Pushing Up River

1993, 114 x 220 cms  NFS

Pushing Up River recreated a common scene in the Todd River. I pictured three men struggling to push a paddy wagon bogged in the sandy riverbed. The central man, Edward Neil, pushes his back to the vehicle. The police are concentrating on the ground for the moment when the vehicle frees up. Sitting to the right at some distance are Joany, Janet and Eileen.


The river is usually dry and is a conduit to regeneration after rains. A law prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in public places within 2km of a liquor outlet empowers police to clean up the river of its Aboriginal drinkers and confiscate the casks. Five hundred and forty litres of wine were emptied into the river one week in August 1998 and though the drinking has shifted to less conspicuous zones, it continues unabated. Often novice police, unfamiliar with the rigours of deep sand driving, are assigned to the river patrol. The drunks are temporarily released from the cage to help rescue the vehicle, before continuing on to the sobering-up shelter.