SCU and Wilson’s River Walk Experience project staff with the artist’s book to be housed in the University library.
SCU and Wilson’s River Walk Experience project staff with the artist’s book to be housed in the University library.

Giant book wraps up project

After years of work, the Wilsons River Experience Walk project has culminated in the presentation of a giant book to the Southern Cross University Library. The book, which is now the largest in the SCU collection contains full colour reproductions of the artwork used as signage for the Wilsons River Experience Walk in Lismore’s Riverside Park.

Developed as a historical and educational resource, the artworks, which feature photos and stories were crafted into 16 large metal panels which can be viewed in-situ along the redeveloped riverbank. The information and images depicted on the panels were collected by SCU staff and students working with the community over the past few years.

As well as the panels, the project has produced a series of recorded oral histories which have tapped into some forgotten aspects of life in Lismore. Adele Wessell, who was involved in gathering community stories for the project, said she became “consumed and inspired” as she collected many photos and reminiscences from people’s childhoods in a series of conversations by the river.

“It’s unusual to collect stories on site,” she said. “We took people on a boat down the river and recorded their stories of swimming, cooking and camping by the river. It’s good to see the river from the perspective of people who have lived here and used it for years.”

Peter Lee, vice chancellor of SCU said the panels depicted a blending of Indigenous and non-indigenous cultures which show how the two cultures engaged with and used the river. He said he would like to see a café developed on the riverbank to encourage people to utilise the space more.

“My observation is that Lismore has turned its back on the river, but it brought European settlement here and brought life to indigenous peoples. This project shows the importance of living history and capturing oral history,” Professor Lee said.

The panels were designed by visual arts lecturer Leonie Lane, who said she loved working with the old photographs which were chosen for inclusion on the panels. She worked closely with historian Dr Jo Kijas, Widjabul elders Auntie June Gordon and Roy Gordon Jnr and the Richmond River Historical Society to gather historical information.

“This project has allowed us to see community as a living museum and the importance of our heritage,” she said.

The Wilson’s River Walk Experience is a joint initiative of Southern Cross University and Lismore City Council which provides visitors and residents with an opportunity to share in the diverse cultural, recreational and historical aspects of the city.


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