Community engagement is a key part in the development of the project. The aim of the engagement was to find stories and images from the wider community that complemented our existing mattterial sourced from the Albury LibraryMuseum, the Albury and District Historical Society, the Dallinger Collection and State Water.
During the engagement we endeavoured to create a relaxed and informal environment where people felt comfortable to share their experiences. This was validated by the inclusion of a participant who was passing by on a weekend walk and joined our gathering, he was a fish ecologist and shared his unique perspective of the Murray River.
We created a promo flyer in both electronic and hard formats. The flyer advertised the community engagement dates that were referred to as gatherings, project outline, and aims of the project. The printed flyers were distributed amongst the community of Albury Wodonga in places like Murray Arts office, Albury LibraryMuseum and Woodnga Council offices.
To further promote the community engagements we distributed a media release outlining our project with in the larger format of One River, the release was picked up by Prime7 Albury Wodonga. During this news interview we were able to further promote our local outcome for Albury Wodonga within the One River project, particularly the gathering dates and public participation.
Through these formats we achieved a high penetration of coverage for our project through the use of printed flyers, television news coverage and websites that featured the arts, environment and Indigenous interests. Other sources that were utilities to promote the engagement included: Community centers, community notice boards, public spaces, recreational clubs and organisations. We also directly targeted community groups which included: Mirambeena Community Centre, Lavington Library, Centro Lavington, Mitta Mitta Canoe club, SS&A, The Commercial Club, Albury Library Museum, Albury and District Historical Society, Murray Arts.
The engagement was made possible through the cooperation and assistance of a few key organisations.
Murray Arts is the regional arts development organisation servicing the Border and North East Region. They are one of 14 Regional Arts Boards in NSW and also part of the Regional Arts Victoria Cultural Network. They service the local government areas of AlburyCity, Greater Hume and Corowa in NSW and the City of Wodonga, Indigo and Towong in Victoria
Each month Murray Arts distribute an electronic newsletter that promotes and communicates events of the region. For the month of February the Albury Wodonga outcome and the artists we profiles in the newsletter. Murray Arts have also assisted in the provision of equipment that assisted in making the engagement possible
Gateway Community Health Services
Gateway Community Health Services aim at helping people maintain strong, positive relationships and develop healthy lifestyles. In line with this they coordinate access that the Blue Cottage that is located on the Lincoln Causeway. This build regularly houses the Highwater theatre. The multi-award winning HighWater is a unique program where professional artists and post-release women (trainee artists) work with some of the most disengaged, high risk young people in this regional community. Gateway Community Health Services provided a neutral facility between Albury and Wondonga for the consultation to take place on. The site is also only a stones throw from the Murray River and gave a sense of connection to the underpinning themes of One River.
The engagement uncovered the variety of levels that people engaged on the river. People use the river for recreational activities including swimming, canoeing and fishing. The river is also used as a meeting place for couples, family’s and social groups. Friends use the river to form bonds, friendships, memories in the region. Generations of families shared their stories of growing up along the river, the earlier days of the house boats and tent land at Noreuil Park and the presence of steamboats. The memories and engagement not only reflected on the past but also discussed contemporary use of the river for occasions like that of Australia Day festivities.
The consultation with the Albury and District Historical Society we have found out interesting facts and early settlement history. Earlier settlers collected drinking water for the township where the indigenous sourced their water from also. Noreuil Park was once the holding yards. These yards held cattle that were transported between New South Wales and Victoria by crossing the river at Noreuil. This place was termed “the crossing”. The river was treacherous, with numerous stories been told during the engagement of drownings of the stock due to the strong current, cold water and a whirlpool near “the crossing”.
People have expressed how the river has a deeper spiritual quality. They reasoned that the river is a place to heal, reflection and contemplation. Canoeist talk of the silence on the water, witnessing the activity of bird life and wildlife in the natural surrounds, during the transition of sunrise and sun set, they talk of its sanctuary. They spoke fondly of the comradeship between the canoeist, and the respect of the river with its hazards of fast moving cold water, hidden snags and trees.
As people we settle near water to build our cities and towns, the river provides recreation, industry, agriculture, power and transport. Water is what sustains us to be able grow and thrive. With the awareness of the fragility of our water systems, comes a respect and a shared responsibility on how best to collectively manage, current and future use of our rivers.
What we have uncovered in these engagements is our humanities drive to seek refuge around water. The river has a cultural significance for the indigenous communities. The river has a reflective, spirituality and healing effect on individuals. Over the years of the communities the river has brought people together through recreational activities. The river has motion, it has a magical transition with its surrounds, you can experience this as the sun rises and sets, witnessing the change in colour, bird life, the animals that drink and live around the river. The river cleanses its motion in its current, the twists and turns, the fast moving water in which fallen trees and rocks reside. The river inspires people’s stories to write, photograph, draw, paint and sing, to celebrate. The river demands respect on how we interact within it particularly in time of flood and drought.