'Talking Fish' in the Murray-Darling Basin

Rodney Price with a beaut Murray  cod

The rivers and creeks of the Murray-Darling Basin flow through Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and South Australia. The 77 000km of waterways that make up the Basin link 23 catchments over an area of 1 million km2.

Each river has its own character yet these waters, the fish, the plants, and the people that rely on them are all different.

The booklets in this series are about how the rivers, fish and fishing have changed. The main stories are written from oral history interviews conducted with local fishers in 2010-11 and relate individuals’ memories of how their local places have changed. They showcase three ways of knowing each river: personal experience, scientific research and historical research. Just as individual fishers do not always agree with one another, so their understanding might not necessarily agree with current scientific information or historical records. Similarly, specific items and events might be remembered differently by different people. These varied perspectives show the range in views about fishing and the rivers, each important in its own way.

There are many other great stories out there about fishing in the Murray-Darling Basin. These booklets are just the beginning.

Tramworkers with their catch

About the Talking Fish project

The Talking Fish project arose from an increasing realisation that many different groups of people, including fishers, Indigenous communities, tourists and landholders have developed unique relationships with the rivers of the Murray Darling Basin. There is also the growing recognition that the health of the Murray-Darling Basin is at risk. By accessing and recording different people’s stories about their experiences of a river, its fish and how both have changed will contribute to our collective knowledge and help shape future management decisions. These stories also have the potential to give people a sense of just what these magnificent rivers and their fish were once like - and could be again with ongoing rehabilitation efforts.

The Talking Fish project focussed on collecting oral histories from 12 reaches within the Murray-Darling Basin. These are available to download individually below.

Lyell Hogg with his fishing gear

  • Namoi (NSW)
  • Upper Condamine River (Qld)
  • Katarapko Creek (SA)
  • Upper Murrumbidgee River (NSW / ACT)
  • Culgoa - Balonne Rivers (Qld / NSW)
  • Paroo River (Qld)
  • Goulburn River (Vic)
  • Darling and the Great Anabranch (NSW)
  • Ovens River (Vic)
  • Mainstem Murray River (NSW / Victoria)
  • Darling River (NSW)
  • The Coorong and Lower Lakes (SA).

A compilation booklet was also prepared. This booklet contains an overarching introduction and the stories associated with each reach. It concludes with the resources and references associated with each reach. The compilation booklet can be downloaded in sections from the list below.

This project was funded by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and managed by the Conservation Action Unit (CAU) within the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

The original oral histories and project photographs collected as part of the Talking Fish project are held in the Dharmae digital collection of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) via this link: the https://dharmae.research.uts.edu.au/collections/show/24

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: please be aware that this website may contacin voices, images and/or names of deceased persons. If you wish to discuss the inclusion of material in this archive, please email atside@lib.uts.edu.au.

The Talking Fish project is a starting point to share local knowledge and learned experience with others to improve the health of the Murray – Darling Basin.

Note: The term 'Talking Fish' is also being used by the Australian River Restoration Centre as a way of sharing knowledge about people’s connection to fish and waterways.