.
I hope to blog a bit more over the next few days, but just wanted to get up that Two Bays is up and running and we are finally out on the water doing fun things!

As for the matters of the heart I am learning a process of being able to sit with complex feelings and allow the body and heart time to absorb, meditate and hopefully clarify. It is all one can do besides travel with as much honesty and hopefully integrity as possible.

I wrote a poem to try and capture a bit of this called-


One foot in front of the other,
stumbling on loose rock,
reminding me of one foot in front of the other.

Warmth, light and shadows on the path,
a Currowong calls, and I pause to listen.
I hear up ahead the returning call, "I am here, I am here."

The trees stretch up into the heat of the first day of Summer,
the forest speckled with the fresh green crowns of fern trees,
flickering pale limbs scarcer amongst the Ironbark.

I find a place to pause, a road carved in the forest,
making a seat.
I sit.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Return from Cape Flattery

Cyril pointing to Pelican, heading off South at the end of the project.

Aurora, getting painted up as "White Cockatoo"

I feel I have been on the journey of a lifetime. The project was tremendous fun this year and I felt so welcomed to Country by the Bama people there. It was an absolute gift to have time to share and help create a small pilot project of Digital Story Telling with all the kids. I had a new friend join me, Samia Goudie, who has tremendous experience with Digital story telling and who has worked in Indigenous Health for over 15 years. Together I feel we embarked on the beginning of a very fruitful team endeavour. If you are interested in the project overall please have a read on our Pelican website which is mentioned in my links.
I realise now the wonderful power of collaborative work. The Pelican team just slotted into a web of relationships and we all together made many important connections and understandings.
Hope to write more soon about it all but the reality is that I am now emeshed in bringing Two Bays to life.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's past the middle of the night....

and I can't sleep and what better way to while away the insomnia but to end the cliffhanger of my last two blogs. Spring has again sprung and it looks like a long dry Summer ahead.

These beautiful star magnolias in the photo were bursting forth in Hobart. I travelled down to Tasmania to talk about a Two Bays kind of project along the East Coast.

Meanwhile Two Bays has been reborn in Victoria as the new Minister seems to like the project and it looks like we have the go-ahead. Hence another reason for sleepless nights as there is now so much to plan.

Just as well I have decided to make my way up to Hope Vale again this year as I am hoping to set up the Digital Story Telling component of the project with a new friend, Samia Goudie. I can forget about meetings for a week and enjoy the campsite again up at Cape Flattery.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Bridge

So, I'm looking for The Bridge.

Curve upside down bay

Blogging seems a mile away from me at this stage. I had got the planning stages of the next project into some kind of control but unfortunately the main political player who was supporting Two Bays has suddenly resigned.

So, the bay is upside down for a bit!!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Bare Bones

Photo of Marine Park at The Rip, Port Phillip Heads. Photo: Greg Blair.

Project Idea!

I am planning a larger project based on the Two Bays pilot project that we ran on Pelican in January this year. I am using this post to think out loud as I want to develop an aspect of the project around the known oral history of the Bay from the Boonerwrung people and link it with the understandings being developed from marine mapping. That's the bare bones.

The fleshing of the bones takes me back to an earlier post which gives a bit more detail on the links between the indigenous oral history relating to the geomorphology of this region and our current knowledge developed through marine mapping. During our project this year we were carrying out a large water quality survey and the results for Port Phillip Bay were that the bay is hyposaline, in fact, it is the saltiest since the EPA started monitoring 30 odd years ago. This is due to the fact that we have been in a very severe drought and the usual amounts of fresh water are not flowing into the bay. The bay is now saltier than Bass Strait (the ocean body at the entrance).
Usually the water from the bay flows out at the upper most level of the water, but as salt makes it heavier we are theorising that the water flowing out will be on bottom.

If you did go back to my earlier post you may now get an idea about why this exites my imagination. The water flowing out at the bottom may be recreating the original waterfall underwater. We will be able to test this with a wonderful oceanographer's tool called an acoustic Doppler current profiler, which will hopefully be able to capture the data to give us a true picture of the exchange processes taking place in the Rip.

