That we treat these fires
We have a national day
Of mourning
Dedicated to the lives lost
The habitat vanished.

The devastation wrought on every life form by the fires was the impetus for the original concept of this project, Ritual for Nature: In memoriam – a soundscape with clouds.

We imagined an acoustic journey through the sounds of this experience, while sitting in a cloudscape, followed by a ritual.  The ritual would involve a physical connection with nature, each person holding an artefact from nature and one by one placing it as a piece in a large pattern.


After the fires, came flooding, then Covid 19 and everything came to a screeching halt.  When we needed to come together we were driven apart. In terms of the Recovery project we had to put everything on line.

We struggled with how we might adapt our concept.  Obviously, on line would not allow the physical presence and tactile connection we had imagined. The low-lying cloud machine had to go! Neither would it encompass the nuance and depth of sound experience envisaged. What was to have been a spacious, sound-driven experience became a documentary composition, encompassing the thoughts and concerns expressed by citizen scientists and artists.  

Could the elements of a shared space, an impactful tactile, physical ritual be created online? We tried a Zoom version, with the members of the Recovery project.  The sound was poor quality and the focus on presenting artefacts was distracting.  

Still, there was a certain power in the process.  It was moving to see the hands of the eco scientists and artists holding their chosen artefacts from the natural world: be it feather, rock, stick, burnt leaf or seed.  Knowing that these same people volunteer their time to eco-monitoring and bush care, doing tender, precise work to preserve and protect this environment. The actual hands on aspect became representations of hands on.

Eventually we decided to do a video in two parts with a focus on sound in the first part and a focus on vision in the second part.  We let go of In Memoriam and it became Duty of Care: Part I, Unnatural Causes and Duty of Care: Part II, Hands On. We hope that there is an element of participation as you listen and watch.

Play Video
Play Video

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

— William Blake Auguries of Innocence

Message to the scribbly gum

“In the enforced isolation of COVID I have become a tree hugger. Scribbly barks are great for hugging, so interesting.” 

Pearly white skin
Creased in places like a human elbow or knee
Etched with messages from the busy moth grubs
Ogmograptis scribula
“the wavy writing scribe”
Tunnels between the layers of bark
Leaving work that it is widely read,
If not understood.

I lay my cheek against the smooth
Bark and wrap my arms around its girth
And listen for the voice of both
Tree and grub
Grub and tree
Unconcerned by pandemics

Reminding me to connect
In whatever way I can
I am writing back to you
In my own wavy hand.

– Chia Moan September 2021

I seek to engage both the living, warm-blooded beings whose lives are threatened, and the excruciatingly dynamic deathscape that is surrounding them/us.

— Deborah Bird Rose

“This poem came out of days and days over years of sitting in the Megalong Valley making images. Even though I was working visually it was a multi-dimensional experience, a wholistic surrender to the sounds, smells, wind, moisture, and heat that went into every image.”

— Chia Moan

The bush is messy.
Distressing, hard 
to draw
to paint, to integrate
scrappy and complicated
dappled and cross-stitched
the eye gets lost 
jumping between twiggy reflections
and tangled ferns 

Stuck, I put down my brush
pause, attending 

Close by 
rushing shushing
rattling the shallow stones
water wraps gurgling arms 
two great rocks 

mini-rapids muttering
uttering stammering
become small falls of water
dissolve murmuring
into pools 

Across the creek
the rum-tum-tiddle-tum-ti 
of busy magpie chatter as she 
effortlessly tosses off
a melody 
or three

In the crosshatchings
of sticks and scrub
elegant curlicue of tail feathers
the voice of the lyrebird, 
never to be trusted
but always superb

At my feet
a long-necked turtle
emerges from the small pool
all senses on alert
I hold my breath  

ooh ooh ooh ooh
rises up to a lingering chortle, 
a vibrato of hilarity

Joined by a gang of
raucous choristers
heads thrown back
to a full-throttle, whole group
you have to smile

They seem
amused and tolerant
but I suspect
they really don’t care
about art

My hand starts to move
across the paper
making marks sweeping and crackling
spackling and weeping
dipping and swooping
rat-a-tat-tat and wardle-oodle-oohing
jamming in the brassy 
ragtime of the bush. 


DUTY OF CARE, PART I: Unnatural Causes – a soundscape with voices

Writer and naturalist – JOHN BLAY

With some thoughts from citizen Scientists – LEONA KIERAN, CHIA MOAN, BROOKLYN SULAEMAN 

Thanks to BILL DIXON & PAUL VALE for sharing their specialist knowledge & experience

In the field – Birdwatcher and photographer, JOHN FRENCH, wildlife artist and conservationist FIONA LUMSDEN and citizen scientists KEITH BRISTER, LEONA KIERAN, MONICA NUGENT, PAUL VALE

Thanks to JUSTIN MORRISSEY, BROOKLYN SULAEMAN, FREEDOM WILSON for their thoughtful words, spoken by –


with thanks to RUSSELL STAPLETON and PHILLIP ULMAN for special sounds

MICHAEL ATHERTON for his waterphone glissando

WILL FARRELL for Technical assistance 

and to PAUL BROWN, JUSTIN MORRISSEY,  KATE REID & SARAH TERKES  for advice, encouragement and support

Video Production – JUSTIN MORRISSEY

Field Recording, sound design and production – JANE ULMAN


Images by CHIA MOAN