A Woolley Heart Story

A Woolley Heart Story

Melissa’s Story

I’m a Woolley. Well, I was until I married and opted to change my name. My family has strong roots in Crib Point, particularly in the vicinity of the jetty.

My great, great grandfather Ashton Woolley selected 400 acres at Crib Point in 1875 and built the Woolley Homestead at 50 Disney St, Crib Point.

Facing the Westernport Bay, his son and my great grandfather, William (Bill) built his weatherboard home on land he had purchased from his father in 1929. His house was situated just south of the Woolley family home on the point.

Pictured are Bill and Jane Woolley, my great grandparents.

British Petroleum (BP) built a refinery at Crib Point and pressured Bill Woolley to sell. Bill refused to sell his property to BP, and so the Western Point Refinery was built around his house. Bill remained in his home in the care of my great Aunty Marg, until he died around 1968.

I have so many childhood memories of visiting my great aunty Marj at her home and being chased by her sheep. Well known in the area, Marj Baxter (nee Woolley) lived in the family homestead until she could no longer manage the maintenance. She felt isolated and vulnerable as an old woman living alone in quite a remote area of Crib Point. Our beautiful family homestead on the Esplanade, overlooking Westernport Bay was sold to the BP Refinery and the homesteads that Bill and his father Ashton had built were demolished by BP. All that is remaining is a vacant block used by motorbike riders.

Bill Woolley built a jetty, of which only the stumps remain, and an extant cool room on the foreshore in 1903, where he stored his catch before it was transported to Melbourne for sale.

Bill Woolley’s Cool Room is surrounded by a security fence. A sign is attached to the fence that says ‘This cement cool room was built by Mr Bill Woolley in the year 1903 to store his fish on weekends. Blocks of ice were packed in there with the fish awaiting transport to Melbourne by train on Monday mornings.”

I now have a family of my own and together, we enjoy spending time at Woolley’s Beach. Taking in the tranquillity and appreciating the natural environment of indigenous vegetation.
There has already been so much irreversible damage to this area due to industrialisation. My family and I are passionate about preserving our natural environment and protecting it from being destroyed as an outcome of short-sighted greed.

Habitat & Home, Where The heart Is by Chloe Farmer

Habitat & Home, Where The heart Is by Chloe Farmer

Western Port Bay is a place sacred to me. It holds a special place in my heart. I have lived in Somers, Flinders and Shoreham, and in recent years returned from bayside Melbourne to Balnarring.

Like a holdfast tethering strands of seaweed in underwater forests, this place anchors the many threads woven throughout my life. Experiences, memories, connections…personal, family, community…social, environmental, artistic, spiritual.

And I know this is not unique to me. People from communities around Western Port Bay, and beyond, hold similar sentiments. People are connected to place, not separate from it. Our stories, our lives, are inextricably woven with the lands and waters.

For many thousands of years the Boon Wurrung peoples of the Kulin Nation, have sung up these lands and waters with their stories, living in sacred balance, with great reverence and care for Country.

Western Port Bay is a place of unique charm, natural beauty and clean, clear living waters. A place of international ecological significance. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with Ramsar wetlands, and three marine national parks located within its boundaries. A haven for wildlife, shores where migratory birds return. The Bay’s varied habitats host an abundance of diverse species, some endemic, like the magical Weedy Seadragon.

For me, walking the shoreline is a never-ending source of artistic inspiration, a soul nourishing practice of contemplation and communion. I marvel at the cycles alive in the changing tides, colours of the skies and waters. It continues to fill me with wonder and teach me about the miraculous web of life.

I feel great sadness that unpolluted wild places are rapidly shrinking all over the world. Oceans are polluted and overfished. Land and waterways poisoned. Humans continue to plunder and destroy so much of our environment in the name of ‘progress’, the consumption of resources, and the pursuit of money – to feed an insatiable ‘machine’.

Places like Western Port Bay are precious. They are irreplaceable. Priceless. To threaten to harm them is irresponsible, unconscionable and sacrilegious. Companies such as AGL show their greed, short-sightedness and blatant disregard by continuing to invest in infrastructure for fossil fuels in the midst of a Climate Emergency.

