A tide in the river

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Setting out in a kayak just before dawn, single sided deafness gives a direction: always to the left. My hearing side is to the shore, my deafened ear blanking out the powerboats that roar past on the right. I paddle Dyarubbin, a river valley flooded twelve thousand years, ago that flows through and divides Dharug, Darkinjung and Garigal country, on the east coast of Australia. This is unceded land. We colonisers still call it a river, “the Hawkesbury River”, though it runs salty and rises with the tides over a hundred kilometres from the Pacific. These days I’m like this sinuous but briny river – my life still shaped by hearing, but moving differently now. Up and back, like the tide. Paddling, with my camera at maximum zoom, my eyes on the shore, I’m looking for a flicker in the trees. Peripheral vision sharpened by years of conversations in Auslan, I still miss so many things with my eyes: the punchline of a joke or the sudden movement of a wren or a whistler. Birdwatching is such a hearing person’s hobby. To listen carefully now, to find things and pin them down, is to triangulate, like a surveyor at sea. To be always on the move.

This essay follows the lines of oystershells along Dyarubbin’s shore, that mark the space between high and low tide, salty and sweet water. It thinks through the concept of Deaf gain and what it might mean for the half-hearing, moving into a scarcely known, a stolen world. Journeying along Dyarubbin, I consider auditory ecologies. How are experiences and relationships formed as sensate bodies and sound waves move through inhabited spaces; the kayaker and the sandstone escarpment stitched together by the harsh cries of a flock of sulphur crested cockatoos? Urban auditory ecologies often exclude and marginalise deaf and hard of hearing people but this paper explore how this concept might to map more-than-human entanglements – of technologies of amplification and imaging; the movements of birds, people and boats - in a much loved estuary.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPlacing disability
Subtitle of host publicationpersonal essays of embodied geography
EditorsSusannah Mintz, Gregory Fraser
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2 Sept 2022


  • deaf studies
  • disability
  • geography
  • autobiography


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