If you take a stroll past Wollundry Lagoon this week, you may be surprised to see an island where previously there was none.
The local wildlife have wasted little time making themselves at home and the ducks are already enjoying the sun and the sand, much to the delight of environmental artist Hayden Fowler.
Hayden is behind the floating installation named ‘Turtle Island’ that will officially launch on the Wollundry Lagoon this weekend.
“I was thinking about how degraded the lagoon has become compared to what it would have been like and thinking about the turtles and birds and how few nesting sites and safe places there are around the lagoon,” he explained.
“So it was about creating places that were just for animals only and there’s something lovely in creating even just such a small ecosystem.”
Hayden works between Sydney, New Zealand, and Berlin and was invited to exhibit in Wagga as part of the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery’s ‘Green 2023’ programming, focusing on sustainability and the environment.
Turtle Island will be floating out on the lagoon until at least the end of January, allowing the plants and animals to establish themselves as the weather warms up.
The turtles will soon emerge from their winter slumber or ‘brumation’ and Hayden hopes they will find a safe haven for their eggs away from the foxes that have decimated their populations.
“I wanted to create a space on the island that they could potentially nest,” he said.
“The whole internal part of the island is around 20 or 30 centimetres of the dirt that they like to nest in. It’s a sandy kind of clay and it stays dry because it’s above the waterline.
“So that’s the ultimate test, whether they might end up nesting in there.”
If and when the turtles arrive, it is sure to be captured on the movement-activated trail cameras that will monitor activity on the island.
The captured footage will also be part of the exhibition and will be displayed on a monitor at the gallery and on the Wagga Wagga City Council website.
Hayden is hoping for a broad variety of birds and perhaps even some of the rakali (native water rats) that live around the lagoon.
“The beautiful thing about working with nature is that it does take on its own life and you get all these kinds of unexpected things happening,” he explained.
“That brings up a lot of interesting stuff around control because a lot of people freak out when nature gets a little bit out of control.”
The First Nations team at nearby Wollundry Dreaming have also had a hand in the preparations ahead of Saturday’s launch.
“They’ve been working with kids in the after-school program to redevelop a turtle dance, which is based on a dreaming story that has been borrowed from Cootamundra and that’s being sung in language at the same time as this new turtle dance is happening during the launch,” he said.
“I’m very excited about that and for me, it’s like a real sort of ceremonial invitation to the lagoon and the turtles.”
Turtle Island will launch at the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery this Saturday (2 September) at 4 pm and Hayden hopes people not only enjoy the installation but also think about how they interact with nature.
“I hope that this work might inspire people to do things in their own garden or on their farm and their dam where they can start experimenting with and learning about the animals they live with,” he said.