This place is home to many more species than humans. We are part of a complex ecosystem that has functions and needs beyond ours. It is our duty to care for, not our entitlement to plunder. We must protect places like Western Port Bay, before it’s too late.

For future generations. For the dolphins, whales, seals, fish, sharks, penguins, birds, koalas, seagrass beds, mangroves and indigenous flora, for the myriad forms in the web of life that call this place Home.

Minna’s Story

Minna’s Story

I grew up in Balnarring but have lived in Coburg North for the last 6 years. I am lucky enough to still be connected and able to visit my parents (pre Covid lockdown) at this beachside paradise that I will always call home. It has always been a great pleasure and honour to share this special coastline with fellow travellers, and my loved ones over the years. I have many stories I could tell. Like the morning after my wedding day, when my husband and I felt the urgency to begin our own unique adventures as a wedded couple. Boarding a deflating blow up boat at Balnarring Beach, we rapidly gained speed, drifting out towards Philip Island. We began to realize the potential risk of our situation, witnessing all our most beloved lining the beach in distress. With panic rising, we started to paddle as fast as we could to shore, when my husband asked me in alarm, ‘Are there sharks here?’ Having noticed large shadows under our boat we quickly recognised the dolphins, who, once we arrived at shore exhibited a twirling display for us. We have since shared these same beaches with our two young children, exploring the rock pools for crabs and rolling in the waves.

It is through my distance from it that I have begun to understand more deeply the grounding that this place has offered me throughout my life. In particular, Merricks Beach is a place that I long for, and even visit in my imagination, for respite and nourishment. With the caves and coastal banksias, the memories of swimming with stingrays and in storms, this beach in particular, has offered me many moments of rapture. The beach stretching from Balnarring to Merricks, and less frequently to Somers, has soothed my soul. Even on colder days, a quick dip in the salty bay is enough to enliven the body; nestling my feet in the sand and allowing the wind to whip my worries away while I watch as the sunset welcomes the calm of night.

In moments of heart ache and sorrow the waves have soothed me. Their rhythm and consistency have reminded me that the world will continue to turn, even in times of pain and suffering. These same waves remind me that these are the unceded lands and waters of the Bunurong (Boon Wurrung) people; this bay can offer unconditional nourishment for generations to come, as it has so done for thousands of generations before.

I wonder who are the decision makers here, and how can they better honour the rightful custodians of these lands and waterways? In the name of ‘progress’ AGL offer yet another effort to dislocate and disregard our right and responsibility to a healthy ecosystem. While I hold hope, I also sit with dread for how much more could be destroyed before it’s realised we have lost too much.

Anne Tillig’s Heart Story

Anne Tillig’s Heart Story

My connection to Western Port Bay started in 1996 when we purchased land fronting the bay.  Elizabeth Island is now my home.  I feel lucky to wake up to the sight of Western Port Bay all around me, every day. 

Most days I circumnavigate the island in my pedal paddle kayak.  It takes just under an hour.  Then I jump in and swim for a while.  This connects me intimately to the water, the shoreline and the birdlife and leaves me feeling alive.

The bay is a special place that rewards for spending time with it.  Day by day it grows on you.  It doesn’t show its splendour at first.  It wants you to slow down, stop and be with it a while.  Over time you get to know its tidal shoreline.  Orange lichened rocks, ancient sandstone, pebbles, sand, mudflats that become lakes with the tides.  The shoreline has rockpools and mangroves with pink pigface and other plants with names like bidgee-widgee and beaded glasswort.  Fish of all sorts nurture their young amongst the mangroves.  In the bay are gummy sharks, King George whiting, snapper, Australian salmon.  We pluck oysters from the rocks and eat them fresh.  Pacific gulls and oyster catchers sit atop shoreline rocks, looking like they’re standing on water.  Herons and spoonbills stalk around the mudflats finding food.  Swallows, wrens and willy-wagtails eat the insects on land.

You can tell it’s a delicate balance of interwoven life.

