True Tales of the Trout Cod – River Histories of the Murray-Darling Basin represents the work of Will Trueman, a recreational angler originally from Victoria who has had a life long passion for rivers and their fish. In 2006 he began a project to validate accounts on the historic occurrence of Trout cod in a number of waterways through investigating oral histories, science, newspapers, diaries, and photographs. This project evolved into a detailed collation of the history of fish and rivers of the Basin, which was completed in 2012.
With support from the NFS and through the services of the Australian River Restoration Centre, the results from this project are available in a number of different formats – catchment booklets, river histories, DVD, videos and a book. The NFS team and ARRC helped Will develop the varied resources so that the information could be absorbed and used effectively by many audiences – from the general public to anglers, scientists and managers.
Will interviewed nearly 140 people from 20 to 95 years of age, collecting 400 photographs. He believed the importance of old family photographs can never be underestimated. Will found every angler and scientist involved in the project, including himself, to be fascinated by the photographs – the fish, the people, the places – transcend time itself.
While people varied greatly in their backgrounds, once they were convinced of his sincerity, they were willing to entrust him with their knowledge. He developed strong relationships with people, even with those he never actually met in person! Those interviewed felt the sense of profound change in our fish and our rivers, and wanted to help make things right.
Will recognised how the collation of historical accounts provides a window into the past that can inform our present and provide hope for the future. “History … should be a driver of change, where we do something about bringing things back and correcting the mistakes of the past.”
The True Tales project has already proven valuable in many ways. Those who participated have gained recognition that their memories and perspectives are important. The historical information has provided scientists and natural resource managers with a better insight into changes to our fish and rivers and impacts of particular threats over time. This has helped inform management and research directions. The project has also increased awareness of how important oral histories are, and how easily they can be lost forever.
True Tales of the Trout Cod has a website to share all the fabulous stories and information collected by Will.