Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Solastalgia by Jan Parker

Westernport Bay is a beautiful, wise, unsung quiet achiever; gentle beach coves, surf beaches, nature walking trails, unparalleled bird watching, unique coastal scrub and freshwater lakes.
Westernport Bay has a natural integrity that is precious and irreplaceable. That is evident in its listing as an internationally recognised, significant Ramsar Wetland site since 1982. It is well known as one of the three most important areas for migratory shorebirds in south-east Australia.
The Bay was also declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 (one of only nine in Australia).

I have been a visitor to many parts of the bay consistently over the past 20 years. To walk, observe, regenerate and to take photographs for my art practice. When I alight on any part of Westernport’s shores, she is instantly recognisable as being a very important and unique natural environment with a great deal to offer. The bay’s wetland areas are so fascinating to me. I particularly love mangroves and am so in awe of their quiet strength in stabilising coastal systems, nutrient cycling and the wildlife habitat they provide.

I gain much inspiration from their resilience and subtle complexities.

Westernport Bay is an understated beauty, a jewel in Victoria’s crown, a surviving example of other precious environments that are now just a memory…. a memory of ones that heavy industry has smashed down before for short term financial gains.

My love is for the mud, marshy swampland that is hard to traverse, tangled roots of mangrove, seagrass meadows and saltmarshes. It doesn’t seem like much is going on there………but underneath the water, inside the mud and marsh, skittering along the shoreline around the mangrove roots and in the scrubby trees is a complex, fragile, incredibly rich diversity of fauna, flora and marine life, the likes of which are not seen anywhere else in the world.

It is a bay with extraordinary, ecological values. The wetland flora diversity creates the food chains that sustain marine life and provide food for the 36 species of migratory shorebirds that land there for a sustained time every single year coming from within the Arctic Circle. It provides for thousands of local avian lives every day.

It is very quiet there, lapping water a constant companion, major tidal swings always bringing a different view and places to explore. It is a place for meandering, observing, sitting, contemplating, regenerating and somewhere just to be with an unsung hero…nature.

As I said, Westernport Bay is a quiet achiever.

AGL I believe you are being dishonest with Australians. Claiming that Victoria needs a gas terminal in Westernport Bay for its domestic needs and not owning up to the facts that the huge sell off in 2015 to GLNG and then selling your entire free gas portfolio to the LNG plants as the real reason for the shortfall.

That the plant will drive gas prices down is blatantly untrue. The LNG will be imported at raised international prices. AGL, you are a gas company, how could you not have been acutely aware of the decline in Bass Strait and stepped up sooner in moving to renewables?

AGL you do not have social approval to go ahead with this project. There is overwhelming community protest.

AGL your risk assessments merely contain regurgitated publicly known facts but contain no real, scientific investigations into the specific impacts of the plant on Westernport Bays environment.

AGL if you go ahead with your proposed re-gasification plant and the subsequent, inevitable and irreversible major degradation of the fragile ecosystems of Westernport Bay you will be responsible for creating a cultural malaise amongst the millions of local and visiting people who love unique Westernport Bay for what she is, a rare opportunity to experience a sense of wilderness less than 2 hours from Melbourne.

My message to our politicians is, ‘How could you even consider agreeing to the senseless pollution and despoiling of such a precious environment and be prepared to lose Victoria’s premier tourism destination worth billions of dollars?’

Personally, I will feel an incredible environmental grief if this Bay is pulled asunder by AGL’s dirty gas plan.

Will there never be an end to our desecration of nature?

Save our Westernport Bay ~ by Ingrid Tadich

Save our Westernport Bay ~ by Ingrid Tadich

I relocated from Sandringham to Somers 5 years ago, attracted by the unique environment and unspoilt beauty of Westernport Bay, recognised by Ramsar as a Wetland of international importance. I have learned that this unique and fragile place is also a beautiful sanctuary for people, sea mammals, such as whales, furs seals and dolphins and migratory and local birds.

My family delight in their stays at their Somers home, to enjoy the wildness of the foreshore, the swims, the play in the sand dunes, the discovery of the preciousness of nature and the natural environment as well as the changes seasons bring to it. What a wonderful grounding for my grandchildren, time out to explore, wonder and just be and learn to appreciate and respect the natural world.

