Do fish get bored?': A reading of the Morwell River wetlands study using the lens of 'thinking through country'

Year: 2012

Author: Somerville, Margaret

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


'Do fish get bored?' begins with my fascination with the ways that children engaged with place-based pedagogies through language and new literacies. The site of the study is the Morwell River wetlands, created by Hazelwood International Power after the river was diverted for the brown coal mining on which these communities were built. Privatisation in the 1990s rendered these communities victim of the worst excesses of neoliberal globalization with intergenerational poverty and existential ennui. The transition to a low carbon future brings further economic instability. The school partnered with the power generator to monitor the 'decolonisation and reinhabitation' of the wetlands through an integrated EfS program across the school. Monica Green and myself collaborated with teachers to reinvigorate the program through participatory action research. We researched the process through digital visual recording of our observations in the wetlands; the collection of school- and teacher education student artefacts; and focus groups and interviews with participating teachers.


In this presentation I use the lens of  'thinking through country' to read the data from this participatory ethnographic study of how children from this low SES community learn though place. In 'thinking through country' (Somerville, 2012) I traced my theoretical move from a concept of 'place' to a concept of 'Country' in collaboration with U'Alayi researcher Chrissiejoy Marshall. The elements of thinking through country included intertextual meaning making from multiple modes of literate practice including oral storytelling, visual art, written text, and digital images, assembled in a recorded performance presented on DVD. In analyzing the elements of this performance I asked, how can a white settler woman practice thinking through country in contemporary Australia, and respond with body/place journal writing (Somerville, 2012). I concluded, in concurrence with Massey's global sense of place, that country includes mining holes in the ground and the grid of urban streets, as well as the shapes of the landscape across which meanings are inscribed in layers. Not so much was negotiated in this country, however, but appeared in the cracks and fissures, like the wild tobacco in the streets of urban Chicago (Bang & Marin, 2012).


In this paper I take up this doubled analytical lens to explore the intersection of place, literacy and sustainability in this study in order to contribute to the dialogue of this symposium.



Bang, M. & Marin, A.M. 2012. Tobacco in the Streets: Understanding Chicago as Indigenous Land. Presentation at AERA, Vancouver.

Somerville, M. 2012. Water in a Dry Land: place learning through art and story. New York: Routledge.