Kambarang Season (October - November 2022)
Walliabup Writing Group
at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn
Quietness – stillness
letting this into our lives will open
us up to share our story.
Walking on Walliabup
Open to the sky
Clouds tell a story
Messages from above.
– Marie Taylor 2022
In October and November 2022, the Whadjuk Noongar Walliabup Writers Group met at The Wetlands Centre Cockburn to begin a program of creative engagement with our local and regional rivers and wetlands. Led by the Centre’s Elder-in-Residence, Aunty Marie Taylor, and facilitated by me, poet Nandi Chinna, the group met every Wednesday morning over six weeks to participate in a series of writing workshops. Participants engaged in deep listening, exploring the senses, meditation, visualisation, and field trips to Walliabup (Bibra Lake) in order to create their own poetry of rivers and wetlands.
The group of seven First Nations participants explored stories, memories, sounds, sights, and sensations, as well as feelings and connections with Derbarl Yerrigan (Swan River), Walliabup (Bibra Lake), Gulgulga Bilya (Avon River), Warraminga (Moore River Settlement or Mogumber), and Goonoonoorrang (Ord River).
Participants spent the first four weeks engaged in connecting to rivers and wetlands and writing their poetic responses, and in the following weeks engaged in learning the skills and tools to edit and rework their poems. In the sixth week, the group held a special reading at the Centre with invited guests and ran a slideshow of some of the photographs they had taken on a field trip down to Walliabup.
The Walliabup Writing Group is part of a larger project entitled Two Rivers, in which First Nations’ participants from Bunuba Country along the Martuwarra Fitzroy River, as well as Whadjuck and Ballardong Noongar people are voicing their thoughts, memories, ideas, and concerns about the past, present, and future of rivers and wetlands on their countries. Two Rivers will act as a kind of poetic map, which will include history, direction, description, multifarious voices, ecologies, and poetics.
British poet Alice Oswald comments that “it is possible to call a river an organ of speech. It has a mouth, and a source, and down the length of its body the sounds it makes go through physical transformations, changing the tones of its voice.” (Harris, 2015) Two Rivers seeks to articulate the voices of the rivers and wetlands through the voices of the people whose ancestors have lived along their banks for millennia.
Two Rivers hopes to communicate how the relationships between people and water influence the life and health of rivers and wetlands, and how, by understanding rivers and wetlands as living water, as homes, and as places imbued with story, we might better apprehend these important places as foundations of life rather than simply economic resources.
Outcomes from the six-week program include upskilling of participants’ writing and editing skills, as well as the creation by each participant of five or six poems which together form a 40-page manuscript. Fremantle Press have expressed interest in the outcomes of the Two Rivers project, and there will be publishing and performance opportunities for participants in the future. Importantly, the program has inspired a passion for writing in many of the participants with the wish to continue the writing group into the future.
The Walliabup Writers Group would like to thank The Wetlands Centre Cockburn for their generous support of the project by providing a space for us to write in, as well as tea and coffee and a friendly welcome.
Feedback from Participants:
“Listening and enjoying people’s poems also their different perspectives of emotional outlet was great to hear. I have found a new passion for writing, and I feel good about releasing my emotions. It was an awesome experience.”—Narelle Ogilvie.
“Two hours of calm tranquillity, healing. I felt a sense of healing and opened a creative side I would like to see the course run longer.”—Chelsey Taylor
— Article by Nandi Chinna, Poet, Research Consultant and a long-time associate of the Centre
A Night of Music & Poetry
Presented as a unique collaboration between Leeming Flute Troupe and award-winning poets living and writing on Whadjuk Nyungar Boodjar, Floetry took place at the Centre in early November. Each poet read from a selection of carefully curated poems on the theme of the environment, interspersed with evocative musical pieces selected and performed by the Leeming Flute Troupe.
The works allowed the audience to reflect on the significance of our irreplaceable natural heritage, to lament its degradation, and ultimately feel inspired to uphold our collective environmental wealth with renewed resolve.
Writing Through Climate Anxiety –
A Youth Poetry Workshop
In this practical and climate change focused workshop held at the Centre in October, young poets explored the macro and micro ecologies around wetlands, uncovered fascinating techniques and features of WA plants that help them survive in the wild, and reflected on their own coping strategies for a changing world through written word and poetry.
Inviting Submissions—Poetry Anthology
See your words in print! We invite you to submit your poems, rhymes, songs, sonnets and haikus on the theme of wetlands for our upcoming poetry anthology "Into the wetlands". All poetry on wetlands or related to the wetlands, their flora and fauna, their place in nature and in our lives, their historical, cultural, scientific and spiritual significance, and the issues around the environment, climate change and human impact on wetlands. This community-sourced publication will be curated by well-known Perth eco-poet and long-time Centre associate, Dr Nandi Chinna. The anthology will be made available at a discounted price to all contributors. All profits will go towards supporting the work we do at the Centre.
Caution: Work in Progress
We are excited to announce that the Centre now has a brand new kitchen, fully equipped with top-of-the-line appliances and stainless steel benchware. The kitchen features a large volume refrigerators, dishwasher, induction cooktop, and oven, and will be able to support staff lunches as well as events of scale. The new kitchen will be a great asset to the Centre, providing a modern and efficient space for catering during events. There is still a lot to do in terms of organisation and setting up our utensils and crockery. But we can't wait for everyone to come and experience the convenience and functionality of our brand new kitchen.
The Centre's upgradation work is continuing and is currently focused on the nursery shed to make it weather-proof, ensuring it is hospitable for our staff, volunteers and contractors. and a functional space for all the work undertaken there.