Museum of Brisbane

Navigating Norman Creek

  • 19 Jun 2015 — 11 Oct 2015
  • Exhibition now closed

A meandering labyrinth running through 13 suburbs and touching the lives of almost 100,000 residents, Norman Creek is one of Brisbane’s hidden sanctuaries.

Navigating Norman Creek

Once an aquatic playground and an important hub for the boatbuilding industry, today this waterway is challenged by flood, pollution and urban development, but is slowly being revitalised by the community. From the winding bends of lush mangroves to concrete channels and underground pipes, Navigating Norman Creek explores Queensland’s most urbanised catchment.

Filmmaker, historian and creek resident Trish FitzSimons takes visitors on a journey along Norman Creek through a series of short films revealing this unique environment and its relationship with the people of Brisbane.



Five short films and one visual poem are included in this exhibition.

These films were made possible through the Lord Mayor’s Helen Taylor Award for Local History (2011), the Brisbane City Council Community History Grant (2014), the Griffith Film School and the Griffith Centre for Creative Arts Research.


Visual poem

A visual poem that starts at the confluence of the Brisbane River and Norman Creek, journeying up the creek to its headwaters in Toohey Forest.


Creek Boats

“If you didn’t want to talk about boats, then you probably went somewhere else.”

Once a site of a bustling boatbuilding industry where life revolved around the boatshed, Norman Creek now shelters only a handful of timber boats in varying stages of disrepair. Few remain who remember the traditional charm and values of timber boats or those who crafted them on the banks of the creek.


“I think everybody on Norman Creek is doing it for love. If it’s not love of the boat, it’s love of the creek, or love of the environment.”

A mosaic of wetlands, once teeming with fish and birdlife, the creek has been polluted by industry and its course changed to control flooding and enable the growth of the encroaching suburbs. Pockets of resistance from people concerned for the health of the creek and its significance to the region are slowly rejuvenating a great community asset.


“There was so much conflict at so many different levels.”

The narrow, winding creek is periodically unable to contain the rapid increase in water from pulses of heavy rainfall in its catchment spilling into the urban developments on the surrounding flood plain. Following the 1974 flood and repeated local flooding, the voices of locals, developers and government agencies struggled with flood mitigation solutions to serve their various ambitions for the future of the creek.

Creek Kids

“My parents were quite happy to allow me to wander around the creek, just enjoying all the things the creek offered.”

Fond childhood memories of uninhibited access to swimming in the water, playing on the muddy banks and watching adults going about their lives are recalled through evocative names like the creek man referred to as  Pray for Rain and the popular swimming spot, Shallow Rocks.


Creek Dreamers

“To see it is to dream it, and once you’ve seen it, then you’ll know…”

A fringe of green cloaks the creek from the hustle and bustle of urban life, creating a hidden sanctuary. Drawn into this other world are those people whose lives revolve around the creek. They are shaped by it, challenged by it and contribute to its special world.