The Boonerwrung Elders tell a story about the changes that happened here 10,000 years ago when the seas rose and created the bay and Bass Strait. Here is that story.

Bunjil is an Aboriginal god of creation

"Many years ago this land that we now call Melbourne extended right out to the ocean. Port Phillip Bay was then a large flat plain where Boonerwrung hunted kangaroos and cultivated their yam daisy.

But one day there came a time of chaos and crises. The Boonerwrung and the other Kulin nations were in conflict. They argued and fought. They neglected their children. They neglected their land. The native yam was neglected. The animals were killed but not always eaten. The fish were caught during their spawning season. As this chaos grew the sea became angry and began to rise until it covered their plain and threatened to flood the whole of their country.

The people went to Bunjil, their creator and spiritual leader. They asked Bunjil to stop the sea from rising. Bunjil told his people that they would have to change their ways if they wanted to save their land. The people thought about what they had been doing and made a promise to follow Bunjil. Bunjil walked out to the sea, raised his spear and directed the sea to stop rising. Bunjil then made the Boonerwrung promise that they would respect the laws.

The place the Kulin then chose to meet as a means of resolving these differences is where this Parliament [of Victoria] is now located. The Kulin nations met here regularly for many thousands of years. They debated issues of great importance to the nation; they celebrated, they danced. "

It seems that our time now is not so different to the crisis that is painted for the Aboriginal peoples. These strong warning stories (not dissimilar to the story of the Ark) have a strong resonance today as we face issues such as global warming and environmental destruction. I am hoping to amplify the science that we are doing in the Two Bays project through these deep cultural histories to help to bed us deeper in the place we are in and help support our efforts to protect it.

Bare bones still....Next comes the how, where and with whom!

Friday, June 22, 2007

end of the rainbow....over,over

Wild Dog Rd meandering towards the sea.

If visiting, please visit the link on the title and while viewing recent wild dog pictures, have a listen to Israel Kamaawiwo Ole's version of "Somewhere over the rainbow"...

Monday, June 04, 2007

slow time

I was joking recently that I wanted time to slow down for everything except my teenage step-daughter (I wouldn't mind if we jumped a couple of years for her sometimes!).

This picture of Aurora gives a sense of time slowing down for me. I like to try to create a sense of slow time in some of my photos. Trying to capture a moment which expands beyond the frame, be it through the composition, light or an indefinable something which just feels right.

Already this year is half way gone and I wonder at the speed of events and valiantly hope to gather pockets in which I can breathe deeply and feel a sense of quiet.....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I met an artist the other day...

I met an artist the other day, she spoke of form and shape and work, of materials, of things and she listened to me. I spoke of how I was no longer playing with form and light and ideas but was trying to work collectively on many ideas. She listened and then she began to encourage and I felt thrilled by her thrill. She understood what we were doing in a way that my old painting professor may have. Somehow her approval means a lot to me. It bouys me and gives me energy.

Below is a portrait of my shadow. The house is the front of a wonderful gallery that is just outside of Young in N.S.W. A friend and I made a road trip last weekend with our kids and drove 8 hours from Melbourne. A Mother's Day getaway.
What fun we had and what wonderful people we encountered!

Annabel Wallace Gallery.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Suitable Transport

Aurora and I travelled today to the city to support some friends who are taking part in a project called Suitable Transport. On the way while waiting for suitable transport (a tram, which unfortunately was running late), we were stationed at a tram stop with a fellow traveller (pictured below). She kept her jacket over her head and kept muttering things to herself. I could only make out what she was saying when she raised her voice to swear which she started to do quite frequently as the time stretched. I wanted to share a bit of her frustration as we too wanted the tram so that we could hear all the speeches and be there in time to throw confetti over all the bike riders. Anyway it is another photo I could not resist. I'm glad though that Aurora seemed oblivious to the mutterings and was a little surprised I took the photo.

Frustrated commuter.

The bikes line up.

