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Waterfront: End of an Era – The Last Gippsland Lakes Fishermen

End of an Era: The Last Gippsland Lakes Fishermen captures the final weeks of small scale commercial fishing in the Gippsland Lakes in the lead up to the fishery’s closure in April 2020. It tells the stories of the last ten licence holders and their families, offering rare insight into the day to day life and history of the Gippsland Lakes commercial fishing industry.

Featuring the photographs by Leigh Henningham, Donna Squire and Geoff Stanton, and accompanied by historical artefacts and film provided by the fishing families, the exhibition captures the ebb and flow of fishing in the region, including the artisanal methods used, the connections to the environment, and the relationships formed from a life on the water.


Leigh Henningham

After more than twenty-five years working in Australia’s media as a photographer and photo editor, Leigh Henningham is now freelancing and working on new projects, including “The Last of the Gippsland Lakes Fishermen” and photography for the 175th anniversary for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. He publishes his work on his website at


Nikki Henningham

Dr. Nikki Henningham is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, where she is editor of the Australian Women’s Register. An oral history practitioner with twenty years’ experience, she has worked for the National Library of Australia’s Oral History and Folklore collection for most of that time and has lost count of the number of life history interviews she has been privileged to do.

An audio and photographic exhibition at the historic Slipway Sheds.


This project would not have been possible without the help of all the fishermen, current and retired, who so generously gave their time to our team of photographers and the oral historian. Capturing their images and stories in the final year of the Gippsland Lakes commercial fishery was a bittersweet experience and we thank them for their honesty and their openness at such a difficult time. To Arthur Allen, James Casement, Michah Davey, Ross Gilsenan, Mathew Jenkins, Rob Jenkins, Gary Leonard, Harold Leonard, Frank Mitchelson, Harry Mitchelson, Mary Mitchelson, Kevin Newman, Leigh Robinson, Peter Tabone and Andrew Twigg, we give our heartfelt thanks. We are sad that Frank and Mary Mitchelson are no longer with us to see the exhibition launched, but we are glad they lived long enough to know it was coming. R.I.P Frank and Mary. You were the first to be interviewed and remain an inspiration to us all. The team of photographers who braved the cold, misty and wet, but beautiful environment of the Gippsland Lakes to capture these images includes Leigh Henningham, Donna Squire and Geoff Stanton.

Dr Nikki Henningham, oral historian, is one of the principle researchers on the project and worked with the fishermen to record their stories. She listened to the fishermen as their industry was coming to an end and her tact and professionalism was much appreciated by them. Our consultants, Dr Tanya King and Dr Kirsten Abernathy, have played an integral role in the background, having worked with the community for several years. We thank them for helping get this project from an idea to a reality. Lynda Mitchelson-Twigg managed this project from beginning to end, keeping us all on track and dealing with any number of unexpected tasks along the way. It would not have happened without her vision, drive and deep love and understanding of the industry and the community. We would like to acknowledge the generosity of our sponsors: Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC); The National Library of Australia; Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, who have supported the importance of capturing the social contribution that fisheries play.

Event co-presented by Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC), The National Library of Australia, Deakin University, University of Melbourne and School for unTourists. Waterfront is proudly presented by Centre for Architecture Victoria | Open House Melbourne, in partnership with Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and East Gippsland Shire Council. Waterfront is part of Melbourne Design Week 2021, an initiative of the Victorian Government in collaboration with the NGV.

Important Details

Time & Date


Thursday 1 April to Monday 5 April 2021
10am – 4pm



  • This event is not wheelchair accessible
  • Guide dogs and service animals welcome



Slipway Sheds, 481 Princess Highway, Lakes Entrance

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