Ghost Nets Given New Life
What do you do with mountains of ghost nets and other marine debris that Indigenous rangers have been retrieving from beaches along the Gulf of Carpentaria? Burn it? Bury it?
Turn it into craft or art!
Ghost nets are fishing nets which are accidentally lost, abandoned, or discarded at sea. They travel the oceans, carried by currents and tides, ‘fishing’ continuously as they go. They entangle many types of marine life until eventually they are washed up on beaches. Sometimes a big tide picks them up and carries them out to sea, and off they go again.
Ghost nets are a huge problem across the Top End of Australia and in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Literally tonnes of ghost nets arrive in the Gulf from South-East Asia, and circulate in the clockwise spin of the Gulf of Carpentaria Gyre.
GhostNets Australia works with a network of indigenous coastal communities across northern Australia, who work together to remove ghost nets and other marine debris from their Sea Country. Since its inception in 2004, the programme has supported Indigenous Rangers to remove over 12,000 ghost nets of varying sizes.
Since 2008, renowned fibre artists and GhostNets Australia have been facilitating community workshops that engage community members in using traditional weaving and fibre techniques to create fantastic artworks out of the marine debris.
Earlier this year, GhostNets Australia ran a ghost net workshop at Bentley Park College in Cairns with 20 Year 9 Visual Arts students. The project was supported by GhostNets Australia and Bentley Park College Arts Department and was in partnership with the Cairns Regional Gallery Outreach Program.
The students worked with the Indigenous artists to create ghost net costumes based on sea life. These costumes were then taken to the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair in Cairns and became part of a larger multi-discipline ghost net workshop running over that weekend. Along with members of the public, the students continued to work on the costumes at the Cairns Indigenous Art Fair public workshops.
You can see these costumes, along with other smaller ghost net artworks, on display in the Great Gallery.