My name is Isabella, I’m non-Indigenous and I live on Darug and Gundungurra Country. We are freshwater people and we have a strong connection to the land and environment because we live in the Blue Mountains, a World Heritage National Park that has to be cared for. Freshwater is part of my identity. In the summertime, my friends and I use li-los and kayaks to float over the mini rapids and stones in the Cox’s River, Kanimbla, while our families sit in the shallows and watch us till the sun goes down. In the winter time, during trout season, we fish for trout and cook it on our campfire. The freshwater provides food for our families while we camp on the banks and leisure in the summertime when we play. Freshwater has magic to it that we don’t understand, like most places in the Blue Mountains, you can feel a spirit in the land. In the past two years our community has been devastated by catastrophic bushfires and monumental floods. My artwork is a painting of the Nepean River, Yandhai (Dharuk) flowing down the mountains into the flooding plains below. This is why I referenced Dorothea Mackellar’s poem “My Country” in the title of my work. You will see there is a silhouette that is cut out of my face. It is swallowing the water at the bottom of the mountains to show the masses of water that fell during several east coast low weather systems, as well as Warragamba dam levels breaking. The water flooded into the lowlands and turned into toxic and dirty water. It made me and lots of other people in the community sick and caused damage to my home and backyard. Indigenous culture is connected to water through mapping. The Nepean River, Yandhai (Dharuk) is a landmark to my community. The floods have caused
devastation to this landmark and in certain sections the river will need to be remapped.
The Nepean River, Yandhai (Dharuk) was traditionally used by the local Indigenous
peoples as a means to travel and for trading with the people in the western plains. There have been discoveries of stone tools found in the Nepean River, Yandhai (Dharuk) which are dated to be over 50,000 years old. Indigenous peoples have survived and sustained the harsh local environment for over 50,000 years. It makes so much sense that we turn to the people whose relatives lived by the Yandhai (Dharuk) to teach us about ancient ways to prevent devastating floods from happening and to better care for the local environment
using their essential knowledge.
If we all, as a nation, can recognise and understand Indigenous peoples and their
cultures, we can learn from them to create a better future for all Australians.
Artist: Isabella Johnston