Yesterday on the banks of the Birrarung river I had the privilege to spend a few hours with N’Arweet Carolyn Briggs and Uncle Larry Walsh to hear their views on Child of Now, a project we are at the early stages of planning. I was there with Angharad Wynne-Jones and Claire G. Coleman, two of the amazing women working alongside me on this project. Though I have seen N’Arweet and Uncle Larry speak at public events since I first arrived in Melbourne (the land of the Traditional Owners, the Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation), this was the first time I have been able to sit with them in conversation. This was a very important moment for me, meeting local Elders to discuss a project that could take place on the banks of the Birrarung. I was nervous about what they would think about our ideas, but also very excited to be guided by their extraordinary wealth of knowledge.
Both N’Arweet and Uncle Larry emphasized the importance of water in this place, especially at this time of drought for many, and to draw upon the Birrarung, river of mists, as the life blood of Child of Now. This made sense to us immediately, and subsequently Claire and I have discussed water as a possible way to transition between the figures of Child of Now. The ‘river of time’ metaphor is also central to the project.
N’Arweet shared a story of her ancestor Benbow (d. 1852) who lived and worked around the Birrarung when the British settlers were establishing Melbourne. N’Arweet encouraged us to think of the long history of the land and the generations who lived here. We had discussed ways to take a long view of history in this project, that plays with time so explicitly. N’Arweet’s encouragement to think on a longer time scale is inspiring and already stimulating new conversations.
As we went our separate ways, I was grateful that N’Arweet and Uncle Larry took the time to share their connections, insight and knowledge. They are both engaged in high-level negotiations, legal battles and advocacy so their time is incredibly precious. I look forward to sharing how the project develops with them over the next few years.