Workshop: Waterways Country Workshops – Design Canberra Festival

Past event Free event

Waterways Country Workshops


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 Ngunawal-centred, 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 Ngunawal 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.

Waterways Country Symposium image


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. Register.

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

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

These workshops are free. Register for one or all three workshops through the links above.


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 centre 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!

Check out the full program below!

Register for the symposium through this page (orange button in the top right of the page).

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 channelling water into straight lines in order to discipline it to fit a city’s purpose.

No registration necessary. Drop in, or join us in the National Museum’s Gandel Atrium for the daily workshop at 3.30 – 4.30 pm, 14-16 November.

Waterways Country Symposium image

Symposium 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 symposium day.

Tickets include morning tea and a mid-day snack each day. If you’re still hungry, you’ll need to head to the Museum cafe to purchase lunch!

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

If you would like to participate but are not in a position to make a donation, please contact us! Send an email to [email protected] telling us about your connection with Ngunnawal waterways and why you would like to attend the symposium. Please put ‘Waterways Country Bursary’ in the subject line of your email.


We gratefully acknowledge Ngunawal Elders 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 image
Waterways Country Symposium image

Symposium Program

Day One: Monday, November 14, 10am – 3pm

National Museum of Australia Peninsula Room


10am – 10.30 am – Welcome to Country

Introductions – kate harriden, Indigenous water researcher

Welcome to Country – Wally Bell, Ngunawal Elder

10.30 am – 11:30 am – Networking Through Our Waterways

Join the three symposium convenors for an introduction to Waterways Country. We’ll share the story of the Following Sullivans, Learning Country project from which the symposium grew, consider the process of co-designing this program with Ngunawal Community and Country and reflect on the program’s interest in de-colonising waterways. What did we learn from walking the length of Sullivans Creek with Uncle Wally Bell and Aunty Karen Denny and the project’s group of expert participants?

Panellists: kate harriden, Indigenous water researcher; Nicola Lambert, Creative Producer, Catchment Studio; Kirsten Wehner, James O Fairfax Senior Fellow in Culture and Environment, National Museum of Australia

11:30 am – 12 noon – Break

A beautiful spread from Broadbean catering off the Peninsula Room.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm – Country Acting Through Community, Part 1 – Education, Youth and Community

After the Following Sullivans, Learning Country walks program, some of the expert participants created workshops sharing their learning about the waterway with the broader community. In this panel, five participants from diverse disciplines reflect on their outcome projects and explore how they helped build community awareness and capacity to better care for our local environment.

Convenor: Tom Gray

Panellists: Byrd, artist and sculptor; Faith Bentley, educator; Jeannine Fromholtz, Molonglo Conservation Group; Bruno Ferronato, Waterwatch Coordinator, Ginninderra Catchment Group; Jess Nguyen, trash gatherer

1:00 pm – 1:30 pm – Break

Join us for snacks from Broadbean catering off the Peninsula Room.

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm – Positionality Statement Workshop

Facilitators – Kate Harriden and Tom Gray

The Following Sullivans, Learning Country program was centered on the understanding that to open our hearts and minds to Country, we need to become more aware of how our identity and experiences, including inherited, often colonialist, legacies, shape how we see, hear and think about waterways. The Following Sullivans, Learning Country participants tackled this challenge through writing positionality statements, as individuals and a collective. Live documents that evolved throughout the project, these statements helped participants understand how their preconceptions shaped their responses to new ideas, personally and professionally confronting as well as exciting and enlightening.

In this friendly and accessible workshop, you’ll learn about drafting your own positionality statement and discuss how to use it as you engage with a community or develop a research project. Educator Faith Bentley will share the statements she created during the Following Sullivans, Learning Country program and discuss how her understanding evolved over time. Following Sullivans’ participants will present their collective statement, which will be revisited and possibly adapted at the conclusion of the symposium.

Waterways Country Symposium image

Day Two: Tuesday, November 15, 10 am – 3 pm

National Museum of Australia Peninsula Room


10:00 am – 11:00 am – Country Acting Through Community, Part 2 – Country & Creative Practices

Extending our previous day’s discussion on the Following Sullivans, Learning Country community engagement outcomes, join five project participants discussing their community workshop outcomes and how they reveal how the arts can transform our engagement with Country.

Convenor: Tom Gray

Panelists: Amanda Stuart, artist and lecturer, ANU School of Art and Design; Ellis Hutch (aka. Dr Kate Murphy) artist and lecturer, College of Indigenous Futures, Charles Darwin University; Paul Wyrwoll, Institute for Water Futures and Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU; Sammy Hawker, independent photographer and filmmaker; Dr Karen William, Molonglo Conservation Group.

Respondent: Don Christopher (Gunggari), Assistant Director for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts Engagement, ArtsACT, ACT Government

11:00 am – 11:30 pm – Break

Join us for refreshments from Broadbean catering off the Peninsula Room.