My daily walks on the foreshore are a blessing, the water’s clean, the coast line ever changing with our strong tidal systems that wash up large varieties of usually hidden treasures such as seaweeds, sponges, crustaceans, jellyfish, shark eggs and mangrove seed pods, providing a peak at what’s below the surface.

A rich diversity of life.

I’m also fascinated by the variety of birds that live on the bay or around her shores. In the summer of 2018, migratory swans found refuge in our bay for a week or so, one morning on my walk I noticed that only a solo swan was left. It appeared to have a damaged wing, a very sad sight to see and was the subject of much community concern. Fresh water was left out for the bird and on my daily walk I was relieved every day to see that it had survived the night. The swan stayed through the autumn and the winter and in the Spring we were all delighted to see another swan had arrived with two signets, they stayed together for a few days and then flew away. A family reunion? Maybe, I like to think so. It was the cause of much celebration.

Walking to Sandy Point is a sheer joy, the beauty of the bleached banksia trunks that have been uprooted from their sand dunes by the wild storms and now lay silvered by sun and sea water. The clear waters in their aqua’s and blues revealing small fish darting from our shadows or those caste by a hunting bird. The walk reveals a changing landscape and the high tidal changes can make this an exciting adventure for those caught unaware. It is when reaching beautiful and historic Sandy Point that you can truly appreciate the beauty of Westerport Bay as the separation between Philip Island and French Island is seen for the first time revealing the grandeur of her waters.

I learned to kayak in Westernport Bay motivated by the proximity of our resident dolphins . To watch them hunt and play and to witness their curiosity as they swim among people, play with dogs and come up to yachts and small boats. I’ve had the privilege of having a proud mother swim right up to my kayak with her young pup trustingly almost placing her head on my bow, as if to say look at the wonder I’ve created. Unforgettable. Westernport Bay is also a refuge for migratory whales with Southern Right Whales, Humpbacks and Killer Whales being regular visitors.

The AGL proposal threatens the pristine environment of Westernport Bay. They plan to draw water from the bay to thaw their frozen gas. In this process our sea water is chlorinated to destroy all living things and cooled by another 7 degrees celsius before being dumped back into the bay. Imagine the impact of 468 million litres of cooled chlorinated water being dumped in the bay everyday. How can this not have impact? How can it not destroy a beautifully balanced eco system?

This totally goes against our commitment as a signatory to the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands of International Importance to protect Westernport Bay.

To add insult to injury AGL could install a closed system to recycle the chlorinated waters, without dumping them in the bay. They have so little respect for the environment that they are unwilling to do so, due to the cost. A much greater cost would be the denigration of these wetlands for the future generations of living things.

AGL’s project has a 20 year lifespan before it changes to renewables.
Is 20 years delay really worth the destruction of our beautiful Bay?
Renewables are available now, they are efficient, effective and cheaper than the price we pay for our current forms. A much greater cost is to enable short term greed to delay the use of renewable energy to provide cater for our energy needs. Gas is toxic, its destructive and it’s ultimately far too costly .

Wetlands are amazing places and are among the most biodiverse eco systems in the world. Research suggests that they can also capture and store large amounts of carbon lessening the impact of climate change. Shouldn’t we be protecting this unique and irreplaceable wetland on Melbourne’s doorstep for future generations?

Not only for our people to witness and enjoy, but also or for the survival of the huge variety of species in their own right.

Is it not our sacred duty to do so?

Say no to AGL!

 

Heart Story by Stacey Chilcott

Heart Story by Stacey Chilcott

I grew up in a seaside town known to many as Hastings, in Victoria. I learnt about nature with my Mum who would take my brother and I along the Warringine Park boardwalk after school. As a young child, I used to sit and curiously watch the mud crabs scurry around, dwarfed by the mangroves and melaleucas that surrounded us. Connecting with nature on these walks taught us that there was more to our world than burgeoning local industries and housing developments.

At that age I had no idea about bureaucratic and financial terminologies adults used to value ecosystems like this. Nor did I know that this place would qualify as a Ramsar wetlands or a Biosphere Reserve. All I knew was that it was a special place for me and my family. So special, it inspired me to become an aquatic biologist and dedicate my life to protecting fragile and integral ecosystems like Westernport Bay.

