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Arts Projects

The Territory Wildlife Park and Tactile Arts crochet reef project

The crochet coral reef project officially started in October 2015 and has taken just under 12 months to complete.

Jasmine Jan, Artistic/Narrative officer at the Territory Wildlife Park developed the concept of creating a series of jetty pylons that will be covered in crocheted and knitted coral and marine animal elements. The concept behind this artistic installation is to raise awareness within the community of the threat to coral reefs not only in Australian waters but globally. Rising sea temperatures, pollution from run-off, mining and dredging around reefs are all significant contributing factors that are affecting reefs and causing a phenomenon called “Coral Bleaching”.

Corals consist of an animal and a plant (algae) that lives within the tissues of the animal. The algae is what gives the corals their amazing colours and through the process of photosynthesis the algae also provides some nutrition to the animal part of the coral. When corals become stressed from factors such as increasing sea temperature (global warming), changes in salinity and water quality e.g. erosion and pollutant run off entering the seas from river catchments and sand dredging and mining they expel the algae from their tissues. This causes the coral to lose its colour and become white or “bleached”. Depending on how extreme the stress is on the corals will determine whether the corals can re-absorb the algae back into their tissues. In extreme cases the coral never regains its algae partner and the coral dies, leaving the white bleach hard skeletons of the coral to remain. Thousands of species of marine animals rely on coral reef habitat for their survival.

TWP partnered with TACTILE ARTS and was supported with generous sponsorship from

  • Inspiring Australia (Interpretive signage)
  • Reece Plumbing Palmerston (The poles that form the pylons)
  • Bunnings Palmerston (The hardware to build the support plinths, a massive supply of cable ties for attaching the corals to the mesh panels and carpet to cover the pylons)
  • Spotlight Jape Homemaker Village (Yarn)
  • Lots of in kind donations of yarn from the public

Over 170 volunteers from the NT and from all around Australia responded to the call to action and began creating corals, sea creatures and more using a variety of crafting techniques (crochet, knitting and needle-felting). The response from the public was so overwhelming that the initial plan to create 3 coral covered pylons was quickly expanded to 6 coral covered pylons and then expanded again to include 3 touch panels or a “Tactile Reef”.

Groups who contributed to this project include

  • The Darwin Patchworkers and Quilters
  • Simply Crafts Group (Grey, Palmerston)
  • The Casuarina Baptist Church Craft Group
  • The Day To Day living Program (Rapid Creek)
  • The CWA (Darwin and Katherine)
  • The Humpty Doo Fibre Craft Guild
  • Members and workshop attendees from Tactile Arts
  • Territory Wildlife Parks Artists-in-the-Park

Some of the stand out creatures which were not part of the coral reef brief but were created through the enthusiasm and desire to create true reef habitat beyond just the corals by volunteers who became obsessed with the project.

“Feelix” the Giant Octopus was created by Lesley Every

“Dougie” the Dugong and “Tina” the Turtle by Linda Bell

A whole collection of reef fish including “Lionel” the Lionfish and a Mudcrab called “Marvin” were painstakingly needle-felted by Melanie Tribe.

Special Thanks go to

Barbara Williams who sewed all the mesh panels for the reef, constructed the metal mesh panels for the tops of the pylons and came up with the wire stick system for displaying the fish and jellyfish that swim and hover around the pylons.

The TWP technical services team who prepared the pylons and constructed the plinth support bases for the display.

To each and every volunteer who crocheted, knitted, stitched and needle-felted and while doing this talked to visitors to the Park, their friends and family all about the project and the issue of global warming and the devastating process of coral bleaching. All the volunteers became advocates for coral reef conservation and were fondly referred to as the “Coral Warriors”. Your commitment, enthusiasm and passion for this project has been truly overwhelming and heartening.

The sense of community and purpose that has developed as a result of this amazing Community Arts and Conservation project has already resulted in the concept development of a new project which is still in concept phase but will be launched next year and we hope it will encourage as many crafters as this project.

A special thanks to Emilia Terzon and ABC for documenting this project and giving the cause exposure Australia wide through both radio interviews and the short TV piece they are making.

News articles

Darwin’s CoralWarriors unveil their crochet reef creation for climate change

Darwin’s undercover draft groups keep crochet alive by creating coral for conservation awareness

Darwin crochet enthusiasts turn yarn into coral

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