Navigating Norman Creek at the Museum of Brisbane

Toohey Forest at the headwaters of Norman Creek. (Photo by Julie Hornsey).

The history of Queensland’s most urbanised waterway is being explored in the Museum of Brisbane’s first film only exhibition, Navigating Norman Creek.

Griffith Film School’s Trish FitzSimons produced and directed the five documentary films and one visual poem in the exhibition, which explore the environmental and social history of East Brisbane’s Norman Creek.

Once an aquatic playground and important hub for the boatbuilding industry, the waterway is now being challenged by flood, pollution and urban development.

Associate Professor FitzSimons says the exhibition was inspired by her personal connection to the creek and the passion of the community — particularly the Norman Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee — that help to protect the creek’s ecosystem.

Associate Professor Trish FitzSimons
Associate Professor Trish FitzSimons

“When you canoe the creek, you see a whole different world and I was fascinated by that. Norman Creek has been treated as a tip and a toilet for a lot of its life, so there’s definitely a bit of the evangelical in me underpinning the exhibition,” she says.

“The meanders of Norman Creek create lovely nooks that are havens close to the city. There’s a category of creek people that care passionately about the creek more than the suburbs around them, when most people are the opposite of that.”

The five films touch on different aspects of the creek’s history, including stories from men in their eighties who used to swim nude in the creek, to the politics around flood mitigation solutions following the 1974 floods.

The exhibition was funded through the Brisbane City Council’s Community History Grant and the Museum of Brisbane, with the films serving as primary historical research into one of Brisbane’s key ecologies.

“I am capturing slices of history that would otherwise disappear. It’s important to capture this history,” Assoc Prof FitzSimons says.

Assoc Prof FitzSimons says while a lot of people who love the creek have been attending the exhibition, the purpose of the project is to enlighten the general public on the rich history of the creek and the hidden environment that surrounds them.

“I describe the creek as a parallel universe. It represents another way of understanding the place we live in. People who have never thought much of the creek can go to the exhibition and realise there’s a whole ecology and history there that isn’t apparent from first glance.”

Navigating Norman Creek will also be showcased at the Women in Rivers event as part of the 18th International River Symposium on the 20th of September.

18 June – 11 October 2015
10 am – 5 pm daily
Free admission
The Clem Jones Gallery
Museum of Brisbane – City Hall