Most recently, this area has been subject to a development proposal by AGL and APA Group, who intend to develop an intrusive Floating Regasification Unit (FSRU) and pipeline in Westernport Bay, in the heart of the Warringine Ramsar Wetlands. I feel fortunate to be a part of a dedicated and stoic community group who are fighting this proposal by reflecting the intrinsic connection we all share with this special place, our home. This community group, called Save Westernport, has garnered the attention of an NGO, Environment Victoria, who are supporting our cause to push for the protection of this area because they recognize how ludicrous it would be for our government to permit AGL to install a 300m long gas factory in the wetlands.

Collectively, we are all concerned that there is no need for this development, that the development is not financially beneficial for the region or environmentally safe for the climate, that the local environmental impacts, such as light pollution, bushfire risk and damage to the coastal areas are going to be disastrous for the longevity of this 25 year project. But personally, I am worried that this development will have a detrimental impact on current and future generations, who will suffer solastalgia.

I implore our politicians to stand with our community and fight with heart against this project and to push for a strengthening of our environmental laws. This proposal should never have come so far.

I want to thank my local community, our Boon Wurrung Traditional Custodians and everyone who has pitched in to support this campaign to keep AGL out of our beautiful, sacred waterways.

These special places should be protected for every being.

Link to Stacey’s powerful video

Heart Story by Elke Emerald

Heart Story by Elke Emerald

I didn’t mean to live on the Mornington Peninsula, but life has habit of having its own way sometimes.
So, after joyful years living in NZ – life bought me to Bittern.

I had no idea that this delightful place was tucked away here south of Melbourne.

There are bike paths, and walking paths and beautiful beaches. Wineries, breweries, gardens.
Without a lie, I’ll tell you this – we moved to Bittern in Oct 2018 and we had houseguests every night from Dec 22 2018 to April 25 2019: waving one dear friend off and welcoming another, with just enough time to change the sheets!

This speaks to the enthusiasm to visit this part of the world.

Our ‘guest trail’ is beautiful – bike rides from Jacks Beach to Hastings, lunches at breweries and wineries, swims at Gunnamatta Beach, snorkeling at Flinders Pier, learning about the Ramsar listing, Coolart wetlands, visits to ‘the other side’ (Port Philip Bay side), walking at Arthurs Seat and treks to the very end of Nepean Point.

What a beautiful place – all within a couple of hours on the train to Melbourne-town for a day of museums, galleries, shopping and restaurants.

And now: the grief of the possibility of losing all this to foolish profit, greed and mistaken arguments about ‘essential power’. I learnt of this proposal in an almost offhand comment from the Estate Agent, after we’d signed the contract. I guess it was a case of buyer beware. But I am not sorry I am here. I delight in this beautiful community still.

But here we are, fighting to stop all this being given away, the bay destroyed – all for the profit of faraway business leaders and faceless shareholders.

What a travesty.

Gayle’s Story

Gayle’s Story

I was born in 1956 and spent many of my formative years living in Razorback Road Flinders. I came to love the southern Mornington Peninsula and Westernport became my spiritual home and my refuge.

I was a competitive swimmer from a young age. My father would drive me to Rosebud at 4.30 am. I also used to swim in the pool at Cerberus Naval Base. When we lived in Murrumbeena in the 90’s I would rise and swim at Harold Holt Pool at 5 am every morning. 26 years ago, just for the fun of it, I entered the veterans swim comp at the Olympic Pool. I won the hundred metre freestyle! I also swam Pier to Pub and the Lorne race a few times. I loved my swimming.

25 years ago, I founded a business. I created a skin care range using indigenous flora. It became a range for the growing Day Spa industry. The product was entirely organic, and I operated on the mantra of ‘tread lightly ‘. I was privileged to be introduced to First Nation Elders who introduced me to healing plants and ancient healing practices. The business was successful and innovative. There was, however, something missing in my life.

I had 4 children and a business that gave me little free time.

Many who grow up, or spend formative years, around Westernport are drawn back. We were. We moved to Flinders in 2003. I yearned to rekindle my love of horses. My yearnings proliferated and we needed to move to Red Hill to accommodate more, and then more horses. Our property backed on to the Merricks Riding Trail. We loved to ride our horses and walk our beloved Labradors on the trail. We would regularly walk with our Labradors from Shoreham to Flinders. How wonderful that was. Westernport Bay has the marvellous talent of being different every day.

