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Nathan Oldfield, award-winning filmmaker and photographer has released a short film to bring our attention to the serious threat currently on the sacred Clarence River.

For those who don’t know about the copper mine proposal underway for Cangai – can you tell us more about the serious threat this could cause to the ecological health of the Clarence River?

Drills are already in the ground at the headwaters of the Clarence River, to explore the possibility of mining for minerals, especially copper. The exploratory drilling has yielded promising results and proposals have been submitted for full blown mining operations to go ahead at Cangai, directly adjacent to the Mann River, which is a main tributary to the Clarence. Even a cursory glance at the ecological record of copper mining here in Australia (the Walsh River and Jamie Creek disasters in Australia) and overseas reveals how heavy the implications are for the Mann, the Clarence and beyond.

The Clarence River region has a long history of nourishing human and animal communities. The river connects the three nations of the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggirr and Yaegl. It is a mother river, with immeasurable spiritual and cultural significance for our indigenous brothers and sisters. For me, that is reason enough alone to respect and protect it. In addition, the Clarence is also a rich agricultural and fishing region, a food bowl that serves communities locally and beyond. The river also supports a thriving tourism industry. This is a river that nurtures spirit and livelihoods and communities, it nourishes our bellies and our souls and our hearts. Furthermore, as our elders and surfers know, all things flow north on our East Coast, so it’s not just the Clarence that is endangered, but a whole coastline of waves that we know and love.

To sign the petition (local MP will only take to Parliament if 10,000 signatures are submitted) you’ll need to click here, print it out, sign it, ask your mates to sign it, and post it off via good old fashioned snail mail.

What influences does the Clarence and the greater Northern Rivers region have on your creative work?

I am fortunate enough to call the Northern Rivers home. I have a special place in my heart for this corner of our watery planet and I know that many other surfers, river folk and beach people out there feel the same. As a lifelong surfer and surf filmmaker, the environment is enormously important for me. The coast nourishes so much of my well-being and my sense of belonging. In lots of ways, my surf films are love poems about the preciousness of living and playing in such pristine, sacred coastal spaces.

What’s on the cards for you in 2020?

I have a few short film projects on the boil and I am also working towards another feature length surf film, as yet untitled. Progress has been a little slow this past year, life keeps getting in the way, but I’m looking forward to a bit more space to breathe in a creative sense next year.

The preciousness of sacred places is demonstrated in Nathan’s short film ‘Wajung’ commissioned by The Surfer’s Journal. It features the surfing of Dave Rastovich and the music of Nick Wales.

‘Wajung’ is the name given to the bottlenose dolphin by the Arakwal People, the traditional custodians of this region of Bundjalung Country on the Far North Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Wajung can live for over fifty years and they typically live as a community as residents along a particular stretch of coast. As a result, they know the local seascape intimately. Wajung are an important totem for Saltwater People. Wajung give messages about relationships between clan members, create links between ancestors and the past and also help to connect people with places and events in Country. There are many stories of Wajung and Saltwater People communicating and interacting with one another, including cooperative fishing practices, sharing resources together and participating in mutual play in the sea.

Byron Shire

Clarence Valley



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