Stephen Gale (pictured 2nd on right), who incidently has helped us a lot (Pelican Expeditions) over the years of building the boat Pelican1, recently started riding a battery powered bike and was so impressed with them that he thought up the project so that lots of people would learn about their transport potential. He has gathered 20 people to ride with him from Melbourne to Sydney to press the point. He also gathered this impressive dome (pictured below) to help launch the project. It is none other than Peter Garrett (ex Midnight Oil singer, present Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Heritage and the Arts -catch breath) Or at least the back of him!
So...Go Bike Power!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Theory of Painting 1


This is one of a series of paintings I did quite a while ago. All the pictures played around with letters in a landscape, mainly the letter P. This letter appears everywhere in an urban setting as you are roaming around looking for a parking space.

The old "Where do I belong? " chestnut became aligned with the simple process of composing, seemingly arbitarily, these urban pointers in an incongruous setting .

Anyone reading this will probably be thinking "This girl should stop right there!" I don't paint at the moment but similar questions still haunt me in different ways. It is why whenever I am taking photographs, I am still drawn to photos of signs which seem abstracted in the landscape. I respond with my old painter eye which delights in a flat shape in space that resonates with my old way of feeling myself into the world (with a level of distance,disbelief and irony). All those elements have changed in me today which is why the photo below seems a little warmer. Anyway I couldn't resist taking it.


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Artist - Tom Shirley

I've just recently discovered this music listening site which looks great. I can't check it out properly until I get home onto broadband. Something to look forward to in the Big Smoke at least.


Here is their rave...

"Ever since we started the Music Genome Project, our friends would ask:

Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?

Those questions often evolved into great conversations. Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs.

We created Pandora so that we can have that same kind of conversation with you."

Monday, April 02, 2007

meanwhile back at the farm ...

Aurora enjoying the farm.

Native cotton.

Dam with lilies.

It has been a busy few years. Before my blogging days and before my daughter turned 2 (she is now 5) I used to visit my mum's farm in SE Queeensland at least once a year. Unfortunately life has been too busy to slow down and get down onto the farm!! We have finally been able to get here as a family and I am absorbing every quiet moment as deeply as I can!

The farm grows macadamia nuts but it really grows trees and my mum has slowly been returning most of the land to original health.

Mum's farm is close to the sea and my husband Paul has borrowed a long board and enjoying the amazing surf.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Do you believe in magic?

At the end of March, my daughter had a 5th Birthday party. It is a milestone birthday in so many ways. As she is very interested in magic I found a magician who came and entertained Aurora and a group of her friends. This year she handled all the invites and it was the first time that she lots of playmates from her kinder. The topic of magic comes up all the time and I love hearing the way her lively imagination concocts theories about everything! Though she has a good lashing of healthy skepticism, seen here as she contemplates the magician's hat!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Our offshore processing nightmare....

The Christmas Island Detention centre - due to be opened mid 2007. Another out of sight - out of mind stroke of genius by the Liberal Government.

The 82 Sri Lankan asylum seekers (see earlier post) are now to be removed from Christmas Island to Nauru. They have not had any access to legal support or advice. The process of identifying and sorting out their claims will take a much longer period on Nauru. People have been left on Nauru for up to 5 years before their claims have then been recognised. Kevin Andrews, our Immigration Minister, has stated that even if they are assessed as bona fide refugees they will be sent to any other country except Australia.

The history of recent events points out that the majority of asylum seekers who have been placed in these offshore centres have been judged legitimate and have ended up in Australia or New Zealand. Our government takes the view that if we processed these applications humanely and in decent time, it would encourage and reward the people smugglers who manage to bring these desperate people all the way to our shores. And that the people who make it here by such means are queue jumpers, illegal etc etc. I doubt that one of these government boffins has attempted for one minute to put themselves in the shoes of these so called "illegals". They seem to forget that we are not such a desirable or easy to get to target for people who are fleeing. We are a long way away and are surrounded by sea. It seems to me that the process of criminalizing people who have already often suffered is an arse about way of dealing with people in dire need.