I am horrified and aggrieved that any government would allow a private company to irreparably destroy our beautiful natural resources for their short-term gains.

My home, Elizabeth Island, and the bay, belong together.  The bay is integral to my life and my wellbeing.  I will soon be publishing a book about my relationship to this special place.  I want to share with you an excerpt from my upcoming book, which is about that relationship.  Elizabeth Island has grounded me and given me a sense of place.  The bay is integral to that.  This excerpt describes my first encounter with the island.

‘Half-dried sea grass lined the high-water mark.  It sat in a continuous line atop a shore of partially submerged brown pebbles and rocks. Shells washed smooth by the tides were caught in the browned sea grass.  Through the lifting light clouds, the sun warmed the brown and grey burnt sea grass salty bath to barely visible steam and marshy odours.

We ventured into the tussock grass above the shoreline, nervous about what might lie under the thick grass.  Two black swans glided past, poking out their necks at us, as if wondering what we were doing in their territory.  Other sea birds squawked and landed on the rocks.

I could tell this was a unique and special place.

Michael returned to the boat, concerned about the fast-running tide.  He got us all aboard and the boys pulled up anchor.

We began to circumnavigate the island, approaching the northern point.  We could see less than half a metre of water under the boat.  The fast receding tide forced us back. 

That was my first encounter with Elizabeth Island.  Tides ruled.  Back then I’d fancied myself as close to nature.  Many years on, I marvel at what slowly unfolded:  an engagement with that island and surrounding seas that brought me into a dance with nature I could never have imagined. 

The feel and direction of the winds, the heaviness of the rain, the height and direction of tidal flow, the seasons, moonlight, cloud cover, sunlight.  The response of the sea between the island and the mainland to daily, monthly and yearly cycles of the sun and moon – this all determined decisions about where and how to be, explore or do, on and around the island. 

Having so squeezed me into Elizabeth Island time, the surrounding sea would dance its moods to my passage on or off land.’

Westernport Bay surrounds my home and greets me with stunning vistas every day.  It is my home.

On most important things that happen or are about to happen around the bay, the instigators reach out to locals.  I have not seen this happening from AGL in the same way.  I am not aware of organised engagement by AGL with residents.  It is indicative of a disregard for the people and place they are impacting.  I wonder how much our government has engendered in them that stance.

I guess it’s difficult to comprehend that you would have to tell this to a government.  Of course, this proposed project will destroy our valuable bay and its delicate ecological balance. 

This development is on the other side of the bay to me, so I won’t see the visual impact.  I can’t imagine how it would be for anyone who walks that shoreline, to have to look at a large gas platform like that.  But I know the ecology of the bay is so interconnected, and we as humans are so interconnected, that I will notice the impact over on this side.  I have already noticed the effects of climate change.  There are fewer insects on the island now, and this means fewer land birds.  The special sea birds that used to be around feeding off the mudflats seem to have disappeared, replaced by hardier breeds.

We are already seeing the impact of climate change on our planet and our local environment.  It is a result of putting big business ahead of smart connected communities in healthy environments.  We want a government that will recognise what matters and put people and our environment first.  A government that approves this AGL project will not get my vote.

Anne Tillig

 

 

Save Westernport by John Butler

Save Westernport by John Butler

John has sent us this message:
‘To all the Victorian family who are doing it tough with COVID I’m sending you my love and prayers right now.
 
I was asked by some locals in Westernport Bay to help get their message out about protecting their beloved home.
 
These are very complex and turbulent times but we can’t let the fossil fuel industry use this moment as a massive chess game strategy to twist our state and federal governments arms to their will. If ANYTHING these already established resource companies, that have massively profited off the back of our nation, making BILLIONS of dollars every quarter, should be TAXED at least as much as I am to help with the economic fall out of COVID.
 
Here’s what the @savewesternport group would like you to know :
 
Save Westernport says AGL’s plan is an environmental and social disaster.
Right now it’s still just a plan. But AGL’s Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is now
up for public comment and it’s time to say
NO!
 
