Merri Creek flows through the northern suburbs of Melbourne, it is a major tributary of the Yarra River, the main river that flows through the city into Port Phillips Bay. The place where the creek and the river meet was an important gathering center for the original people of the Wurundjeri region.
Since the Industrialization, all the waste from the factories and quarries have been dumped into these waters. This has changed greatly since the 1970’s where laws where introduced to prevent industrial pollution. Waste from homes and factories is now directed into the sewerage system. There is a important recreational path bordering the creek, where melbournians spend their days walking, running, cycling. It’s a very beautiful and peaceful place, unfortunately, if you take a deeper look into the bush what you will find can be shocking!
Mark Thomas, a local artist and environmental scientist who worked for many years cleaning up contaminated sites, frequently visits Merri Creek. He was concerned with the huge amounts of litter he was finding in Edgars Creek, a tributary to Merri Creek, and decided to do something about it. His first actions were to pick up the rubbish and build litter traps to stop more pollution from entering the creek. To reveal the pollution to the community and local council Mark made big sculptures with waste in visible spots. His trashy robots set things in motion and now, Edgars Creek, is well maintained. This is a great example of how the combined efforts from people like Mark, the community and the local councils can make a difference in saving natural habitats from the waste our societies produce!
Mark invited a group of artist to collaborate with him this past Sunday to Merri Creek. The idea was to search for a spot with enough waste to create a new sculpture. I heard about Mark, when a very good friend, artist Victor Holder, also from Venezuela asked me to participate in this environmental activity. You can imagine how happy this made me. I was thrilled with the idea!
On Sunday we all met at Ceres, an award winning, not-for-profit, environment and education center and a urban farm located near Merri Creek. Our group included two Australians, Mark and Zeff (also an Artist); Ferdi , an architect from the Nederland; Ramona from India, Marry from Finland, Lee and Finn. From Venezuela our great friend Victor, Manuel (my husband and Camera man) and me.
I will let the Images speak for themselves but I was shocked with the amount of Plastic litter that we found.
Taking a Canoe, Mark discovered a series of Billabongs with huge amounts of rubbish. It was then decided to build the sculpture there. I didn’t know what a billabong was, I just new about the famous Australian surf brand that uses that name. He explained to me that they are a section of still water, wetlands adjacent to a river, and most importantly a breeding habitat for the native frogs and Galaxia fishes. I didn’t see or hear any frogs. I just saw so many PET bottles, Plastics Bags, chip packages, straws, plastic lids, rusted cans, etc.
This place is only 5 minutes away from the main path and very close to CERES and Merri Creek Management Committee MCMC , the management agency formed in 1989 to achieve a shared vision for the waterway corridors of the Merri Creek Catchment. Its members include all the municipalities in the catchment. How contradictory that booth of these important organizations being so close to this environmental problem seems to have ignored it for years. The build up of trash there is by no means recent!
First we all set out to gather as much rubbish as we could…
Afterwards we all decided that we would make a sculpture of a giant Galaxia Fish, native to this creek. Each person took on different tasks and let their creativity run free. We would put it all together in the end.
Then we assembled our beautiful Galaxia that resurrected from the trashed Billabong
Mark recently founded Earth Pursuit, and one of their projects is turning this beautiful billabong back into a sustainable habitat. The plan is to first remove all the litter (the percentage we used for the sculpture was minimal). It is also necessary to remove all the non-native plants (weeds) and to build efficient litter traps. Most importantly to get the community engaged, to form “Friends of the Galaxia Billabong”, so that we can all come and see and hear the Frogs again!