Signs

25 October, 2021

Day 25 of Writing Nangak Tamboree.

Sign completely covered in graffiti

I think this sign, which is very small and surrounded by long grass, tells us we are not allowed to fish, swim, paddle canoes, or … I don’t know, maybe waterski? surf ski? on the university lake system. Maybe it’s diving, which frankly I wouldn’t recommend either, because I’m sure the water is filled with dead tree trunks and I have no idea how deep it is.

Needless to say, I’ve seen people doing most of those things, although not until recently, and they can’t be blamed given the state of the signage. When I visited Nangak Tamboree a few weeks ago, on a lovely spring day, a family was paddling happily along the banks of the Sports Field Lake in an inflatable canoe, and three people were fishing (one coarse fishing, which you don’t see often here). I’ve certainly noticed a few kids swimming here over summer, and some just the other week. I’ve written about the uses we make of open spaces, but we also make use of open waterways. Even little lakes like these.

I have seen a couple of whopper fish leap here, but just out of the corner of my eye. I suspect they might be carp. Vermin fish for most of us, but apparently fine if you know how to cook them properly. I’ve seen plenty of tadpoles and in a sign of deep maturity resisted catching them and carrying them around in a jar. I bet there are eels and yabbies in the system too. I could ask someone, but if they answered with really intriguing information, like, ‘Oh yes, we’ve been stocking the lakes with golden perch as an aquaculture experiment,’ I might be tempted to get out my fishing rod, and unfortunately I can’t pretend I haven’t seen the sign.

There’s another No Fishing sign, and it’s my favourite, because it’s right out in the middle of the lake on an island where nobody would ever see it. (I took this with my zoom camera.)

'No fishing' sign

So really, you’d have to be swimming or paddling your canoe in an unauthorised manner already to know that you weren’t allowed to go fishing.

Luckily, staring at the water for hours is permitted, and indeed encouraged.

Apparently they used to have raft races and all sorts of shenanigans on the campus moat. In spite of the lack of warning signs, nobody seems to be tempted nowadays, though who knows what students in the residences get up to after hours. But since there’s a perfectly lovely pool in the sports centre, I guess the brownish duck-infested moat is not as alluring as it might once have been. Or students are not as daring.

But this is the sign that first caught my attention, tied to two star pickets hammered in to the earth by the side of the bike path. It explains what Nangak Tamboree is and means, what it’s for, and also about the cultural burning carried out by the Narrap Rangers.

I am very fond of an information panel (especially in a cute little kiosk with a map), labels in museums, interpretative signs (there are some further down the creek telling you which birds to look for), and hokey little panels remembering people or events. Apparently the Nangak Tamboree project will eventually involve a great many interpretive panels and I am totally here for it. My favourites are those along the Yarra River, in Heidelberg and out in Eltham and Warrandyte, featuring the Heidelberg School and other artists and the scenes they painted right where they painted. (Actually, my favourite in the world are along the site of the old Berlin Wall, but that’s another story.)

I am not as fond of signs ordering you about, but I do appreciate how the signs around here are a bit half-hearted, like maybe we’d rather you didn’t fish or paddle your canoe, but we don’t really mind that much, and certainly not enough to put up new signs all the time if they get tagged.

But seriously, don’t dive.

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