11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin is a series of 11 site-specific audio walks downloadable at 11 locations along the banks of Dyarubbin the Upper Hawkesbury… a collaborative public art work aiming to inspire, inform and deepen the listener’s experience of the river. 

Currently in production, the audio-walks will launch with an exhibition at Hawkesbury Regional Museum in 2022 and be downloadable from 11 signposted locations along the river between Yarramundi (Grose River confluence) and Sackville, hosted on Hawkesbury Regional Museum’s website as part of their online collection.

Underscored by an original 11 part music and sound work, the audio walks will share stories of deep time, geology and moving sands, of Dyarubbin’s first people and their enduring relationship with the river, of first contact and settlement along her fertile plains, of two kinds of farming, of ongoing dispossession of the Darug – the first farmers, of flood and near famine, of dams, development, wastewater and pollutants, of the eels carved into her rock banks, of the river as playground, waterhole and host of algal blooms,  of the dreaming and songlines, of what sustainability and rights for the river might look like…

Having grown up playing in the bush around Upper Cowan Creek on the lower Hawkesbury and for the last 20 years making my home on Wheeny Creek on the Upper Hawkesbury in Darug/Darkinjung country, this ancient river system has been a constant source of inspiration to me. 

This project is an offering of deep respect to this river country that is my home and seeks to bring to light the rivers underbelly – her stories, moves, and generosity…to inspire better relationships between people and place, to invite listeners to better know and understand the this river country.

With development funding from the NSW Government through Create NSW, in 2019/20 I worked with local knowledge holders, recording stories with WSU Scientists Dr Ian Wright, Dr Jason Reynolds and Professor Basant Maheshwari, Darug custodians Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins and Jasmine Seymour, Historians Jan Barkley-Jack and Professor Grace Karskens, Geologist Gil Jones, River Advocate and long time Hawkesbury MP Kevin Rozzoli, and stories, knowledge and experiences shared by the wider community.

With photographers Lyndal Irons and Sarah Rhodes, I recorded images and sounds along the river, including underwater recordings. Listening, watching, learning from the river to create a music work that reflects the rivers moods and stories.

In 2019 workshops were held along the river at Yarramundi, Windsor and in schools with students from Windsor High, Windsor Public and Hawkesbury Independent School, sharing stories with Darug educator Erin Wilkins and facilitating a creative response from students through poetry, music and art. Work created by students will be part of the audio walks series.

Erin Wilkins with Windsor Public Students
Windsor High students building sculptures in the Grose River near the Hawkesbury
Sculpture in the sand at Yarramundi made by Windsor High students

Windsor High student drawing inspiration from the river
Artwork by Windsor High students
Making a river of sounds with students at Hawkesbury Independent School
River Artwork by Hawkesbury Independent School student
At the river with Windsor Public students
Breaking down the beats in 11 time with Windsor Public students

I’ve written an 11 part music work for the project, in 11 time, playing with rhythms in 11, for piano, guitar, cello, percussion, clarinet, violin and bass, incorporating field recordings, birdsong and samples from the river.

In 2020/21 further funding from the NSW Government through Create NSW enabled me to finalise, workshop and bring Darug voices into the score with Darug songwriters Stacy-Jane Etal, and Jasmine Seymour. In February 2021, the music was workshopped at Hawkesbury Regional Museum with musicians Gary Daley, Dimitri Vouros, Jess Ciampa, Mary Rapp, Rob Shannon and Barb Webb.

Workshopping the project music at Hawkesbury Regional Museum Feb 2021

In 2021 I produced a radio feature for ABC RN Yarramundi and the people of Dyarubbin on the Darug people and their enduring relationship with this river country for ABC Radio National’s History Listen, incorporating music and interviews from the development of the 11 stories project, featuring Darug knowledge holders Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright and Emeritus Professor of History at UNSW Grace Karskens.

With assistance from the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body and Musuems and Galleries NSW, the 11 audio walks are currently in production and will launch in 2022 with an exhibition at Hawkesbury Regional Museum and be hosted on their website as part of their online collection, as well as being available to download at 11 sign posted sites along the river.

Rivers are mathematically beautiful…the “11” in “11 stories…” comes from Luna Leopold’s river meandering theory, where the length of a meander is on average 11 times the river’s width.

The project is gratefully supported by Hawkesbury Regional Museum, Darug Custodian Aboriginal Corporation, Hawkesbury Historical Society, , Western Sydney University Sustainable Futures, Hawkesbury Environment Network, Windsor Public School, Windsor High School, Hawkesbury Independent School and Brewongle Environmental Education Centre.

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin has been supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW

11 Stories From the River Dyarubbin has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

I acknowledge the Darug and Darkinjung people, the original custodians of the country where I live and work. I recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture and offer my deep respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.
This land was never ceded, always was, always will be Aboriginal land.