I’m sure many of us have walked along a beach shore and seen pieces of fishing nets washed up on the sand. We all know these lost or abandoned nets, known as Ghost Nets, are a huge danger to marine animals and birds. Like me, you may have even seen video footage where kind fishermen or vets have rescued animals such as turtles and dolphins by cutting nets off them.
Several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the far north of Australia are now doing something about this. In particular, inhabitants of Darnley Island (known as Erub in the Papuan language), are turning this deadly waste into wonderful works of art such as sculptures, wall hangings, baskets and even jewellery.
Netting is collected from the beaches by rangers, and they record and identify it (if possible) before it’s passed on to various communities. The thickness, colour and size of the net can often identify where the net originated. Some kinds of net are particularly desired by artists for their colour and physical qualities.
While some nets originate from Australian fishing boats, much of the ghost net that is discovered in the Gulf of Carpentaria and the Torres Strait originates from south-east Asia, and can travel many hundreds of kilometres on the tides before being washed up.1
The Australian Museum, in the centre of Sydney, is Australia’s first museum combining nature, science and culture. It acquired its first ghost net art work from Erub Erwer Meta (Darnley Island Arts Centre) in 2012 and has since acquired others. Each work reflects the communities efforts to protect their marine environment.
Isn’t this a wonderful initiative in both using waste and raising awareness?
If you live in, or visit, the Sydney area, you might like to go and see these stunning artworks for yourself at The Australian Museum. Also, in conjunction with the Ghost Net Collective, the Museum is running in-depth, hands-on weaving workshops in mid January 2023 to discover creative solutions to reducing waste and understand the importance of caring for Country. If you are interested, you can book or obtain more information by clicking here.
- With thanks to the Australian Museum and the Erub (Darnley Islands) Facebook page.
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