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Perth’s most generous nomad trades yurt for raft on Swan River

Steven Finch will trade his yurt for a raft this week. Photo: Facebook Finch has lived in this homemade structure for a year. Photo: Facebook
Nanjing Night Net

The raft’s early stages were completed at Fremantle Arts Centre. Photo: Facebook

Work was completed at Fremantle Sailing Club – with plenty of help from the team: Janet Carter, Marziya Mohammedali, Elizabeth Pedler, Devon Ward, Loren Kronemyer and Desmond Tan. Photo: Facebook

Finch says he has brought “lots of jackets” for his week on the water. Photo: Supplied

A Perth artist who has spent the past year living the nomadic life will this week trade his yurt for a raft on the Swan River.

Steven Finch lives in a home-crafted yurt affectionately nicknamed Mr Universe.

Never in more than one place for two months, the round tent-like structure provides Finch with shelter everywhere from a backyard to an artist’s residency, with a homemade pull-cart bringing it and all of his possessions along for each move – on foot.

Nearly five metres in diameter and able to seat 16, it hosts storytelling nights and Open Kitchen Dinners, where guests come to eat, ‘paying it forward’ by bringing ingredients for the next dinner.

Finch recently wound up a stint living at Blue Room Theatre producing shows for Fringe World, while completing the six-month Taberna Lifecraft project – building the raft over six months at Fremantle Arts Centre, then later Fremantle Sailing Club.

Entrusting Mr Universe to a friend for the week, Finch will leave from Monday night’s mooring at Fremantle Harbour on Tuesday. He will moor for the night at Point Walter, then Freshwater Bay, Pelican Point, Heirisson Island for two nights, then end with a Maylands Boating Shed concert, where musicians will play from the raft to an onshore and kayaking audience.

Finch will sleep under a shelter of salvaged materials on a homemade hammock on the four-square-metre raft of marine pine, plastic drums, nylon rope, and a waxed cotton sail, declared seaworthy by the retired marine engineer and “sewn vessel” expert who helped him and his friends build it with just 1500 crowd-sourced dollars.

He will host more dinners on the raft, this time with local Aboriginal elders and academics whose lives and expertise revolve around the Swan River’s ecology and cultural significance.

Like his yurt, Finch says, the project is an exploration of “a better and more magical way of living that takes into account environmental factors – and generosity, which is why I keep inviting people in and feeding them”.

“I want make these physical gestures of kindness and care, so Perth feels more like home for everyone in it,” he said.

“The Derbarl Yerrigan is so important in Perth’s identity so I wanted to find that connection … and have discussions about the future of our Australian identity, whether it could be more compassionate, or creative.”

Ideas of the ‘home’ relationship are close to the nomad’s heart, which is why he will spend two nights at Heirisson Island, or ‘Matagarup’, speaking with the group of homeless Aboriginal people repeatedly evicted from their recurring camp there.

He said his concerns about how Perth treated its homeless people were linked to wider concerns about Australia’s offshore detention of and long processing times for refugees.

“The Matagarup Refugee Group calls themselves that because they feel like refugees in their own land,” he said.

“I want to start conversations about how to create an Australia we are all happy with and proud of.”

Finch will also host and interview Australian Research Council chief investigator at University of Western Australia’s School of Indigenous Studies Leonard Collard for a feature in UWA’s Westerly journal. Follow WAtoday on Twitter

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.