The Waterlines project aimed to uncover, explore and reconnect community with local water and environmental systems through interactive site specific ephemeral art. This project aimed to highlight Peramangk history and knowledge through the perspective of local Peramangk Elder, to enable the community to see the region anew.

This project was a collaboration between Ivan Tiwu Copley – Peramangk Elder and storyteller and Laura Wills – visual artist. Copley and Wills delivered six participatory workshops and four open studio sessions with eleven Year 11 students at Heathfield High School. Their workshops included exploration of art process, mediums, story telling, and history, research of flora and fauna, and creation of permanent and ephemeral work. Three participatory art workshops were also delivered at Scott Creek Primary School with 30 primary school students. Workshops took place in the classroom and in local bushland areas. This work culminated in two walking tours through Woorabinda Bushland Reserve and a Community Exhibition at The Hut Community Centre.

On June 15th and July 6th Ivan and Laura led guided tours to present a Peramangk perspective of local waterways through interactive artwork. At these events 60 people walked for 2 hours through Woorabinda Bushland Reserves where artwork was revealed to them from within the bush and a series of talks and performances took place. Guest speakers and performers included Mark Elliott -Ngarrindjeri Elder, Katie Maher – Academic, David Booth & Sons – Performance Artists and Cultural Workers and David Ragless and Janet Pedler of Friends of Woorabinda. At the conclusion of the walk, the group gathered by the fire to share fish cooked in clay on the campfire by Ivan and other food prepared by The Hut Community Centre volunteers.

On June 21st, a four week exhibition of art work by Ivan, Laura and Heathfield High School Students, was opened. This included a smoking ceremony for the students and bush foods prepared by Hut volunteers.

In total more than 150 people have participated in this project. The project was documented by Ninti Media.

Overwhelmingly this project was successful in its aim to uncover, explore and reconnect community with local water and environmental systems and highlight Peramangk history and knowledge through the perspective of a local Peramangk Elder. This was evident in the artwork and feedback provided by student participants and feedback from public event attendees.

The art works created by students participating  in  this project explored themes such as intercultural history, changing environment, sustainability, identity. Feedback from students included:

‘I took a large amount of new knowledge about the land I live on. This includes information on the fauna, flora and Peramangk and Kaurna people and also I leant about Laura’s artwork and intention she has.’

I investigated the Indigenous culture and their meaningful connection to water through dreamtime stories, which led me to take inspiration from their powerful messages and give a deeper meaning to my work and to have a story behind it.’

 ‘I became fascinated with the idea that while all cultures are different, there are certain aspects of many different cultures that are shared and certain things that are understood by all regardless of .. barriers…what are the things we all share and connect us the way water does.’

The two walking tours were quickly booked out with 120 people, demonstrating the high amount of community interest in this project. 100% of surveyed participants stated they learnt something new at this event. 100% of surveyed participants stated they would recommend it to others. Overwhelmingly positive comments from participants included the words wow, fantastic, amazing, exceptional, and so good.

Copley stated ‘how could anyone ever look at this and not be moved by the Students and their commitment and passion in creating such amazing artworks of stories about the environment with the integrated knowledge of the Peramangk caring for Country. In fact this is Reconciliation at its best!’

Participants on the walking tours provided the following feedback;

Waterlines made a deep impression on me …  It engaged my senses, my feelings and thinking through story and art and relationship in an unhurried but guided way.  A really living exploration of the significance of place and connections in pre and post-European contact contexts (and also now, including the young high school students who contributed to the exhibition).   An event like this has enormous potential to contribute to building understanding of indigenous perspectives of country and healing the rifts, injustices and harms of the past and to embrace the future. Meeting Indigenous people like Uncle Ivan, listening to his story and those of others, having a conversation, sharing food, walking together, experiencing cultural art forms in art and even a dance troupe was so very rich….The warmth of the volunteers serving soup and damper and greeting the group was also wonderful. A really special community event and I feel very fortunate to have experienced it.’ Participant Walking Tour

 ‘My husband and I were felt very privileged, not only to walk in such a beautifully untouched and protected space, but also to witness and feel the knowledge of the Aboriginal Elders. We felt truly connected and will share the learning that we were taught with others’ Participant Walking Tour

This project also resulted in some additional positive outcomes. New partnerships were developed and maintained as a result of this project with Heathfield High School, Scott Creek Primary School, Peramangk Elder and the Visual Artist.

This project provided a unique opportunity to volunteers at The Hut Community Centre who contributed more than 100 hours to the project in the form of logistics, marketing, catering, management. In addition to this new volunteers were engaged in the community centre due to this event. This project attracted many new participants to the community centre as 89% of surveyed participants of the walking tour had not participated in an activity run by the centre previously.  

Overall this project highlighted the interest of our local community to make a meaningful connection with Aboriginal people and history. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationship with First Nation Elders and community members and to develop programs that work to support reconciliation  in the local community.

The Hut Community Centre would like to thank all those whose knowledge, creativity, time and commitment made this project possible. Ivan-Tiwu Copley, Peramangk and Kaurna Elder; Laura Wills, Artist; Lindsey Crowe, Arts and Community Learning Leader Heathfield High School & Year 11 Art Students including Karlani Angwin, Reilly Beinke-Heath, James Boardman, Mia Burns, Lateisha Cross, Jade Hahesy, Jasmine James, Yasmin Kraft, Erin Menz, Madeline Stevens, Thomas Trowbridge, Teya Pahl; Kath Ireland, Principal and Students of Scott Creek Primary School, Artist, speakers, performers at Waterlines walking tours including: Mark Elliott, Ngarrindjeri Elder; David Booth & Sons, Performance Artists and Cultural Workers; Will Cheesman, Artist; Katie Maher, Academic; Friends of Woorabinda, David and Lori Ragless & Janet Pedler; The Hut Community Centre Volunteers, Raelene Lobban, Simon Jones, Mark Furness, Lisa Johnson, Michelle Lesiw, Doris Johnston, Hamish Cooper, Helen Cooper, Cath Danz, Jim Howe & The Community Shed Team, Sally Christopher, Sally Pope, Bob Kelso and the Maintenance Team, Lily Safari, family and friends.

We acknowledge the Peramangk and Kaurna Peoples whose lands and waters have been explored in this project. We recognise the deep knowledge and significance of these waterlines now and into the future.

Details of Artists involved

Ivan Tiwu Copley and Laura Wills led all aspects of the artistic process including participatory workshops and culminating artwork walking tours and exhibition.

Ivan Tiwu Copley, Peramangk and Kaurna Elder

Ivan Copley is a renowned Peramangk and Kaurna Elder who travels throughout the Adelaide Hills and plains storytelling, delivering workshops and community education activities with children and families. He is a nationally accredited artist and creator. He is deeply involved in researching and sharing Peramangk language, culture and history. 

Laura Wills, Artist

Laura Wills is an established South Australian artist and recipient of various grants and awards. Her contemporary practice often finds her working with communities to develop large scale participatory installation work for public space. Laura has recently been involved in a number of ephemeral art activities aimed at reconnecting community with their local waterways.  Laura currently works from Central Studios in Kent Town and is represented by Hill Smith Gallery, Adelaide. See: https://www.laurawills.com.au/