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend in 2008, my fractious mare misbehaved, reared and jammed me into a very large old pine tree. I spent two and a half hours lying face down in mud, semi-conscious and in great pain. I had broken numerous bones and shattered my pelvis. The ambulance officer later said they should have called in a helicopter; hindsight of course. I was in hospital for weeks and then rehab to learn to walk again. As soon as I was out of a wheelchair, I was back in the bay at Merricks Beach swimming.

Swimming in the bay was my therapy.

In early 2009, April in fact, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was still using a walking stick. Very shortly after it was The Freemasons for major and urgent surgery. Various tumours, one nearly the size of a house brick, were removed. As soon as I could, I was back in the Bay. It was my therapy, my comfort and my time to come to terms with a voracious and wicked enemy.

Over the next 4 years I endured 6 more torrid and invasive surgeries. I had numerous horrible courses of powerful chemotherapy. I lost numerous organs over this time. What kept me focused and on course was swimming at Merricks Beach. We would also walk every morning with our wonderful Labradors, sometimes more slowly than others.

Westernport Bay is precious and delicate. We have a responsibility to protect it. It is our duty to our First Nation peoples. Westernport has been their land for tens of thousands of generations. I have 4 children and 5 grandchildren, and we are obligated to protect it for them.

We have an earth given responsibility. Neither AGL, their partners, or anyone else has a right to assume control for their tainted profit driven purposes.

On Good Friday 2013 I at 12.50pm, I passed away peacefully at home in Myers Road. I spent my last weeks at home with a view of my horses, with family and our Labradors. Out my window I could see the beautiful Westernport and the Nobbies. I now rest in Flinders Cemetery, a stone’s throw from Westernport with both of my parents and my parents in law. Westernport is not far away, and it remains in my heart and soul.

We have an earth given responsibility, AGL has the same…….to stay away.

 

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

Westernport Bay – BR Sallmann

My relationship with Westernport bay is that it has functioned as a compass since moving to the peninsula with my family when I was eight years old. It started at its southern entrance – Flinders ocean beach – where one day I found myself crunched up in the shallows in winter, starting to question my conviction that moving to the beach from the city meant I absolutely needed to swim in the ocean every single day.

My addiction to the coast has since softened as I have moved further north along the bay, however I am becoming increasingly aware that if I found myself living inland in the future, tucked away from the coast, something would be missing. I am too well-adjusted to that salty taste, and the crisp southern air, and the grits of sand that constantly pepper my carpet and stick to my toes. Yet amidst the ongoing refusal by myself and likeminded others to allow AGL’s commoditisation of the bay, I find myself wondering if I could even stand to see the waterline at all, polluted with the money-man’s toys.

Running along the bay at sunrise has been a consistent habit of mine for years and knowing how easily I’d give that up if the proposal went ahead shows me how deeply disturbing AGL’s idealised reality would be. Even for those with a merely superficial connection to the bay – those who overlook it from wealthy clifftops and see the bay primarily as an asset – stand to lose their money to the pockets of the powerful.

Every ship would represent a failure – for us, for the wildlife, for the future of energy production and power division – to win a fight that should never have taken place at all. I refuse to lose to an opponent who fights in blatantly corrupt and manipulative ways. I refuse to lose upon a land rich in the potential for sustainable energy production to an archaic and toxic exploitation of finite resources. I refuse to accept the decisions of those who favour the whip of fast cash over what is ethical, and healthy, and compassionate, and sustainable. And those inside and outside of the community who choose inaction, whose failure to become angry and question what they are told represents the easiest form of compliance.

I am only twenty-five, I do not own land here nor pay rates. I do not feel any sense of ownership over the bay or feel pulled to the cause by any sense of personal affront that I could lose my beach, as it is not mine, nor yours, nor (and especially), business dealers and money makers. I do, however, feel a responsibility to speak up for it. Like all other natural environments, Westernport bay is a collective space that deserves respect. It gives life and takes nothing from us in return. It serves as a lesson to us that greed does not perpetuate infinite resources, but that the bay too, can suffer and become weak if we take too much.

We need to learn to tread lightly and protect our generous environment from those who do not.

