Speaking with the River - Citizen Science workshop program with LabX and guest artists

Ebb and Flow: Conversations on the Lower Richmond River  |  Marcus Ferguson + John Larsson with Adele Wessell and Jo Kijas

This panel discussion was held in the Gallery on Sunday 21 March 2021, 5.00pm - 7.00pm at Northern Rivers Community Gallery (NRCG) in Ballina.

Artist Rob Garbutt and John Larsson were joined by environmental historians Adele Wessell and Jo Kijas in conversation around the richness, fragility, and future of the Lower Richmond River. The lands and waters of Bulinaa/Ballina remain culturally active but suffer annual extremes in poor water quality.  Share in a tidal conversation about oysters and mangroves.

Marcus and John will traced histories of the estuarine environment through the interwoven stories of mangroves and oysters. Marcus has used discarded mangrove wood from the Pacific Highway upgrade at Duck Creek to embed his respect of Country into telling artworks. John has poured his passion for the River into oyster research, working with OzFish to counter decades of degradation. 

Marcus Ferguson, Nyangbul artist and historian, has a special connection to the Duck Creek and Bingal Creek Mob of the Lower Richmond River. Residing along the Richmond River has given him a greater understanding and appreciation of the culturally active waters and landscapes throughout Ballina and the surrounding area, respecting the culturally appropriate ways of his ancestral guardians that still inhabit many of the region’s cultural waters and landscapes of today.

John Larsson, retired from Medical Imaging Engineering, has lived all his life in the Lismore-Ballina area, always with an intense interest in the fisheries and once thriving oyster industry of the Lower Richmond. In 2013 he helped form the Richmond River Chapter of OzFish Unlimited and has since chaired the group. OzFish has provided the platform to investigate, pursue and help reverse water quality issues plaguing the River. In conjunction with Southern Cross University, John and Ozfish are evaluating an apparent new Rock Oyster variation that appears to have naturally evolved to compete with repeated disease outbreaks.

Adele Wessell is a food historian, interested in the environmental and cultural impacts of food. Adele is based in the Northern Rivers and teaches at Southern Cross University. She is editor of Locale: Pacific Journal of Regional Food Culture and is a regular contributor to ABC Radio’s Overnights program on popular food history.

Jo Kijas is a consultant historian and Adjunct Fellow at Southern Cross University. Her research and publications are focused in three areas: environmental, community and post-colonial history, specialising in oral history. Jo’s recent consultancies have centred around water, rivers, and wetlands. These include a history of the Tuckean Swamp and an oral history of fishers and oyster farmers in Wallis Lake. 

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This project was supported by Create NSW’s Audience Development Fund, a devolved funding program administered by Museums & Galleries of NSW on behalf of the NSW Government.

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