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A night-time pilgrimage along the Boolarra - Mirboo North Rail Trail

 Conference of the Birds is a community-based event inspired by the resilience, artistic talents & community spirit of the people of the Latrobe Valley & South Gippsland & celebrates the beautiful bird-life on lands we call home. The pilgrimage explores country, survival & belonging created in collaboration with First Nations peoples, artists & the broader community.

Based loosely on the Sufi poem by 12thC poet Farīd ud-Dīn Attār Conference of the Birds art-walk is conceived of as a processional night -time pilgrimage along the Boolarra-Mirboo North Rail Trail.

The story in brief

Being without leadership &in a time of chaos - all the world’s birds gather to discuss the crisis they face. Together they decide to go in search of ‘the answer’ but to do so must embark on a perilous pilgrimage travel through 7 differently themed valleys. When the birds reach their destination they gaze into a mirror-like lake to find it is themselves – the collective – who hold the answers to survival & building a sustainable future.

The Valleys are:

1. The Valley of the Quest

2. The Valley of Love

3. The Valley of Independence, Pride & Detachment

4. The Valley of Deprivation, Poverty and Death

5. The Valley of Wonderment, Astonishment & Bewilderment

6. The Valley of Knowledge, Understanding & Contemplation

7.The Valley of Harmony & Unity


Conference of the Birds

currently has 2 stages of development.

Stage 1.

In 2024 the very first Valley - The Valley of the Quest will take place in Centenary Park in Boolarra on the 25th May.

Stage 2.

In 2025 the final  valley will be created at a special site along the Rail Trail - The Meadows. The Valley of Harmony & Unity is  the finale to the art walk.

Stage 3.

It is intended that in time the  project will grow & become a biennial event with all 7 valleys presented along the rail trail.


To be involved

About The Event

An open & inclusive processional art-event, Conference of the Birds will bring together locals from villages & towns in the Latrobe valley & Strzelecki ranges. Participants come from all walks of life - diverse community groups, schools, visual and performing artists - all ages, cultures, genders and abilities.


Conference of the Birds celebrates the natural environment & the region's First Nations community, our cultural diversity and artistry.A series of ritual-art installations & performances embedded in landscape 2km along the Boolarra-Mirboo North rail trail will enchant audiences as they walk from dusk into night. Fire & light installations / projections & sound-scapes light the trail to a grand finale event at 'The Meadows'. Currently the very beginning of the art-walk is being created in collaboration with Gunaikurnai Elders & community to create The Valley of the Quest & will take place on Saturday 25th May 2024 in Centenary Park Boolarra.

The Broader Project
a biennial art-walk

This cross-artform ritual performance both tells a story & manifests it - an experience of community inclusion building strength and wisdom in each other. Cradled by a collective love & commitment to 'care for country' the entire project is guided by & created in collaboration with Gunaikurnai elders & community. Funding is currently being sought to further support the realisation of the project as a whole. This will enable the creation of each of the 5 remaining valleys. Local artists will each interpret one of the valleys from the text using cross art-forms. ‘Conference of the Birds’ has potential to become a biennial contemporary artwork. As a ʻritual processʼ this durational & participatory event will nimbly respond to the requirements of the times, & in both form & content be a reflection of where we find ourselves in these uncertain times.

the event
Coming soon!

photo: courtesy Africa Centre

about us


 Douglas & Mackay

Gilbert Douglas & Margie Mackay are co-Artistic Directors of the works they create,

and are based in Boolarra in the Latrobe Valley, West Gippsland, Australia.

D&M create art events from intimate & indoor to epic-scale & site-specific.

Best described as 'contemporary ceremonies' their works blur boundaries between art & ritual.

Grounded in place & moment, these events are richly textured explorations of participatory art,

ceremonial & choreographic forms, with "art of community" practices.

 D&M are committed to creating works of high artistic merit & infectious community spirit by coordinating teams of collaborators, of all abilities & identities, in emplaced works that speak to the spirit of the times. Much of their work takes place in outdoor & non conventional theatre spaces, utilising the aesthetic & artistic possibilities of varied & often challenging sites.

Highly experienced & respected practitioners in community cultural development, they have collaborated in works across Australia, Zimbabwe and in South Africa, & individually throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, USA, South America and Australia.

Gilbert Douglas

more about me


Gilbert Douglas is one of Southern Africa's most renowned and respected choreographers, performers and dancers, and is former Artistic Director of Zimbabwe's premier professional contemporary dance company, Tumbuka.

Margie Mackay

Margie Mackay is known for her diverse and interdisciplinary practices with works ranging from intimate indoor shows, to exuberant street theatre productions, and large-scale community ceremonies in Arts Festivals nationally and internationally.

more about me

The  Valley of the Quest

This project has been made possible by the Australian Government’s Regional Arts Fund, which supports the arts in regional and remote Australia.

Conference of the Birds is also supported by the Mirboo North & District Community Foundation. 


This project has also been made possible by Creative Latrobe Creative Latrobe is an initiative of the Latrobe Health Assembly within the Latrobe Health Innovation Zone and Latrobe City Council. Funded by the State Government.

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Boolarra Pop-Up Library, Railway Park Artwork by Abbas Mehran

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