Sheridan Kennedy | Environment Victoria

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Sheridan Kennedy: Lucky to live on the Goulburn River

Peer up into the trees lining the Goulburn River and you might spot a kingfisher, a kookaburra or even a koala. But along one particular stretch, you could come across a very different creature nestled amongst the leaves: 16-year-old Sheridan Kennedy, a student at Seymour High School.

“I’ve spent countless hours sitting in one of my many favourite trees – reading novels, sleeping, singing a tune that’s stuck in my head,” says Sheridan, who lives on a farm fronting the Goulburn River, between Nagambie and the Goulburn Wier. “It’s so peaceful. It sounds dramatic, but my life wouldn’t be the same without the river.”

A fledgling writer, Sheridan has penned short stories and poems from this scenic vantage point (and sometimes, with the best intentions, hauled her homework up there too). The Goulburn has also been the site of many excursions with family and friends – fishing, swimming, camping, canoeing, waterskiing, rafting or just lying on the riverbank, watching the clouds roll by overhead.

A recent tribute she penned in the branches of a willow tree sums up what the Goulburn means to Sheridan: “I don’t know how many breathtaking sunsets I’ve enjoyed while skiing on the glass-like water, canoeing through the reeds and bird-boxes, or just lying in my hammock,” she writes.

“The best place I can possibly imagine waking up is in my swag, listening to the kookaburras and watching our family of Brolgas, who live in the lagoon that feeds off the river.”

Everyone at Sheridan’s school knows there’s a drought, she says, but some are more water-wise than others. Gather ten of her friends together under a cloudy sky, and you can tell who grew up in the country: “The kids who live in town will say ‘Uh-oh, I hope it doesn’t rain…’. But the kids living on farms will say ‘Rain! Come on, please – rain!’”

Rural living teaches you how precious water is. When you’re helping your dad rescue stranded sheep from the sticky mud of dried-out dams, you can’t help thinking about the effects of the drought on both livelihoods and the fragile ecosystem. Over the past few years Sheridan has taken a hands-on approach to river health, helping to plant native trees along Sevens Creek, which flows into the Goulburn, and joining a 2005 student delegation to Canberra as part of Oz GREEN’s “MYRiveR Murray” project.

“There were about 25 kids from all around Australia,” she recalls. “We spent five days together, talking about river health and what different communities were doing to help.” The group then presented findings and an action plan to parliament: “It was a bit nerve-wracking! But it was fun – and they listened to us.”

Sheridan counts herself lucky to live on the Goulburn: “Sometimes I feel almost selfish for living here when so many Aussies are crammed onto little boxes in the big smoke.” No-one, she adds, sums it up better than the character Darryl Kerrigan from classic Australian film The Castle: “Ahh, the serenity… You just can’t beat it!”

Story by Meg Mundell, 2007. 

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