Mandurah photojournalist Craig Duncan’s Rockingham art show commemorates native animals killed by traffic

Rachel FennerSound Telegraph
Craig Duncan’s photographs bring attention to the lives of the creatures torn apart by roads.
Camera IconCraig Duncan’s photographs bring attention to the lives of the creatures torn apart by roads. Credit: PerthNow

A dead raven, suspended galah and a kookaburra staring through rotted eyes are just some of the confronting photographs taken by photojournalist Craig Duncan.

The photos will feature in an upcoming exhibition called disPLACEment at Rockingham Arts Centre running from April 17, which melds Duncan’s work with ceramic pieces by fellow artist Holly O’Meehan.

Duncan’s photographs of Australian animals found dead beside highways aims to bring attention to the increasingly hostile environment native fauna navigates daily.

Despite being born in Scotland, he has a passion for the Australian environment not seen in many who were born here.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


“When I started this project, I was studying journalism and I was looking into the Bunbury outer ring road, so this massive, mega project was destroying a lot of habitat for these critically endangered animals to build a road,” Duncan said.

“Roadkill was a prevalent thing in my mind at that time and I think it was a way of exploring how I felt.”

Duncan said he did not feel disgusted handling the roadkill but said it was akin to commemorating and beautifying the dead.

“Have you heard of the Victorian dead baby photos?” he asked. “So in the olden days, when their baby would die, they would take photos of them because it was the only way they could remember.

“And it was this weird but lovely thing to remember these animals. I got this brushtail possum and it felt about the same size as a baby, and I was holding it and it was this really lovely little animal.

“That was probably the one that upset me the most.”

After moving to Australia in 2009, Duncan settled in Rockingham but now lives in Mandurah and travels to Bunbury to work at the South Western Times newspaper.

“One of the images is of the western ringtail possum, which is probably my favourite animal,” he said.

“The statistics of the amount of them found dead on the road are astounding.

“The group that does the annual possum tally, about 64 per cent of the animals they sight are just roadkill.

“These are critically endangered animals and there aren’t many left and the habitat they have is fragmented as it is. And the habitat is declining at an alarming rate.”

Duncan’s named the piece featuring a raven The Warning.

“Being a raven, they’re a sign of a bad omen and they’re meant to be incredibly intelligent, but this is a bad omen that’s dead on the side of the road when it’s meant to be fully understanding of everything,” he said.

“And I called in warning because I like to think of it as a warning of the future. “

The disPLACEment exhibit also features the work of artist Holly O’Meehan, who also focuses on the Australian environment.

O’Meehan’s ceramic pieces are inspired by the parasitic plant the Nuytsis floribunda, known as the Noojay in Noongar or as the WA Christmas tree, and its golden pom pom flowers.

The exhibit runs from April 17 to May 5 at the Rockingham Arts Centre.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails