Organisers of the new 53 Islands project Glen McClymont, Claire Aman and Kieran McAndrew in front of Susan Island, near Grafton.
Organisers of the new 53 Islands project Glen McClymont, Claire Aman and Kieran McAndrew in front of Susan Island, near Grafton. Adam Hourigan

53 Islands in Clarence and counting

THE Clarence River is often cited as being underutilised by the public given its vastness and grandeur, an under-celebrated asset despite being the lifeblood of the Valley in which it traverses.

But a new festival is poised to change this by celebrating the island systems that inhabit its waters.

The 53 islands concept was conceived by three Clarence residents, Kieran McAndrew, Claire Aman and Glen McClymont, who all share a passion for local history and our river system.

Initial interest was piqued during a Susan Island working bee when the question of just how many islands there were was the catalyst for lively discussion and debate.

"We discovered how many different opinions there are on the topic (it's often cited there are 100 islands in the Clarence). We also realised how fond everyone is of the river islands. Before long, we were organising a festival," Claire Aman said.

The trio hopes the festival will increase the public's curiosity while opening up a new opportunity to celebrate our great river system through its islands.

Through their own research they came up with a list of 53 official islands backed with some documentation including a 1907 article from the Clarence Richmond Examiner (The Daily Examiner) titled Islands in the Clarence River.

"There are 53 islands in the Clarence, besides a number of small islets," it reads before going on to name their locations, land area and official titles if held.

The festival is earmarked for the first two weeks in October but the organisers are hoping the 53 Islands Festival will ultimately keep the conservations and celebrations going all-year-round.

"We were surprised at the number of people who have island stories," Glen McClymont said. "It's great the concept is already having an effect and has people talking."

Some of the research the trio has been undertaking includes what constitutes an island and whether they are inhabited or not.

"How many have appeared out of nowhere and are yet to be named?" Kieran McAndrew said. "How many are privately owned and how many aren't, there's a lot to discover and we want people to help us find out and tell these stories."

The trio are inviting community groups to embrace the concept by running an island themed event during the festival in early October, the proposal already sparking interest from various organisations.

"The photographers of Grafton Camera Club will be looking for the perfect island shot and exhibiting those in October. The Clarence River Yacht Club is sounding the islands in preparation for their annual October cruise. There'll be an island theme for the 2019 Long Way Home writing competition and an extreme weeding day hosted by the Susan and Elizabeth Islands Board," Ms Aman said.

She hoped to include an island swim, island science in the pub, and island art and music into the mix.

"We're also aiming to recruit island-counters in an attempt to discover the true number."

Ms Aman said the festival's aim was to inspire Clarence Valley people and groups to salute the islands - with art, photography, land care, science, indigenous culture, stories, navigation, fishing "whatever it is you do."

"The festival is an unfunded project so it's free to get involved. You just run your own event anyway you like under one banner. We're calling on photographers, artists, rowers, paddlers, schools, sailors, fishermen, Aboriginal custodians, musicians, picnickers - anyone who is fond of the river. We want everyone involved."

People and groups interested in joining in the festivities in October or have an island story to share can email the group: There is also a Facebook page and Instagram to follow #53islands



53 islands of the Clarence River from A to Z

  • Ano
  • Araiel
  • Arris
  • Ashby
  • Bolorobo
  • Bull
  • Carrs
  • Chatsworth
  • Coolah
  • Corokos
  • Corolama
  • Cosmo
  • Crab
  • Crowther
  • Dart
  • Elizabeth
  • Esk
  • Eureka
  • Everson
  • Freeburn
  • Goodwood
  • Gourd
  • Harwood
  • Hickey
  • Hielaman
  • Joss
  • Kings
  • Macondle
  • Mantzos
  • Micalo
  • Munro
  • Narrabarribi
  • Nihill
  • Palm
  • Palmers
  • Panibona
  • Periko
  • Rabbit
  • Romiaka
  • Sleeper
  • Susan
  • Thorny
  • Tomayen
  • Turkey
  • Ulgundahi
  • Ungundam
  • Wangainan
  • Warregah
  • Whyna
  • Woodford
  • Woolbin
  • Yargai
  • Yungum

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