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Grant stories - Lessons from the Lyrebird

Read the Learning from Lyrebirds case study

 Dances with Lyrebirds project 2015

Dr Gretel Taylor Performer | Kate Baker – Photographer | Jacqui Rutten – Vocalist | Adrienne Kneebone - Fibre artist | Anthony Magen - Sound artist |

Anyone who has ever come across a lyrebird in their garden or whilst out walking will know what an honor it is to quietly observe this intriguing ancient bird.

The cool climate rainforests of Yarra Ranges with their distinctive flora and fauna provide the perfect habitat for the Superb Lyrebird. Inspired by this, five local artists collaborated to create a stunning performance and exhibition celebrating the Lyrebird and its significance in Yarra Ranges.  Dances with Lyrebirds was presented at The Memo in Healesville and Burrinja Cultural Centre, Upwey in June/July 2015 along with a program of community events such as guided walks and presentations by lyrebird specialists. This unique approach prompted significant community connections between diverse groups and resonated with a wide audience.

As the project evolved important Indigenous cultural connections were made. Through conversation with Wurundjeri elder Murrindindi, lead artist Gretel Taylor developed a greater understanding of the significance of the Lyrebird to the Wurundjeri people, the traditional owners of this land. Murrindindi described an ancient Buln Buln dance that hadn’t been performed for many years and introduced her to Indigenous artist Mandy Nicholson and the Djirri Djirri dance group. As an elder, Murrindindi gave permission for them to learn and perform the dance at the exhibition openings. With this rejuvenation, the song and dance can now be passed on to the next generation.

This intergenerational teaching is particularly fitting as the lyrebird itself passes on its own repertoire to the next generation.

Dances with Lyrebirds was a creative response to our natural environment and offered audiences the opportunity to experience and contemplate the forest, Superb Lyrebird and Indigenous heritage with depth and sensitivity. Moreover, the project enriched the community’s knowledge and experience of the place they live.

This was strongly reflected in the heartfelt feedback provided by participants:

“Beautiful work. I found out today that lyrebirds are the oldest songbirds in the world - what an amazing and hidden history! Thank you for doing this wonderful cultural work.”

“Love the whole combination –installation, photography, dance, sound, music! Great! Really enjoyed it all. Totally inspired!”

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