The Maribyrnong Project 2021

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The Maribyrnong River, 1836,

 

I made this illustrated this map with and for Victorian Fisheries Association, who provided me with the archival stories, maps and photographs to make a research based illustration of what it was like pre-colonisation, and the wildlife diversity they are working towards reviving.

It was a really sweet process, sad, but also inspiring to hear about the work being done to revive habitat and fish populations. It was hard to fit it all into a map so I also wrote a poem.
 

I read

that the first settlers saw it

as a fisherman’s dream

and as the birds sung above,

so the fish sang below.

So many birds and fish

mirroring

a spread of nutrients.

I read

Shellfish gathered on the tidal banks

the rivers rocky reefs

were busy cities,

were blown up,

to form

and Marshlands and lagoons

attracted all the birds.

all the frogs.

finfish and eels

bream and seals.

And hush -

I listened

I can hear a ringtail possum

Mirring-gnay-bir-nong

The rich river

blood system

I heard

it mirrors the veins of fish.

I heard

It’s floods

poured nutrients

through the whole system.

Salty, Glistening,

It’s mouth entering the ocean. Narm.

I read

The rich river

blood system

became a gutter.

factories

and slaughterhouses lined the river bank

and foul offal rotted tidally

nothing sank

in the liminal dance of the tides.

I read of

Casuarina woodlands

Banksias

Salt bush

of trees cut down

for fire wood.

I read

the Indigenous middens which lined the river

were burnt to make mortar

and the fish-traps

were soon mapped as grazier’s fords.

I read

nothing

of the frontier wars.

I read

Volcanic plains

bejewelled the river

flowering grasslands

were farmed

already

before the settlers saw it

as unfarmed

farm land

and grazed the native grasses

into a densely denied earth.

I saw

black and white photographs of debris and

log habitats

removed from the river.

For colonial reasons.

I saw

a phone photograph of big logs

being put back in,

by fishermen

who are trying to learn

how to do the right thing.

I heard

that the bream

are coming back in

I heard

that the fish are singing again

and the birds returning

to the wetlands

I heard

that new trees

are growing old now.

They will feed the river

and invite all

the wildlife.

And all the possums.

Into a song we can listen to, and learn from.

Mirring-gnay-bir-nong

I can hear a ringtail possum.