The River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri) near Bowden

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Occasionally we walk through Park 27B, which is now known as the Mary Lee Park. It is bounded Park Terrace and The Outer Harbour and the Gawler Railway lines. In the 1980s, it was unnamed and little more than a scrappy wasteland opposite the old Clipsal factory. This factory was then expanding throughout the working class residential areas in Bowden.

The river along the south western end of the John E. Brown Park was uncared for in the early to late 1980s. I made a number of 5×7 b+w photos of plastic in the bushes and trees from the storm water.

plastic, River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri)

The pictures were made before the Torrens Linear Park Trail was built through this part of Adelaide. Another interpretation (and a larger picture) can be found on my Tumblr blog.

This part of the Torrens River is just prior to it flowing through the industrial suburb of Hindmarsh. It was a desolate area– an ignored and forgotten part of the river.It didn’t appear to be a natural asset of Adelaide in the 1980s, and from memory, there was little concern for preserving and restoring biodiversity.

When we were on these walks Fichte would sometimes go swimming after the black swans in Lake Torrens. Occasionally the Popeye boat went past and the passengers thought that a white poodle swimming around in the lake was hilarious.

River Torrens (Karrawirra Parri) and plastic

The history of the parklands is one of rapid clearance of the native woodlands by the 1860s and then subsequent revegetation.I guess that it was fortunate that this part of the Torrens hadn’t been turned into a concrete channel/drain—like the creeks in the Botanic Gardens. It was also rather wild compared to the exotic species in the European style landscape in other parts of the Adelaide parklands.

None of these images made it into my portfolio in the Adelaide Art Photographers 1970-2000 book that was published by Moon Arrow Press in late 2019. Nor will they be shown in the exhibition at the SARSA in March 2020 to help launch the book.


Adam Dutkiewicz has just reminded me of Mike Ladd’s prose/poem book Karrawirra Parri: Walking the Torrens from source to sea, about Ladd walking the Torrens in 2007. The photographs were by Cathy Brooks. An extract from the book. They walked the Torrens about 20 years after my photos were made.

One Response

  1. Mikem
    | Reply

    Amazing. Born in the early 80s, I’d never seen the river in that state. I do remember it from my childhood. I regularly walk the very ground upon which your photographs were taken, and I think that the work done on the Torrens is one of Adelaide’s finest achievements in my lifetime.

    It’s not *all* late stage capitalist decline out there!

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