Places we call Home ~ By Melanie Attard – August 2020

Places we call Home ~ By Melanie Attard – August 2020

My name is Mel, I have been a wildlife rescue volunteer for many years. I have seen first-hand the negative impacts of industrialisation, over development, habitat loss, bushfire, pollution, and climate change, on our flora and fauna. We see animals breeding out of season as the climate warms, their natural food sources unavailable. We see them moving into sheds, roller doors, wall crevices, and building sites, desperate for a tree hollow to sleep or breed in. Rubbish strangles our water birds. We have seen heat stress events killing off birds and possums in ever increasing numbers every summer. We were inundated with hundreds of ringtail possums in one single incident in Summer 2019 at Somers beach, Western Port Bay, after a record heat wave. I walked that beach with numerous other volunteers in 40-degree heat searching for survivors. The possums were so dehydrated and desperate, they drank sea water. I picked up one poor little possum sitting soaked, as the seawater lapped over the sand. We managed to rehabilitate a few of the survivors, who were later released back home into the foreshore vegetation. Our wildlife cannot tolerate such extreme conditions year after year.

I learned to surf around Pt Leo and Shoreham. I had one beginners surf lesson with East Coast Surf School and was totally hooked. I was a late starter! That refreshing cool salt water, new friendships, the physical challenges, and pure thrill of gliding across the face of a clean unbroken wave were enough for me. I have chased the days of big ground swells reaching further up the bay to locations such as Somers and Merricks. I have been delighted by penguins, dolphins, seals and those huge bull rays’ surprise appearances. I have been dumped and tumbled by energetic waves. Feeling the force of nature is such a wonderful thing. Working up the paddling strength to get onto waves, the fitness to pop up. To balance on a board with this moving force beneath you. Feeling the wave and adapting to her surges and lulls. Seeing the wild weather changes rolling in, dark clouds, icy rain, blasting wind, seeing the glassy surface of the water turn in an instant to chop and bump, the waves becoming a tangled mess of white soupy bubbles. Appreciating what is sent my way, just being out there. Some days are better than others…. getting dumped, holding my breath on the big swell days out at Second Reef (Pt Leo). Tucking my head in as I am tumbled like a ragdoll above the reef, at the mercy of that water I love so much.

I learned to sail at Balnarring Beach in dinghies. Pacer, Laser, Micron, Bic, wonderful little sail boats to harness the natural power of the wind, tacking this way and that, opening up the sails for a lazy down-winder back towards to beach. Tipping the boat right over and being thrown out while learning how to tack and jibe, sitting up on the rail, hanging over the edge of the boat with just water gliding beneath. Sprays of water causing excitement and laughter. Huge grins and cold hands, it’s all part of the adventure. Enjoying some fun social racing, making good friends, learning new skills. I joined Western Port Yacht club a few years ago and completed the beginners sailing courses. I have always enjoyed the friendships of like-minded salty sea lovers.

I have enjoyed years of cooling summer swims with good friends, picnics, birthday celebrations, long walks and adventurous beach and trail running around Hastings, Crib Point, Somers, Merricks, Balnarring, Pt Leo, Shoreham and Flinders. Hot chips and potato cakes from the Balnarring fish and chip shop on cooler days, a real treat. Ducking into the Op shops for a bargain. We are blessed to have an abundance of koalas at Coolart Wetlands, a wonderful bushland region to visit and walk. The peaceful hidden gem that is Jacks Beach at Crib Point, and the boardwalk to Hastings is a gorgeous place to walk or cycle, with intertidal mangroves and other salt loving vegetation visible off the edge of the boardwalk. A snap shot of the region as it once was, before European Settlement. Sea Eagles, Magpies, Mud Crabs, Silvergulls, Swamp Harriers, Pacific Gulls, Herons, Pelicans, Darters, Gannets, Ibis, Fairy Wrens, and Kookaburras, all visible on a quiet wander through the Warringine Bushland Reserve, one of the best boardwalks I have ever had the pleasure to meander along. I remember when summer bushfire ripped through the Warringine area in 2015, burning nearly 5000 hectares. My Dad and step mum were at home in Crib Point on evacuation alert, too late to leave, they stayed put.

I have enjoyed wonderful snorkelling around the reef edges. Seeing all sorts of marine life, large leathery kelp, bright green sea lettuce, knobbly Neptune’s necklace, fancy extravagant sea slugs, big eyed curious spikey puffer fish, and swift patterned little rays and skates. I enjoy the clean salty air, green spaces, wetlands, creeks, coastal habitats and bushlands surrounding Western Port Bay. My artwork reflects a strong connection to and appreciation of the local environment. Capturing the light, movement, the energy of these beautiful places that I call home.

