A HEART STORY – MY CONNECTION TO WESTERNPORT ~ by Del Skinner

Westernport has held me for many moons. I have slept in many of the beautiful places around the Bay, from the shining jewel of French Island to the silent waters of Cannons Creek; at Cowes on Phillip Island, at Grantville, beside the wide tidal flats at Lang Lang, the peaceful Wooleys Beach and I now hear the murmur of the shore from my home in Somers.
I have walked the beach in moonlight and scooped fine fluorescent sand worms up with my hands.

I’ve watched the waterspout of a whale resting in the stretch of water between my French Island home and Cowes on Phillip Island.
I have been tossed in the troughs and peaks of churning waves during ferry crossings in rough seas and glided my kayak across the smooth waters of bays and inlets.
Bright hermit crabs have retreated under my exploration of rockpools, soldier crabs scurry into the mud, and wader birds dig long beaks in to extract them from internationally recognised migratory bird habitat.

I nursed my baby in Westernport as dolphins nurse their babies in the waters that lay ten minutes’ walk from my home.

When working at a tourism facility on French Island, I met many hundreds of people, all in awe of the amazing unique place that Westernport is. I will remember forever, standing with an overseas visitor on top of a hill overlooking the stretch of bay from Hastings to Philip Island, right where AGL propose to put a huge gas factory; she spread her arms wide, lifted her head and began to twirl as she sang a long joyful ‘ahhhhh’. Never had she seen such pristine wide space.

Large flocks of black swans feed and live in the shallows, it is told that the black swans Josephine held at Malmaison in France, the first black swans in Europe, were collected from Westernport by Baudin’s expedition in the early 1800’s.

At the Visitor Information Centre in Hastings, thousands of visitors tell of their love of the area, amazed at their discovery of such a unique place. Locals, tourists and past residents tell stories of the fabulous fishing, the great twitching experiences, times past, passion for the great Westernport diving spots “best in Victoria”, observation of and interaction with marine mammals, surfing, swimming, paddling, playing, boating, walking, relaxing and enjoying this beautiful place.

I have read a history of William Thomas, Aboriginal Protectorate, and his observations of the Boonwurrung who he lived with from 1839 – 1840. When reserves were proposed, the Boonwurrung people chose the area from Balnarring to Crib Point as their place. Unfortunately, the traditional owners were driven from this land, but locals know of middens and stone tools that have been found and survive till this day.

For decades, people have put in many volunteer hours to plant, weed, remove rubbish, educate, protect the bay from heavy industry and contribute to Westernport and its community. I am one of those many people who give time to protect and restore this unique and amazing place.

I want to go on exploring, learning and experiencing the beautiful unique environment that Westernport is. I am loath to imagine the damage that a 17 storey, third of a kilometre-long floating gas plant and subsequent ships importing the gas will do to wonderful Westernport.