Offshore processing began with the Tampa , which conveniently dovetailed into Howard's strategy of creating an atmosphere of fear ("the illegals probably harbour terrorists among them") during an election(2004) campaign. And this year is an election year in Oz!

Just adding that as worrying as the conditions on Christmas Island are, the Asylum Seekers are desperate to stay there and not be shipped to Nauru.

Image below by an asylum seeker at Nauru.

Ali Raza at the fence 2005 Nauru detention Centre - Artist Syed M Ali

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cockroach post

Well, to be precise, a Madagascan Hissing Cockroach, which just happened to remind me of our Prime Minister.
We may be confronting problems on the scale of global warming (which, incidentally, has already hit Melbourne if the increase in the cockroach population is any guage), the horror of the continuing debacle of Iraq, Afgahnistan's plight and many issues close to home , like the lack of good Aged Care services but all our PM can do is hiss at the ascendant Opposition with all sorts of dirty smear tactics and generally avoid any policy development or discussion thereof. I am so sick to death with politics at the moment and the current game playing seems mildly insane and very inane!

Another event to raise my ire has been the predictable weasly responses of this government to the Sri Lanka refugees who managed to get close to our shores in a leaky vessel. Initially the intercepting Navy were trying to shoo them away but when it was obvious they were sinking, they took the 83 Tamil refugees and two Indonesian crew to Christmas Island (where our Government is spending millions to build an off shore asylum processing complex (far away from pesky lawyers that talk about Human Rights etc). But this was also too close as the refugees had been in international waters so we don't want to deal with them so what do we do - we ask the Indonesians to take them because they haven't signed the UN charter on refugees and have much less ability and infrastructure to deal with them. As there has been an outcry from the good public that Jakarta would just send them back to Sri Lanka we are now looking at putting them on Nauru (which has been used to dump our unwanted before and has led to huge delays in the processing of asylum claims.

If I hear one more Minister banging on about the fact that "We will choose who comes here." I will - What can you do, besides write, protest and pull my hair out!!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A little bit of schmaltz...

The Bridal party with Kissing Cousins.

Blame the schmaltz on Scout who asked me how the Wedding went.
It was a fantastic afternoon and evening. There is nothing like having cause for celebration and then celebrating!!
I read a Traditional Apache prayer before saying some personal words. Here is the prayer...

Now you will feel no rain
for each of you will be a shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no loneliness for you,
now there is no more loneliness.
Now you are two bodies
but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place
to enter into your days together
And may your days be good and long on the earth.

Dancing Girls

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wedding Day

Just a quick thought, as I am trying to get some much needed sleep tonight before my sister's wedding tomorrow.
All roads to love tend on the rocky side and my sister has had her fair share of difficulties (including just recently getting through cervical cancer). She has met up with a man, who seems, at least to me, to be a very good hearted and wonderful person. And I will be wishing them both all the very best tomorrow. My post is about the difficulties of saying all I want to say succinctly in the few minutes that I will have to fill, in the middle of the ceremony. Which, in itself, will be brief.
Anyway, I only hope I can rise to the occasion. After that I will very merrily celebrate!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The old shell...

“If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
Gaston Bachelard

I am saying goodbye to a house (which I have just sold) that has sheltered me and many friends over the last 20 odd years. I do not live there now and left it a few years ago but it lives inside me as a treasured repository of many memories good and bad!
The house has a distant view of my old State School and is near a bridge which spans the Yarra River. This bridge was one, I and my adventurous friends, used to scramble under to find the most dangerous way possible to cross the river. It is near the site of my first smoke (I have since given up tobacco) at the age of 12. A parkie, sitting on a bench near the river helped us kids light our first pipe! It helped fund my studies in England and Germany and has held many a fine party.

I managed to renovate the back of the house and transformed it (with help from an Architect friend) into a kind of teahouse space. I found all the recycled wood to build it with and had a lot of joy directing the building. The house always resonated with me and I found it very difficult to make the decision to sell. As I thought about it I realised I had owned it for over 20 years which, is a far longer connection with a house than any of my childhood abodes. I had found my base there in more ways than just physically in space.

