RiverFest: Celebrating Our Living River

Holding a safe and viable community environment festival in a COVID 19 world

RiverFest: Celebrating Our Living River

Holding a safe and viable community environment festival in a COVID 19 world

Community Participation -


The issue

Riverfest is the annual, major community event for Parramatta River Catchment Group’s ‘Our Living River’  program, celebrating the Parramatta River and surrounding catchment.  With the goal of connecting people with the catchment and creating opportunities for community awareness and conservation, the ever-changing COVID restrictions in Sydney in October 2020 presented a significant challenge for the event organisers, and the member councils and community groups contributing activities to the Riverfest program.

The COVID-19 setting required a 'pivot' from joining with the council's spring festival to organising a COVID-compliant program of small, in-person events and online activities.

The solution

1.  Extended the festival timeframe. Typically held in October each year over a 10-day period, the festival program was extended to a to a 4-week program, allowing for a greater spread of activities.

2. Designed in-person activities for a small audience. (old idea but useful) Two COVID-safe events were held in-person to increase community awareness of iconic species in the Parramatta River catchment – the return of the Parramatta River Godwits, and the Powerful Owl.

3. Online activities on a range of topics including fishing bats, water sensitive design, stay safe from mozzies and a behind the scenes look at the Birdlife EagleCAM for White-bellied Sea Eagles nest.

 4. Our Riverkeeper Ambassadors, inspiring community champions of healthy waterways and connecting our catchment and community, were a big part of Riverfest’s success, organising numerous place-based community initiatives, including, River Aware cycling tours and creative clean-up days on the river foreshore.

5. Substantially increased promotion on social media channels.

The impact

  • Riverfest included 30+ events
  • Adapted a traditional festival program to a covid compliant setting, with online and in person events with limited audiences.
  • Reached a wider audience with the use of webinars.
  • Strong social media over the four weeks was educational in itself about Riverfest key themes of waterway health, icon species habitat, community involvement, and actions undertaken by PRCG to make the river swimmable in specific locations.
  • Held an evaluation session with Riverkeeper Ambassadors to improve on events, planning and promotion for next year.

Key facts

  • 4 Riverfest webinars published on the Our Living River YouTube channel: bit.ly/3l0zuF2
  • Riverkeeper Ambassadors were flexible in adapting to situation - ran 7 in person events and 2 online.
  • Council Bushcare groups in 2 LGAs were allowed to welcome visitors during the festival.
  • COVID safe measures to enable safe interactions needs to be communicated to enable greater participation.
  • Councils and PRCG staff shared learnings about webinars.