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A soakage, or soak, is a source of water in Australian deserts, called as such because the water generally seeps into the sand and is stored below ground, sometimes as part of an ephemeral river or creek.
Soakages were once a dependable and important water source for Australian Aboriginal people and although many are dried or contaminated now, they can still be found across the deserts.
Aboriginal elder Lena Pwerle of Utopia is a keeper of traditional knowledge of soakages in her area. She knows their names and locations, although she says it's getting harder to remember because her people don't drink from these sources now. Nowadays, retaining this community knowledge is under great threat.
“Long time [ago] olden time mob get their little coolamon (bowl), they check them [soakages] – proper good one water! They been find ‘em under the ground. My grandmother taught me where to find ‘em."
Some soakages are found in the form of rockholes hidden by overgrown foliage, others under the sand where digging is required, and some are the length of football fields sunken into the ground like a swamp.
Related content:'What is a Soakage?'
Lena Pwerle Biography
Soakages Exhibition: Oct - Nov 2015