11:30 am – 1:00pm – Bio-Centrica Movement Workshop

Garden of Australian Dreams

Facilitator – Kate Clement, Biocentrica

As the Following Sullivans, Learning Country participants walked the waterway with Uncle Wally and Aunty Karen, we learned that if we are going to truly understand the stories archived in Country, we need to do more than just talk about them. We need to dance, sing, paint and walk the waterscape, using all our sense to attend to Country, just as the Ngunnawal Community have been doing for thousands of years.

Responding to this insight, in this interactive session, Kate Clement, Biodanza and Deep Democracy facilitator, will invite us to have a conversation through movement. Water is not still, and neither are we. This workshop will enable us to travel imaginatively through Sullivans Creek, sharing an expansive experience and a sense of water’s continuity and cycles. No dancing skills are needed, just comfortable clothing and a willingness to stretch and move.

1:00 pm – 1:30 pm – Break

Join us for snacks from Broadbean catering off the Peninsula Room.

1.30 pm – 3:00pm – Flows Workshop

Facilitators: Adrian Brown, Ngunawal Custodian, and Kirsten Wehner, National Museum Senior Fellow.

Following Sullivans, Learning Country brought together twenty people, each expert in their own field, to walk the creek and share their knowledge and perspectives. Including visual artists, scientists, educators, writers, activists, conservationists and economists, all led by Ngunawal Elders and Custodians, the group started to map out our community’s complex knowledges of ACT waterways.

This relaxed FLOWS workshop continues the process of gathering waterways knowledge. Working in small groups, you’ll contribute what you know to a ‘mud map’ recording our personal and professional understandings of Ngunnawal Country water systems and networks. You’ll note down the creeks, wetlands, pumping stations, water treatment plants, rain gardens and drains, record your stories about living with these waterways and reflect on how and why they are important.

Waterways Country Symposium image

Day Three: Wednesday, November 16, 10 am – 3 pm

National Museum of Australia Visions Theatre


10:00am – 11:15am – Flows Mapping

Facilitators: Mary Mudford, Ngunawal Custodian, and Kirsten Wehner, National Museum Senior Fellow.

Following on from Tuesday’s FLOWS workshop, digital artist Arran McKenna will create a consolidated map of our collective knowledge of Ngunawal Country waterways and their meanings. In this second session, we’ll reflect on how this document reveals intersections and resonances and, with Arran capturing discussion in real time, continue to draw out and add in cultural, social, ecological and political tributaries, confluences and disappearances.

Once completed, our FLOWS map will be gifted to each symposium participant to be used as a tool for us to think collectively, inclusively and from multidisciplinary perspectives about our water systems and communities.

11:15 am – 11:45 am – Break

Join us for refreshments from Broadbean catering off the Visions Theatre Venue.

11:45 am – 12:45 pm – Waterway Values

The Following Sullivans, Learning Country project was framed by a series of ‘touchstone’ questions exploring the meaning and value of the waterway, its nature as Country, and how culture, art and science might transform our relationships with it. Beginning with the premiere screenings of two films capturing responses to these questions, this panel brings together representatives from different sectors of the Canberra community to consider how the lessons of Following Sullivans might inform our relationships with waterways across the ACT.

Facilitator: Kate Harriden

Panellists: Sammy Hawker, filmmaker; Brooke Clinton, filmmaker; Eleanor Lawless, community engagement organiser; ACT Government Suburban Land Agency representative; ICON Water representative.

Following Sullivans: Learning Country, 7mins, film by Sammy Hawker.

ACT film-maker Sammy Hawker documented the Following Sullivans, Learning Country program, walking the length of the Sullivans waterway with the collective, exploring Country and recording reflections.

Valuing Sullivans Creek, approx. 5 mins, film by SEE-Change (with big thanks to Astrid Breuer)

In this grassroots mini film, SEE Change explores Canberrans’ connections to Sullivans Creek and especially the industrialised area in the inner north of the city. SEE Change interviewed people using the bike path, play areas and parks along the creek to gather stories about how our community uses, values, and understands this waterway. The film will be used to educate and challenge viewers waterways across the ACT.

12: 45pm – 1:30 pm – Break

Join us for refreshments from Broadbean catering off the Visions Theatre Venue.

1:30 pm – 2:45 pm – Ngunawal Voices

Ngunawal Traditional Custodians come together to share reflections on the three days discussions, on Sullivans Creek, deep listening and how they envisage ACT waterways communities into the future.

Facilitator: Melissa Bell

Panellists: Uncle Wally Bell, Aunty Karen Denny, Adrian Brown, Rebecca King

2.45pm – 3pm – Next steps and Thanks

Waterways Country Workshops
Thu 03 Nov 2022 —
Wed 16 Nov 2022
Past event
Waterways Country Workshops

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.