AGL is using its EES to get state government approval for it’s cancerous plan. AGL will say it can manage risks to people and the environment. AGL’s track record says otherwise.
From a 6,000 litre sulphuric acid leak to an ash slurry overflow into endangered woodlands, the company has left too much environmental wreckage in its wake.
But AGL doesn’t get it.
 
They don’t care that Westernport communities have said NO! to bad ideas for over 50 years.
So what have our communities stopped? A uranium enrichment plant on French Island; a petro-chemical plant destined to discharge waste into the ocean through a pipeline
crossing Phillip Island; the gouging of kilometre after kilometre of shorelines to make wharves
for heavy industry; a huge container terminal that stood to kill the bay’s sensitive wetlands;
aluminium smelters and processing for paper and zinc.
 
The list goes on.
 
Save Westernport has talked with thousands of locals, and we know what you want. You want
a real say about what happens in your towns and communities. You want a clean bay that’s
safe for the people, businesses and wildlife that rely on it. You want an economy that protects
the beauty and promise of this incredible place.’
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Brian’s Story

Brian’s Story

My affinity with Westernport Bay began in earnest about 1969 when I started a Diploma of Teaching at Frankston Teacher’s College, now the Frankston campus of Monash University. Before this I used to stay for the odd weekend at the “Shacks”, which were well put together humpies at the back of the sand dunes at Point Leo. Life Savers and surfers used these shacks to be close to the beach and do what they really enjoyed, surf. I met blokes like Sandy Mc Kendrick, Gus and Robbie Tankard who remain long-time friends.

While I was at Teacher’s College I met Paul Trigger, Graham Quail, Murray “Wogs” Walding and Tidal wave Ted Bainbridge. We formed a tight little surfing group that would take every opportunity to skip lectures and go surfing when the swell was up. We surfed all the known beaches of Westernport but we also surfed new places like Balnarring Point, Merricks and the Farm at Flinders. It was probably the boards we had in those days that made these places seem like jewels of the bay. A bloke called Alan “Wally” Tibbals lived for a short time in Somers and we started surfing another place when the swell was big, Somers River mouth. Another friend I made was Keith “Atlas” Robinson, who, being a goofy foot, was always looking for a wave that broke left. He found it at the Pines in Shoreham and surfed it regularly. Of course we called this break Atlas.

The lure of the beach was too much for me and I moved to Carisbrooke Street in Balnarring and rented a house with some mates. Unknown to me at the time there was a family who used to camp on their block behind the house us blokes lived in. The daughter in that family was Mandy Palmer and she is now my life partner.
Westernport Bay has always been a jewel, with a country feel and a slower pace. It hasn’t changed all that much. Mind you, sitting in the “cave” at Merricks Point watching the bay and eating a chicken pie from Mrs Pickler’s or going into the old Balnarring General Store for food may have disappeared, but if you search hard, that same feeling of country can be satisfied.

After I graduated from Teacher’s College I moved to the Otways and taught at Lavers Hill. I got married and thought I would settled down on the rugged South West Coast of Victoria. When my son Simon was born though we thought it best to move back to family and conveniences. So Westernport Bay here I come again! We lived in Bittern when it was very rural and it was here that I got very involved with the late Councillor Lorna Bennett and the late Brian Cummins. We were quite political and had paddle outs at the Crib Point refinery attempting to stop them from polluting our bay. Brian was an inspirational man and I’m sure his spirit is with us in this new campaign against AGL and its gas plan.

I furthered my studies and got a Diploma in Outdoor Education which had an academic focus on the environment. Doctor Leon Costermon was one of my lecturers and it wasn’t long before I was studying Westernport Bay and its vegetation both around the bay and in the water. The white mangrove was fascinating to me and my major evaluative work was spent on this species and its crucial relationship to our bay.

I have always been involved with the community around Westernport Bay and was either a teacher or principal in Hastings for over 30 years. This lead to many experiences and chances to promote the area and our school was always involved with many environmental and community programs.