I would like to keep it all this way. Big polluting, dangerous, fossil fuel industries are not welcome in Western Port Bay. It would break my heart to see AGL industrialise Crib Point with a massive floating gas terminal and pipeline. I want to know that these natural places will remain, for our flora and fauna to thrive, and for our kids to enjoy what we have been blessed and privileged to enjoy.

Picture above shows my 44th Birthday celebrated with friends on the foreshore of Western Port Bay (an annual event!)

 

Sacha’s Story

Sacha’s Story

Westernport has a particularly special spot in my heart. It’s been my playground since I was a teenager. It’s my saltwater therapy. A safe, reef-lined bay full of surf breaks, tree lined shores and peaceful beaches. Westernport has given me space, healing, time to be myself, play, be free, feel wild and human. I owe this wilderness for keeping me true to myself and on my best path in life. Priceless. Such is the roll of wilderness that is disappearing around the world. Ancient cultures often used time alone away from villages and in nature as a right of passage. The value of this has been lost to most in our modern culture, but in our heart of hearts, not forgotten.

As we become more familiar with wild spaces, we begin to relate to them as more than ecosystems. To me Westernport is a living, breathing entity. Her mangroves and seagrass beds are lungs drawing down 4 times the amount of carbon than terrestrial forests. They’re also kidneys filtering toxins from storm water, keeping our oceans clean and fish stocks healthy. Her breath is the tides, each one regenerating and reinvigorating the system and exchanging nutrients with the ocean. Her blood and flesh are the mudflats, offering up nutrients to the birds that migrate from around the world to feed on. Her bones are the reefs creating waves we can surf and have fun on. Her shallow waters are her arms, a nursery for fish, sharks and rays, seahorses, crays and crabs. Her deep channels are home to the Burrunan dolphins, and an appreciated quiet pitstop for larger whales along their migration paths.

The value of Westernport surpasses economic value that could be put on her. She effortlessly maintains the systems we need to protect us from climate change, unfunded and unaided. She provides us with healthy aquaculture, delivers us fun and happiness in the forms of waves, fishing, diving, and simple ocean gazing. She homes, feeds and protects all the species that form an integral part of the health of her overall system and the ones linked to her. And she cleans our air by replenishing life giving oxygen and mood boosting ozone. Did you know two-thirds of the planet’s total atmospheric oxygen is produced by ocean phytoplankton?

So take in 3 breaths and thank the oceans for 2 of them.

 

Brian Thomas’ story

Brian Thomas’ story

My first memory of Western Port was driving down Stony Point Road to the jetty and there on the mudflats was a small group of Yellow–billed Spoonbills. This was sometime around 1978 or 79 and as a newcomer to Australia the sight of spoonbills just milling around near the shore was terribly exotic and etched itself into my memory. I had no idea at the time of course that I would return to live and work within cooee of this endlessly fascinating bay.

I was on my way to French Island with a friend and this was also my first introduction –albeit brief – to that amazing island. Years later, I was to take part in catching koalas on French Island for relocation to the mainland and this took me to parts of the island seldom seen except by residents and rangers. The beautiful heathland in flower in spring time and wildflowers and orchids springing up on the fire breaks were memorable moments.

Visiting with the Peninsula Birdwatchers in the 1980s we were led by the indefatigable Des Quinn, striding over the countryside, on his long legs, dragging a weary group of birdwatchers in his wake. He showed us some wonderful birdlife – Cape Barren Geese in the paddocks, Swamp Harriers drifting low over the mashes and Sea Eagles soaring high overhead. It was all a wonderful introduction to the very special wildness of Western Port.

My interest in birds has drawn me into several surveys – some one-offs and others with a bit more longevity. One of my first was a banding trip with the Victorian Wader study Group. This group has done incredibly valuable work in the study of migratory and resident shore birds by fitting identification bands on the legs of birds to track their movements and in recent years with advanced technology, by fitting geo-locators to birds to do the same. Some of the results have been mind boggling with birds flying up to 10,000 km non-stop on their migratory journey! On this occasion, though the gods were against us and we were unable to catch any birds, however what sticks in my mind was the bay itself as we walked back along the shoreline. The sea was perfectly still – like the proverbial millpond – and in the setting sun, the reflections of the mangroves and the lines of colour on the water and in the sky was a sight that Turner could have painted.

