<em>Alan</em> 2020<br/>
Courtesy of the artist<br/>
© JR

Rivers in Decline: The (Aussie) Politics of Water

Sat 19 Dec 20, 11am–12pm

JR<br/> <em>Alan</em> 2020<br/> Courtesy of the artist<br/> © JR
Past program

Free entry

NGV International

Great Hall
Ground Level

Watch the live broadcast here  

Lifelines of water run through the Australian landscape. Over recent years these waterways have become increasingly politicised as competing motivations and ecological decline collide.

The Baaka / Darling River system has become one of these politicised bodies, as intensive water extraction from irrigation, climate change and drought have compromised its water health and created tensions between First Nations people, family farms and multinational agribusinesses.

JR’s Homily to Country focuses on the ecological and human impact of the river’s decline and acts as a starting point for the people who are featured in this project to join Triennial curators and authors to discuss the personal impacts and ongoing tensions along the river, and visions for a more equitable shared future for all – human and non-human alike.

This program is part of Triennial Conversations, taking place on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 December to mark the opening of NGV Triennial 2020.

Rivers in Decline: The (Aussie) Politics of Water will also be live broadcast as part of Triennial Conversations.

Watch the live broadcast here  


Ewan McEoin (Melbourne) is the Hugh Williamson Senior Curator of the Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the NGV. He was part of the senior curatorial team for Melbourne Now and the NGV Triennial (2017 and 2020) and curates the annual NGV Architecture Commissions program. He has curated several focused and collection exhibitions, including Les Mason: SoloGlenn Murcutt: Architecture of FaithDesign Storytellers and Archaeology of Light: Erieta  Attali, and works extensively on the NGV’s annual Melbourne Design Week, Australia’s leading international design program. He is an Adjunct Professor in the School of Design and Social Context at RMIT University.


Badger Bates (Broken Hill) is a Barkandji Elder who works within the media of linocut printing, wood, emu egg and stone carving and metalwork. His art shows his connection to Country and the interconnected ecosystems on Paakantki land which includes Mutawintji and the Baaka / Darling River.

Gabrielle Chan (Canberra) is a writer and journalist of more than 30 years. She has covered politics for Guardian Australia and The Australian and has also been published in Meanjin, Upturn: A Better Normal After Covid 19 (UNSW 2020) and Fire Flood Plague (Vintage 2020). Her 2018 book Rusted Off: Why Country Australia is Fed Up, was shortlisted for the 2019 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and the 2020 Walkley book prize. Gabrielle is currently working on a book on food, farming and landscape.

Rachel Strachan (Mildura) is a pastoralist on the Lower Baaka / Darling River where she operates a family sheep agribusiness in conjunction with dry-land cropping. Due to a lack of water security her family was forced to decommission their horticultural plantings in grape and citrus. Like other food producers of that region, she’s experienced the collapse of the local irrigated farming industry which, for decades, had relied on the Menindee Lakes system, and the Lower Baaka / Darling for water.

Alan Whyte (Mildura) is a third-generation citrus grower on the Lower Baaka / Darling River north of Wentworth. His family business started in 1930 and ended in 2020 with the removal of all citrus trees. He has been actively involved in water issues on the Baaka / Darling River for many years, as were his parents and grandparents. He gave evidence to The Royal Commission in 2018 and has given evidence or provided submissions to all enquiries into the mismanagement of the Baaka / Darling River.

Information for people who are deaf or hard of hearing 

Access Contemporary Environment NGV Triennial 2020 NGV International