“No Rubbish on Country” – Community Arts Comp 2016

In August 2016, Thamarrurr Rangers hosted the second annual Community Arts Competition to help spread the message “No Rubbish on Country”. Community members were again invited to make a piece of art from “rubbish” or used / recycled materials. In addition, the Ghost Net Art Project was invited to Wadeye to support workshops at the School and Ranger Base, in the use of marine debris and other materials to create artistic pieces. The project culminated in a display of “rubbish art” at the Wadeye Festival.


Rubbish is a relatively new problem in remote Indigenous communities. Waste products from food, clothing, tools and other items have traditionally come from the land and been recycled back into the land e.g. seeds from fruits, animal bones and skins, timber offcuts. In contemporary communities there is a huge amount of packaging and waste products that cannot be recycled back into the land e.g. plastics, metals. This creates a new problem of managing waste in a remote area where “rubbish” is relatively unfamiliar and its impacts on the environment have not been well considered.

Most, if not all, waste products in remote communities end up in landfill or become “rubbish” lying around the community, and being carried by wind and rain to the surrounding land and sea country. This rubbish can directly affect the health of people and wildlife, contributing to an unhygienic environment and harming / killing birds, fish, turtles and other sea life by eating the rubbish or getting tangled up in it. Waste products can also leach chemicals into our environment, indirectly affecting wildlife and food sources. Additionally, waste products from surrounding regions and ships travel on ocean currents e.g. plastic packaging, large fishing nets, and end up on relatively pristine beaches in remote communities.

Thamarrurr Rangers have been working to clean and protect their vast 250km coastline for many years. This includes regular patrols by boat, car and foot, and collection of rubbish from beaches, mangroves, inlets and islands in the Thamarrurr Region. The Rangers document the rubbish collected through the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) database, coordinated by Tangaroa Blue. In 2015, ~450 kg of rubbish was removed from 14 sites along the Thamarrurr coastline by the Rangers , ~60% of this rubbish was plastic bottles and other plastic items, ~20% cans, tins and other metals, as well as over 20 ghost nets, fishing lines, ropes and other items.

In 2015, Thamarrurr Rangers invited Tangaroa Blue to visit Wadeye and support Rangers and the Community to look at strategies for managing waste. Further training was undertaken with the Rangers in marine debris work and the AMDI database. The Rangers were also supported to run a Community Meeting about waste reduction, and develop a Source Reduction Plan (SRP). The Thamarrurr SRP notes the desire for a coordinated approach to find solutions for improved waste management and a cleaner Community and Country. Several strategies were identified, including a rubbish art competition to raise awareness about the impacts of rubbish on Country; more bins on Country, particularly at the barge landing and popular picnic areas; and opportunities for recycling at Wadeye.

In 2015, the Thamarrurr Rangers hosted the first Rubbish Art Competition, to raise awareness about the harmful impacts of rubbish on the land, sea and wildlife, and encourage the Community to think about managing waste. The theme “No Rubbish on Country” was chosen, and Community members were asked to get involved by collecting rubbish and making a piece of art. The art entries were displayed at the Wadeye Festival in August 2015 and winners were judged by a Community voting system. The event was a success, and planned to be conducted annually in conjunction with the Wadeye Festival.

In 2015, the Thamarrurr Rangers also worked on placing ~20 bins at strategic sites in the Thamarrurr Region where people go camping, fishing, etc, including the Barge landing and several outstations. These bins have been made from old drums and are signed “Nanthi Rubbish ka Dupak Ngarra Bin” (Put Your Rubbish in the Bin). The Rangers check and empty the bins regularly.

In late 2015, the Rangers also worked on starting a recycling project in Wadeye. They did some research and discussed ideas with local organisations and Community members. The Rangers decided to start with the container deposit scheme (plastic and glass bottles, aluminium cans and tetra packs), as it is an existing scheme in Darwin they can feed into and get a return from, as well as these items being the main form of rubbish at Wadeye (~70% of rubbish collected by Rangers and Shire).

In 2016, the Thamarrurr Rangers became a collection point for CDS, and each Friday Community members are invited to bring their beverage containers to the Ranger Base for the 10c / item refund. The Rangers count, sort and pay people directly, and to date over 170,000 items have been recycled with over $17,000 refunds going to the Community. Thanks to Murin Freight Company, recyclables are taken back to Darwin each week at no charge. The Rangers have an agreement with Bevcon Recycling in Darwin to collect recyclables from the Murin Depot and provide the refund. The Rangers have also started recycling car batteries and scrap metal, and there are many other possibilities…

Rubbish Art Workshops

In 2016, Thamarrurr Rangers invited the Ghost Net Art Project to come to Wadeye and facilitate workshops in the use of marine debris and other rubbish. The workshops were also used as an opportunity to promote the message “No Rubbish on Country”, encouraging people to think about the impacts of rubbish on Country and wildlife, and look at alternative uses for rubbish and used materials. Two types of workshop were held:
• Workshops at the OLSH School with primary students, who created a giant crocodile, rainbow serpent and masks from rubbish and used / recycled materials. Rangers were able to introduce the workshop sessions with a short movie they have recently made about waste and recycling at Wadeye.
• Workshops at the Ranger Base with Rangers and other interested Community members. Wendy Simon (Woman Rangers) wrote:

When Sue and Greg (Ghost Net Art Project) came to Wadeye Community they showed us how to make art animals out of ghost net and we did make Owl and Sea Turtle and Freshwater Turtle and other animals. Every little bit of the rubbish art comes from the beach side that we collect them when we go out on Country. So we had a good festival on 26/8 /2016 and also the women rangers won some prizes for the ghost net art that we were doing.

Rubbish Art Competition

The Rangers prepared for the Rubbish Art Competition by making and distributing posters around Wadeye. They also asked for donations for competition prizes. The art work was displayed at the Wadeye Festival, and Community members were invited to vote for their favourite pieces.

The winners of the Rubbish Art Comp are:

1. Odie the Owl by Maureen Simon, and Rosie the Turtle by Wendy Simon
2. Terry the Turtle by Marie Manby
3. Ku Piliyin by Francis Mardinga

1. The Crocodile by Year 3 / 4 OLSH
2. Miss Scarecrow by Creche Mob
3. Rainbow Serpent by Year 3 / 4 OLSH

Best Plate Masks
Year 4 OLSH: Julian Kauri, Mona Kinthari
Year 5 / 6 OLSH: Alanah Tipilorra, Marie, Leon, Isiah, Uriah B, Patsy J.

Thankyou to everyone who supported and participated in the 2016 Rubbish Art Competition, especially the Ghost Net Arts Project, Lucy and the OLSH kids, and Creche mob. Thank you also to those who made generous donations for prizes, including the Murrinhpatha Store, ENI, Palngun Wurnangat Association, Ranger Cadets, Tangaroa Blue, TDC Village and TDC Nursery.


  • Continue to promote community awareness about the impacts of rubbish on country and wildlife, including developing new educational resources.
  • More bins on Country.
  • Continue to develop a recycling service at Wadeye, including CDS, batteries, scrap metal and other items that provide a financial incentive to recycle.
  • Promote new ways of utilising “rubbish” / used materials.
  • Ranger women have been invited to further develop skills in the use of ghost nets and other marine debris, and participate in a national tour of ghost net art.

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