So, farewell old shell, and thankyou!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Invasion Day ( Australia Day)

A Welcome fire ceremony

I inadvertantly found a good way to celebrate Australia Day. I had planned to go on an Indigenous "Walk through the landscape" the day before and after taking part in the event discovered that that was the best way to celebrate being born to this ancient continent. I took Aurora down to a place called Pt Nepean, which is the Northern arm of the entrance to port Phillip Bay.

Beach at Pt Nepean, looking towards the Heads.

The site has an interesting layered history. The Boonerwurung people have been here for a very long time. Even though the land is now coastal the Boonerwurung were originally known as river people. The Yarra (a river that flows into Port Phillip Bay) used to travel all the way to the site which is now the entrance to the bay. There the river flowed down a 90 meter drop, keeping the area around it in a perpetual mist. The marine mapping is revealing how the geomorphology of the region reflects the oral stories of the descendants of the people here today. The area where the waterfall was is now known as the Rip and is a very treacherous stretch of water. It is now the narrow entrance to a huge embayment, with massive quanities of water squeezing in and out with the movement of the tides.

Echidna who we passed by on our walk.

A military camp was first established near here in 1803 and denotes the first landing of the English to these shores. This first group found it very hard to subsist and eventually took off to join the colony in Tasmania. One man stayed behind and ended up living with the Wathaurong people on the other side of the bay for 30 odd years before the great land grab began in earnest, with the arrival of Batman and Fawkner. William Buckley was his name and I will post about him another day!

Magpie, also a local.

Many moons later a quarantine station was established at Point Nepean, followed by a Military training camp, which was decommissioned in 1997. All this has meant that an amazing site has been left fairly much to its own devices (well, except for all the unexploded ordinances, introduced pests etc, etc). But it is now being handed back to state control and being turned into a National Park. Indigenous custodianship of this transition is in place and there is hope to be able to set up an Indigenous Cultural centre there.

Walking group looking at a midden (a campsite used by the Boonerwurung people many moons ago)

The walk was great. After learning many things about the traditional uses of the plants that we were seeing and some of the implements, we ended up on a beautiful beach. Here we were given a traditional welcome ceremony by Carolyn Briggs, a Boonerwurung Elder. Each participant was given a gum leaf passport as a sign we were free to be in the area and welcomed by the Indigenous people present and their ancestors were acknowledged.

Aurora, checking out a cave on the beach , holding a digging stick.

So, what better way to celebrate our national holiday, that by one camp is called Australia Day and by another Invasion Day!?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

looking up...

Here's a pic of my daughter and an older friend at the first of the Two Bays pier visits. We have just completed a 10 day project, conducting water quality studies all the way round both Western Port and Port Phillip Bays on Pelican1. We visited seven piers to talk about water quality and share information about the project. We also had two days taking volunteers out to monitor the health of seagrass and had on board the boat, a broad range of people all connected by a mutual desire to look after the bays. I had thought that I would be hopping on and off the boat but I managed to stay for most of the project as my daughter was able to stick on with me the entire time. It was certainly a very different kind of holiday for her, a real working holiday!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Two Bays launch

I used to pride myself that I could take an occasional photo worth looking at but today, at my own launch of a project, I managed to wreck every single shot. But as the skipper said, "At least everything else went well."

I have been working, with the Pelican crew, on a project that takes in the two main bays in Southern Victoria, Port Phillip and Western Port Bays. We have got together about 5 government agencies who are now working with us on the boat, to create a water quality survey of the Bays. The project will also be interacting with the community through a series of pier visits and we are running two community science events. Anyway, it is all about all working together and trying to convey environmental stuff in a fun way.

I will get on board tomorrow for a short stint around Western Port Bay.
We are also having fun with the Weedy Sea Dragon, who came to the launch and is pictured above in a photo semi-saved from oblivion. Watch out for some nerdy science over the next few posts!