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9 October 2023

Living on the Edge project launches at the National Museum of Australia with a vibrant community day

Experience a stimulating array of art, performance, story-telling and conversations exploring Australia’s remarkable river and wetland communities at the River Country Community Day on Sunday 15 October at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

The River Country Community Day will be a free event exploring the Murray–Darling’s unique river and wetland communities, why these places matter and how we can act to protect and regenerate them.

The day will feature thought-provoking talks, inspirational walks, performances and creative activities suited to all ages.

The day will also act as the official launch of Living on the Edge: Caring for Australia’s Threatened Places – a multi-year project sharing the stories of eight ecological communities from across Australia, each a vibrant but also deeply threatened network of land, water, plants, animals and people.

The project will ask how Australians can come together to better appreciate and care for these precious places at a time of devastating environmental decline.

Dr Mathew Trinca, Director of the National Museum of Australia said the Museum is thrilled to be highlighting some of Australia’s most stunning waterways.

‘The Museum is looking forward to celebrating Australia’s distinct and beautiful river communities during the day of festivities. We have been working with diverse communities to create a day of lively performances, thought-provoking conversations and hands-on activities for the whole family,’ said Dr Trinca.

The National Museum’s James O Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment, Dr Kirsten Wehner, said that the Museum is delighted to be partnering with the Sydney Environment Institute on the Living on the Edge project and the River Country Community Day.

‘River Country Community Day is a wonderful opportunity for people to explore and celebrate all the different ways that our lives are intertwined with the beautiful and threatened Murray–Darling rivers and wetlands.

We often hear how the Murray–Darling system enables Australia’s agriculture, energy production and other industries. But it is also about river flows, shaded banks and wetlands, places that are home to hundreds of unique plants and animals and that are important culturally, socially and spiritually to the people who live with them.

Living on the Edge and the River Country Community Day bring people together to share how these places matter to them and why we need to make sure they flourish into the future. We all have a river story to share,’ Dr Wehner said.

Living on the Edge is developed by the National Museum of Australia, through the James O Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment Program, and the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney.

Bringing together the Institute and the Museum, with the support of the James Fairfax Foundation, combines scholarly research and public engagement to create a new kind of conversation about what it means for so many of our Australian plants and animals to be on the edge of extinction.

Associate Professor Thom Van Dooren, Deputy Director of the Sydney Environment Institute at the University of Sydney, said that Living on the Edge is an effort to foster a rich public dialogue about our growing biodiversity crisis.

‘Through this partnership between the National Museum of Australia and the Sydney Environment Institute, we are working to gather stories from around the country about threatened species and places, what they mean to communities and why they matter so much. And then to share those stories with diverse audiences, from school children and families to scientists and policy makers, so that we might enrich and energise much-needed possibilities for change,’ said Assoc Prof Van Dooren.

Visitors will have opportunities to learn about Molonglo Country while walking the Acton Peninsula, meet First Nations custodians protecting the ancient Gwydir wetlands, or enjoy poetry performances in the Great Southern Land gallery.

The National Museum’s Gandel Atrium will be transformed by a specially commissioned River Country art installation created by Canberra artist SA Adair in collaboration with Kirsten Wehner and artists from across the Murray–Darling system. Visitors will be invited to grow this ‘wetland’ by contributing their own river stories, memories and hopes.

During the day, visitors will be able to hear from artists responding to the sounds of swamps, join a drawing workshop, create a cyanotype platypus world, enjoy music and dance performances or simply relax with a picnic and great lakeside views in the Museum’s Amphitheatre.

The day will conclude with the premiere screening of an important new film, More than a Fish Kill, followed by a provocative Q&A session. This documentary explores how a collective of artists, fishery managers and First Nations custodians helped their communities respond to the devastating Menindee fish kills along the Baaka (Darling River), encouraging ecological and cultural renewal.

The Museum’s Tim and Gina Fairfax Discovery Centre, an immersive play and learn space for children of all abilities from birth to 6 years will also be free for the day, offering stories and activities for young children.

Living on the Edge brings together cultural researchers, writers, curators, traditional custodians and artists, as well as policymakers, scientists and community conservationists, to share knowledge and explore ideas about how to understand, protect and regenerate threatened ecological communities. The multi-year project will produce an online exhibition, events, creative commissions and education resources.

The event will be held across the Museum site on Sunday 15 October 2023 from 11am to 4:30pm.

Media Contact: Matthew Heap (02) 6208 5006 | 0459 949 172 or

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