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Critical Undercurrents - a One River symposium

Audio and transcripts available now

Share the stories of people, politics and creative projects from the Murray-Darling Basin, in this One River Centenary of Canberra symposium, developed in partnership with the National Museum of Australia. Recorded on 25 August 2013.

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Critical Undercurrents panel discussion

Planning and management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin is the classic political hot potato. For over a century, colonial, state, federal and regional bodies have bickered, prevaricated and blamed each other for the planned and un-planned impacts of all manner of policy decisions (or lack thereof).

As the One River project brings stories from across the Basin to the national capital, it’s a good time to re-visit the debate. In particular, what are the roadblocks to engagement in the democratic process in water management across the Basin for Australia’s first peoples and for regional communities who are often isolated from the decision making process? How do we balance the interests of industry, communities and the environment in policy development?

Panelists include historian and public policy analyst Daniel Connell (Australian National University, Canberra), environmental and community activist Sarah Moles (Queensland), winegrower and artist Kim Chalmers (Victoria) and Ngarrindjeri elder Major Sumner from the Coorong region (South Australia).

One River is a Centenary of Canberra project, proudly supported by the Australian Government and the ACT Government, along with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the Sidney Myer Fund and the Australia Council.

One River artists’ talks

One River has involved artists working with local communities on a range of creative projects across the Murray-Darling Basin. From Bourke to Goolwa and from Augathella to Albury, these projects have set out to explore local stories and points of connection to the rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin.

In the context of debate about water rights and about how best to plan and manage the Basin, One River projects have sought to define common interests and to make apparent the ways in which river and their tributaries connect different places and people, both literally and metaphorically.

National Museum curators George Main and Barbara Paulson will outline significant objects from the National Museum's collection to start some wide-ranging discussions. Expect stimulating and diverse ideas and entertaining show and tell from a range of talented and articulate presenters.

Speaker biographies



Welcome and introduction 

Dr Kirsten Wehner, Head Curator,
People and the Environment, National Museum of Australia

Robin Archer, Creative Director, Centenary of Canberra

Audio and transcript now available


Kirsten Wehner
Dr Kirsten Wehner

Panel discussion

Chair: Malcolm McKinnon, artist and filmmaker

Audio and transcript now available


Malcolm McKinnon
Malcolm McKinnon
12.30–1.30pm Lunch  

One River artists’ talks 

Facilitated by Barbara Paulson, Assistant Curator,
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Program,
National Museum of Australia

Audio and transcript now available


Barbara Paulson

Barbara Paulson

2.30–3.00pm Afternoon tea  

One River artists’ talks

Facilitated by Dr George Main, Senior Curator,
People and the Environment, National Museum of Australia

  • Andrew Hull, artist, poet, photographer and songwriter
  • Vic McEwan, composer, sound and installation artist
  • Bill Marsh, author, storyteller, performer and playwright

Audio and transcript now available

George Main

Dr George Main

4.00pm Program concludes