Welcome to Living Data for Children: Voices from the Southern Ocean (Evolving)

The songlines are such an important part of our mental and spiritual structure.
They are lines of energy that run between places, animals and people.

Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, 2009

L-R: Rayma Johnson, Lisa Roberts and Maddison Gibbs with ‘Seeding Treaty’
Animated Installation for Boomalli’s NAIDOC Exhibition, Voice, Treaty, Truth, 13 June 2019 – 25 July 2019
Photos: Vikki Quill (L), Chriss Bull (R)

‘Voices from the Southern Ocean’ is the Living Data project for inspiring and informing children to tell their own stories of relationship to the natural world.

Animations, installations, performances and picture books are being made to give voice to ocean creatures and their relatives on land. An animated interactive web site will map and track the creatures’ explorations and invite responses. Algae, Krill, Fish, Snake, Bird and Whale will embark on an expedition from Antarctica to Australia. They will explore how they co-evolved through time and space with natural cycles of global climate change driven by Antarctic sea ice. They will reveal connections between health and wellbeing of individuals, communities and the planet.

Whale will lead and narrate a journey from the sea and then onto land, as in the Whale Dreaming stories of the Yuin and Gumbaynggirr peoples. That journey will reflect how Western scientists understand the evolution of the whale: The whale came from the sea, evolved on land into an almost wolf-like organism and eventually became amphibious and went back into the ocean to become the whales we see today. All mammals evolved from the ocean to be air-breathing organisms.

Walks on country, workshops and travelling shows will be key to developing the stories and for assessing their impacts on young people. The project has evolved from residencies this year (2019) with Barkindji artist Maddison Gibbs and Lisa Roberts at the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), conversations at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and from Lisa’s involvement in the Ngadhuri-nya (To care for) study associated with the NSW Child Development Study.

The project will culminate in 2022 to coincide with publication of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPPC) Report, and lead into the 2023 Global Stocktake to measure – and communicate – how countries are meeting the Paris Agreement targets.


As project lead I acknowledge the risk of misrepresentation in the story telling, and so we are guided by Aboriginal Elders, Western scientists, Indigenous ecological scientists and others with Indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) and sensitivities. We are guided by these people directly and through their publications: Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, Dean Kelly, Bruce Pascoe, Aunty Fran Bodkin, Chels Marshall, William Gladstone, So Kawaguchi, Andrew Constable, Stephen Nichol, Carmel Bird, Megan Williams.

Dr Lisa Roberts 17 July 2019