Another banding expedition I took part in was catching Pied Oystercatchers. The Oystercatchers are one of the few shorebirds whose population is doing OK. French Island is important for these ground-nesting birds because of its remote beaches (with few people) and the absence of foxes. What I remember best about this outing was laying behind the scrub covered fore-dune and watching the sandpipers, stints and godwits slowly making their way towards us as the tide rose and covered their feeding grounds and drove them quietly towards us.

I also took part in a bird survey which was related to a port development proposal of some sort (I forget exactly which one, but there always seems to be someone who wants to “develop” Western Port and we always seem to have to repeatedly supply information as to why they shouldn’t). Anyway, this was Western Port in a different mood. Part of the survey was done from a boat (the part that I was participating in) and the weather was wet and windy but we managed to complete the survey (one of several) despite the conditions.

I also had the opportunity through my work learn a bit about a habitat that although I was familiar with on a superficial level I soon discovered that I knew little about the actual plants and animal that lived there. For a couple of years I coordinated an intertidal survey called Reef Watch at Mushroom Reef, Flinders. This involved surveying and recording the sea life within quadrants (metre squares) placed on the reef. To do this the surveys had to be timed for low tide and it was always a worry that I’d get the times wrong and the team would turn up to a submerged reef. Fortunately this never happened but there was one occasion when we had to beat a hasty retreat as the tide started to fill up the neck of the reef (our way back to shore) and we had to splash through the rising tide.

What I did get from this work though – thanks to the very knowledgeable volunteers who had been doing this for years – was an appreciation of just how varied the life is in this inhospitable zone and of course one couldn’t help notice the birds that use this zone too; the Sooty Oystercatchers and Turnstones on the rocks (one of these Turnstones wearing the aforementioned geolocator was tracked flying 4000 km non-stop on its migration), Red-necked Stints following the tide in and out on the sandy beach and Double-banded Dotterel amongst the sea weed, this New Zealand shore bird breeds in NZ and is the only east-west migrating shorebird in the world.

At present apart from enjoying the bay on a casual basis I take part in two bird surveys: the Orange –bellied Parrot Survey – a search for what is probably our rarest parrot (to date we haven’t seen one but we live in hope and there are always other interesting birds about) and the Western Port Bird Survey – possibly the longest running bird survey in Australia. The Western Port Survey is always interesting, especially if you have the luck to survey some of the more remote corners of the bay. The birdlife is astounding; Red-necked Avocets with their impossibly thin, delicate, upturned bills, yapping Black winged Stilts on their ridiculously long pink legs, flocking migratory birds in their hundreds, flotillas of hundreds of ducks, Caspian Terns with their long red bills, Gull-billed Terns with their neat black caps and so much more.

It’s an avian wonderland worthy of a David Attenborough documentary here on our door step, or if not exactly our door step at least a short walk down the garden path.

 

Ella’s Story

Ella’s Story

Not one day has passed without a soft smile of gratitude for this special place on my lips. It is heaven here. When we first moved here over a year ago I explored the walking tracks around the beach and bay and felt I’d come home, my heart fulfilled and excited for my children to grow up in this space.It’s like time has stood still here.

From the couch where I have been counselling since covid hit I can look out across the bay. The water reassures me. The big sky and towering pine trees remind me of what’s important. The spirit of the bay energises and grounds me. Locals express such appreciation and love for the place regularly to me.

I became aware of AGLs intentions because of the legendary work of ‘The Signwriter.’ (It was only recently after reading his heartstory that I realised I actually know who he is because we are dear friends with one of his family members and I recognised sections of his story!) I have much respect for him and all community members fighting for their beloved country and sea.

I look at my children Charlie and Aiya playing in the water and they’re just so damn happy here. We teach them to look after Mother Earth, that we are not the masters but part of the ecosystem itself. How do we fight the greed?

I dream of mass action in order to make the Govt listen. I fear that profit so often wins out and leaves a trail of destruction. Yet we must keep hope. We must keep fighting. Earth warriors have won before and we will win again. Let it be this battle.

Let us do all we can to protect this rare sanctuary and all its inhabitants. Let us use our anger as our momentum. We can’t let Richard Wynne. (Surprised and disheartened to learn he was once a Social worker as I am- Social justice being a core value of our practice)

Our house is kept warm by gas but I’d sacrifice it. We don’t actually need gas to survive and thrive. Let us live more wisely and more simply so our children get to see the beauty of this place at our age, so they too can look for dolphins playing in the water with their own kids as we do.