Symposium: Waterways Country Symposium – Design Canberra Festival

Past event Free event

Waterways Country Symposium


Explore the stories of Canberra’s waterways, come together to explore living better with water and learn how colonialism impacts Country.

About this event

As part of the Design Canberra Festival, Catchment Studio invites you to join us for Waterways Country, a workshop series, a symposium and art installations exploring our relationships with local waterways.

If you’re an artist, scientist, conservationist, educator, well-being advocate, cultural producer, water manager, town planner or just someone interested in how we live with water in our city, Waterways Country is a unique opportunity to learn about and contribute to a Ngunnawal-centered, multi-disciplinary understanding of our waterway communities.

If you’ve ever looked at your local stormwater drain and imagined a verdant creek where you can hang out, look for turtles and learn about Ngunnawal Country, then join us for all or part of the Waterways Country program!

From Walking the Creek to Sharing Stories

The Waterways Country program grew from an earlier Catchment Studio initiative, Following Sullivans: Learning Country, completed in May 2022.

Ngunawal Elders Uncle Wally Bell and Aunty Karen Denny led twenty participants on an extended walk along the length of Sullivans Creek. The collective learned about the waterways as Country, developed their skills in attending closely to the more-than-human world they encountered, and considered how Sullivans illuminated the bigger picture of how colonialist legacies continue to shape our relationships to water.

In the Waterways Country program, Following Sullivans, Learning Country facilitators and participants will share the insights and responses the developed during this intense engagement with Sullivans Creek. You’ll have the opportunity to learn more about this neighbourhood waterway, experiment with new approaches to seeing, hearing and moving along it, and there’ll be plenty of invitations for you to contribute your knowledge of and experiences with Sullivans and other ACT waterways.

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Workshop Series

Locations: Along Sullivans Creek, click through to registration pages below for details

Waterways Country kicks off with a series of public workshops inviting you to walk the creek. In these events, a participant in the Following Sullivans, Learning Country program will help you discover the creek as they have. You’ll learn new ways of seeing and feeling the waterscape, learn about aquatic life and consider current initiatives to improve the corridor’s health.

Saturday, 5 November, 9.30 am: A contemplative walk on Country with Sarah Bachelard

Sunday, 6 November, 9.30 am: Connecting to wetlands with Bruno Ferronato

Thursday, 10 November, 10.00 am: Healthy waterways with Jeannine Fromholtz

Register for one or all three workshops below!


Location: National Museum of Australia (Peninsula Room and Visions Theatre)

Monday, 14 November, – Wednesday, 16 November, 2022, 10am – 3pm daily

Building on insights developed during the Following Sullivans, Learning Country program, the Waterways Country symposium brings together people from across the ACT community to consider our relationships with water systems. We’ll learn about and consider how we can center Indigenous perspectives, think about how scientific inquiry contributes to our understanding and explore how the arts help us creatively re-imagine ourselves as part of waterway communities.

The symposium runs over three days, each inspired by the themes: ‘Looking to See’, ‘Listening to Hear’ and ‘Learning to Understand’. Panel discussions will present and consider different ways of responding to Sullivans Creek, and we’ll work together in several ‘Flows’ sessions to create a collaborative ‘mud map’ of the geographies, meanings and values of Canberra’s waterways. We’ll remember to move, with Canberra dance company Biocentrica leading a workshop inviting us to connect with water through our bodies and senses, and we’ll experience the premiere screenings of two short films exploring waterways.

Indigenous voices will weave through each conversation, leading, facilitating or reflecting on shared points of view, bringing us back to consider the preeminence of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in our relationships with waterways. And while discussions will start with Sullivan’s Creek, they’ll broaden out to consider water systems across the ACT, so don’t feel shy if you don’t live north of the lake!

A full program will be available soon!

Art Installations & Workshop

Location: National Museum of Australia, Gandel Atrium bay windows

Monday, 14 November – Wednesday, 16 November, 9am – 4.30 pm.

Accumulation and accretion: walking, listening and learning waterways

Amanda Stuart and Ellis Hutch create a layered installation exploring the material, creative and emotional complexities of waterways. Combining found objects, sound, video and drawings responding to Sullivans Creek in Ngunawal Country and the often-dry creeks of Mparntwe (Alice Springs) on Arrernte Country, the artists trace signs of watery life, from the microscopic to the discarded.

Interactive Workshop

Join artists Amanda Stuart and Ellis Hutch in Accumulations and Accretions for an interactive workshop, daily from 3.30 – 4.30pm. Create your own object drawing of Canberra’s waterways and their microscopic life and add it to the installation. Free. Suitable for all ages.

Water Stories

Sammy Hawker and Paul Wyrwoll present an intriguing video installation tracing how the water cycle reveals the interconnectedness of Canberra’s (often hidden) waterways. Mapping our urban waterways as a series of joined flows, the work draws attention to the colonial mentality of concreting, damming, piping and channeling water into straight lines in order to discipline it to fit a city’s purpose.

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Registration Details

The Waterways Country program aims to be accessible to all. With thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, tickets are available by donation. We suggest $15 + per workshop event or symposium day.

During the symposium, tickets include morning tea and a light lunch each day.

All monies raised through ticket sales will be donated to a charity supporting platypus conservation, as selected by Uncle Wally Bell.


We gratefully acknowledge Uncle Wally Bell’s and Aunty Karen Denny’s ongoing guidance.

The Waterways Country program has been made possible through the generous support of the Suburban Land Agency (ACT Government), ICON Water, Design Canberra and the National Museum of Australia. We gratefully acknowledge their vision and generosity.

Waterways Country Symposium image
Waterways Country Symposium
Mon 14 Nov 2022 —
Wed 16 Nov 2022
Past event
Waterways Country Symposium

DESIGN Canberra acknowledges the Ngunnawal people as the traditional custodians of the ACT and surrounding areas. We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region. We aim to respect cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all Indigenous people.