Art of the Werribee River

The Werribee River Association aims to create opportunities for the community to connect with their local waterways. Along with guided walks and educational sessions, the organisation have run a number of creative workshops and events that use the arts as a way to observe, listen and connect with nature.

In February 2024, the organisation produced Café Philosophique de la Révolution. Spread over 4 weeks, these weekly events included an amazing array of artists, performers and poets, who joined with community for discussions on difficult topics such as apathy, distraction, disenchantment and disconnection.

The sessions built our connections, helped to overcome obstacles, and feel empowered to take action. They acted as a kind of call to arms, demonstrating that we can all make a positive contribution to society, despite some of the current challenges, like a warming planet, pollution and inequality.

Musician Amadou Suso at Café Philosophique
Community conversations at Café Philosophique
Poet Sean M Whelan at Café Philosophique
Musician Nhatty Man at Café Philosophique
Photo by Jacqui Reid, taken at our nature photography walk, April 9 2022.

In 2022 we began with the HeART Walks, these included sound walks, nature photography, nature writing and collaging sessions that drew inspiration from the plants and animals of the catchment, and our visions for it’s future. We also ran the Werr-I-Be Long Photo competition, asking residents to capture pictures of the local people and landscapes that evoke notions of community, home and belonging. With over 100 entries received it was a tough decision for our judges!


Visions of what a vacant block in Tarneit could be, created at our Future Visions collaging workshop.
Werr-I-Be Long Photo Competition, first prize winning photo by Paul Daley

With the support of Arts Assist we have expanded our creative programming, now running monthly nature writing workshops as part of our Once Upon a River program. We begin each session with a guided walk, learning about the local plants, animals and ecology of the location. This is followed by a facilitated writing workshop with a guest artist.

We have run sessions at Werribee Park Farm with Fatima Measham, Graham’s Wetland with Amanda Anastasi, Heathdale Wetlands with Ebony Moncrief and the Tarneet Islands with Jess Fairfax. We have explored the function of wetlands, the frogs and migratory birds that call them home and marvelled at many a River Red Gum. We then write creatively about our experience, reflecting on the power of listening, learning and connecting. The program will continue throughout the year as we explore more of Wyndham’s natural spaces.

Some of the poems:

Wirribi Wetland
By Henry Biffa

here Boonwarrung country meets Wathawarrung
from the river named after a backbone
fresh water flows towards the bay

there’s a deep croaking sound               
and a story of a frog that once thrived
now known as the growling grass –  

growling perhaps because the orange bellied parrot
flies from the south in ever decreasing numbers –
the 300 in captivity don’t sing so sweetly

a chorus of tiny chirping birds
salt-marsh lots of wet-lands cleared
between Wurdi Yougang in the west

and this side of Arthur’s seat 
a grumble in my tummy
though it’s not that I need to eat

this moan’s in harmony with the frogs–
a backing voice from within –
crooning for what was

Sound Walk at Graham’s Wetland
By Laura Smith

Ocean and wind song entangled,

salt water and fresh in tandem.

A maybe frog,

a silhouetted butterfly,

and the flit flit flit of fairy wrens.

All the softest greens


neon pink shoes.

Yesterday’s mud (in shades of Lismore)

softening steps on gravel.

 A Haiku at the Estuary
By Laura Smith

Clouds soften this place.

A quiet mooring, gruff wind,

a few fisher folk.

In addition to the nature writing, we have been collaborating with Werribee South local Xiang Li, running Waterways in Watercolour workshops. We began with a kid’s holiday program edition in Jan 2023 and after an expression of interest by many adults wanting to get invovled, we ran an all ages version in March 2023. Both sessions were held at sunset, at the Werribee South Jetty. Looking out towards the You Yangs as the dusk light illuminated Graham’s Wetland was the perfect inspiration for our art. It also provided an opportunity to educate the community about the RAMSAR protected wetlands and the endangered Orange Bellied Parrot and Growling Grass Frog that call it home. 

Keep an eye on the What’s On page for upcoming events. We have also created a Facebook page where the public can share their paintings, poetry and creative work inspired by our local waterways.

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