Day of the Species

Day of the Species

On the 7th September every year, National Threatened Species Day honors the 1936 death of the last known Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine), to raise awareness of all our native species currently staring down extinction.

Day of the Species is a national community art project devised to start conversations around Australia’s appalling record for biodiversity loss. Originally planned to coincide with National Threatened Species Day and the 20th anniversary of the EPBC Act (2020) the project has evolved into an ongoing, interactive exhibition.

EVERY SINGLE ONE of our 1,850 national threatened species, listed in the federal government’s laws for Nature, known as the EPBC Act, has been hand-crafted onto pieces of upcycled cardboard packaging. Over 200 art and nature lovers from across the country and a couple from the UK (Aussie expats) have rendered nature’s most vulnerable into tiny 2D existence (3 x 7cm ) using textas, paints, coloured pencils and even collage.

How it started. While volunteering at the Wilderness Society, Melbourne I’d been nurturing this idea in my head for some time. Imagining what a visual and emotional smack in the face it would be if you could see all our threatened species, each one rendered by hand, in the one room.

On 19th May, 2019, feeling somewhat down from the results of the federal election, I cut a 3 x 7 cm rectangle from the back of tea bag box and timed myself to draw the endangered spotted-tail quoll onto the back of it. Twenty minutes to do a very rough, very average, weird little drawing.

For many months I tried convincing friends and artists to join me in the monumental task of drawing our entire list of threatened species. No takers.

Until early February 2020, with unprecedented fires still burning in parts of Australia, I decided to put a bit more effort into this project I called Day of the Species. Then the pandemic hit and suddenly a lot of people were keen to get out their coloured pencils.

During the long Covid lockdown months the project attracted a broad range of participants – professional artists, designers, students, botanical illustrators, academics, architects, fiction writers, therapists, ecologists, park rangers, climate activists and a lone dentist.

Day of the Species was set to launch in September 2020 in Melbourne. A world-wide pandemic stepped in to make sure that didn’t happen. Not deterred, I decided to do a trial run of the project and turned my sister’s granny flat on the central coast of NSW into a gallery space. With strict CoVid regulations in place, forty or so people got to witness the extraordinary sight of all our threatened species in the one surreal ecosystem of a small, modified room. You can see some of the process, artworks and exhibition highlights on my IG account @dayofthespecies.

The first Day of the Species outing was an ad hoc event under Covid restrictions in 2020 at a private residence in regional NSW.

As of May 2022 there are 1,850 threatened flora and fauna – all have been illustrated by hand. I’ve made a 15 minute film about the project and a shorter version that can be found here.

Day of the Species Exhibitions:

Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery // Stanthorpe, Qld // September 2021

Into Coffee // Collingwood Melbourne // April 2022

*Upcoming: Harrigans Lane // Willsons Downfall NSW // October 2022

Australia has outdated, ineffectual nature laws that aren’t protecting our species and don’t adequately address climate change. We are long overdue a complete overhaul of the system. You can read a rundown of why our national environment protection laws, the EPBC Act, are such a pile of crap, on my blog post The Long List of Neglect.

IN SUPPORT OF ….

We need to upgrade our weak nature laws to save our species.

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