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Murray-Darling Basin and the National Museum

The PS Enterprise at full steam on Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra. Photo: Dragi Markovic.

The Murray-Darling Basin is home to more than two million people across five Australian states, extending from north of Roma in Queensland to Goolwa in South Australia.

It covers the territories of about 30 Aboriginal language groups and encompasses three-quarters of New South Wales and half of Victoria. It drains much of inland southeast Australia and includes a range of distinctly Australian landscapes and responses to environmental challenges.

Murray-Darling Basin collections and projects

The National Museum of Australia has undertaken a number of projects with communities in the Murray-Darling Basin that highlight the diversity of people, places and stories across the Basin.

The Museum's National Historical Collection also includes many objects representing the rich material culture and heritage of the region.

Critical Undercurrents - a One River symposium

Critical Undercurrents – a One River symposium

Share the stories of people, politics and creative projects from the Murray-Darling Basin, in this One River Centenary of Canberra event, developed in partnership with the National Museum of Australia. Recorded in August 2013. Full audio and transcripts available.

Murray Darling Basin Authority collection

Murray-Darling Basin Authority collection

Protest material from meetings across the Murray-Darling Basin documents the attitudes of riverine communities towards the Basin Plan, their local environment and industry at a time of resource scarcity and ecological change.

The Waterhole

The Waterhole Project

Images and reflections on the histories and contemporary realities of a waterhole at Combaning and its surrounds near the farming district of Temora, in southern New South Wales. This blog was compiled by curator George Main as he considered the global issue of climate change from the perspective of one particular place in the Murray-Darling Basin in 2010.

Murray Meander

Murray Meander

A collection of 200 photographs from the headwaters of the Murray, in Kosciuszko National Park, to the river's mouth in South Australia. Curator Matthew Higgins journeyed down the Murray in 2009, recording his images and impressions on the Museum's Flickr site.


Basin Bytes

Photographs from people living in the Murray-Darling Basin, revealing local landscapes, resources, cultural heritage and characters.

Paddle Steamer Enterprise

Paddle Steamer Enterprise

The Paddle Steamer Enterprise is one of the oldest working paddle steamers in the world. It has a rich history as a cargo boat, floating store, fishing vessel and houseboat on the Murray, Darling and Murrumbidgee rivers, and now as a functional object in the National Museum's collection.

Water exhibition

Australia's water story

An overview of the history of water in the world's driest inhabited continent, with the most variable rainfall, with a brief history of water and the first Australians, the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme and Australia's water woes.

Part of the 2009 international exhibiton Water.

Diana Boyer art collection

Diana Boyer environmental art collection

Vivid paintings showing the impact of climate change on one woman's life as an artist and a farmer. Diana Boyer trained as a botanist in Argentina. In Australia she worked as an artist and a farmer, spending more than 25 years on Bobbara Creek, a family farm in the Binalong district of southern New South Wales.

Water education kit

Education kit: Water use and management in the Murray-Darling Basin

A unit of work for students in years 8-12, looking at occupation and use by First Australians, European settlers, and the Murray-Darling Basin today.

pdfWater and the Murray-Darling Basin (PDF 1.9MB)


Landmarks gallery: Extending the farmlands

The Museum's Landmarks gallery explores a broad history of Australia through stories of people and their places. Learn more about the Wagga region in New South Wales through objects including a collection of prize-winning wheat samples and a typewriter owned by local poet Dame Mary Gilmore.

Detail of a Snowy Mountains Australia medal

Snowy Mountains Scheme collection

Tools, models and memorabilia from one of Australia's greatest engineering feats. The Museum's collection is based on the construction and social aspects of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme.

More on the Snowy Scheme in the Landmarks gallery

Violent Ends

Violent Ends: We need rain

Ecological and social researcher Jessica Weir highlighting the importance of fresh water for life in the Murray-Darling Basin using photos and a voiceover . Violent Ends: The Arts of Environmental Anxiety brought together artists, poets, scientists and historians to explore the anxieties of global warming and prospects for hope.

Special Forever

National Museum collection search

Search the Museum's online collection database for objects from the Murray-Darling Basin.
Special Forever children's drawings
Murray Irrigation collection
Murrumbidgee River

Rick Farley. Photo: Andrew Meares/Fairfax Syndication.

A way through: a forum for Rick Farley

Friends, colleagues and the authors of activist Rick Farley's biography celebrate his contribution to Australian environmental and political throught. Farley led the National Farmers' Federation and was a key figure in the Landcare, Indigenous rights and reconciliation movements.