Living Data: Voices from the Southern Ocean speaking in languages a child may understand.

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

Plan for travelling animated installation. See more.
L-R: Rayma Johnson, Lisa Roberts and Maddison Gibbs with the ‘Seeding Treaty’ Animated Installation in the NAIDOC Exhibition, Voice, Treaty, Truth, at Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative, Sydney, 13 June 2019 – 25 July 2019
Photos: Vikki Quill (L), Chriss Bull (R)

Map by Dan Bowles with dotted lines that trace the journey proposed for stage one of the ‘Seeding Treaties’ project. Network of points, lines and words by Cat Kutay leads to Posts by project co-creators that track their co-creative process.

‘Seeding Treaties: Voices from the Southern Ocean’ is a three-year traveling project for inspiring and informing young people to tell their own stories of relationship to the natural world.

An on-line interface will be made to attract responses to stories that come from lands and waterways between Australia and Antarctica. Animations will give voice to ocean creatures and their relatives on land to reveal connections between Dreaming stories and Western science. Project co-creators and followers will post their own stories to a Living Data Library (under construction) and so contribute to further sharing and growing knowledge. A virtual cyclic journey between Antarctica and Australia will reflect diverse experiences of country. The cyclic journey will also open up possibilities for reimagining the world as a whole, and for understanding the Antarctic Treaty, and all treaties, as agreements people make for sustaining life well together.

Our itinerary may change as the project evolves.

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. As the project evolves we are guided by people directly and through their publications. Guides include: 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, Karin Osseydryver, Tyson Yunkaporta, Janet Hughes, Helen Milroy.

Dr Lisa Roberts 17 July 2019