2.
Serendipity has played its role and I now find myself living back in Balnarring with my partner Mandy. We have built a new home and we love it here. Because we are both now retired we have the opportunity to walk the beaches, swim, surf and thoroughly enjoy the whole bay environment. It has become quite a spiritual or meaningful place for us. I will never forget Mandy bathing in the soothing waters every day after her radiation treatment for an unexpected cancer which was a little hiccup for us. Mandy’s parents were long time Balnarring residents and they chose to have their ashes sprinkled into the bay. It’s not uncommon for us to visit this quiet spot and watch 2 dolphins at play. I’m sure everyone sees the dolphins but we like to think we have a special connection. We find the bay comforting and emotional, in a good way! To us, the bay has an essence of the cycle of life.

I still surf as much as I can even though my body has let me down a bit. I have crook hips and knees so my son Simon has shaped me a board I lie on. He calls it the GS….the Gut Slider! It keeps me in the water and my special moments are still connected with the waves of the Peninsula, but in particular, Westernport Bay. My friends are still here and they have selected this area to live because of the bay. It’s still clean and alive and has a huge impact on all of our lives. I believe I have lived in some great times and have experienced some wonderful moments in the water both with my son Simon and my friends. I now want my grandchildren to have the same opportunity to experience some of the joys the bay has given me. Mandy and I want our ashes spread in the bay to become part of this magical place and I sure as Hell don’t want to share the water with the pollutants from a floating AGL gas factory.

Brian Forward

[photo: Rory McGinley]

Warren Cooke’s Heart Story for Westernport

Warren Cooke’s Heart Story for Westernport

I don’t ‘use’ Westernport, it actually gives to me. I find a sense of wholeness when I connect to the natural beauty of this place through art making, swimming, surfing, sailing and beach walks with family and friends. I also do my best to give back to it, by collecting rubbish, protesting as needed and by honouring this place in my art practice.

Westernport is a place of great beauty to admire and marvel at throughout the seasons; grand coastal banksias and mangroves, undulating waters, dolphins, shore birds and migratory birds as they feast along the waterline. It is a sanctuary. It is home to an internationally recognised RAMSAR wetland and for many creatures, both land-based and marine, it is their nursery and home.

AGL is being dishonest with Australians, claiming that we need a gas terminal for their imported gas. This is blatantly not true. With climate change upon us, any proposed energy plans must be both clean and renewable. Gas is neither of these.

During their proposed regassification process, AGL’s gas terminal will pump millions of litres of chlorinated sea water into Westernport – dead water, on a daily basis. The loss of microscopic life is like the tip of a spear which would harm all of the fauna and flora that live here. We cannot think that we are separate to that damage, it will affect humans too.

My heart is heavy at the prospect that AGL could go ahead with this proposal. The loss is not only for the close community who reside around Westernport but to all the living things. We must continue to stand as a community, loud and strong against projects such as these.

With climate change upon us, it is more important now than ever.

Warren Cooke
@artbycooke

Heart Story and Poem from Rory McGinley

Heart Story and Poem from Rory McGinley

My message for AGL

Warn-mar-in (Westernport bay)

One sky
One humble bay
Blue-grey water
Time too far away
If you could just leave now
We could all stay

The sea
Is enough for all of us
Silver wave, beach, fallen tree
A foreign island
Just let us be

Shore scrub, simple sand
Innocent tide, needless land
Cleansing our unwashed hands
Humble waves surge
How could you so misunderstand

Bird song, fish
Cormorants gather
Low tide, the pure sands shift
The eddy’s fill the pools
In the morning mist

Herons fly above
Dolphins swim free
Whales dance
Without fear, the children
play on the quay

The tea-tree maze, greets
The beach, the healing waves
Across my heart this untouched water
Must be left alone
Or the gods will bring, the end of days

Rory Shaw McGinley, Crib Point July the 5th 2020


Rory’s Story

We came here from St Kilda because we no longer wanted to live in the clutter of the city. I didn’t really want to come, but I did. What it’s done has changed my life. My lifestyle has totally changed. I go to the beach most days and swim all year round.
When I found the beach, I found a reason for being here and I believe that God lives I Merricks beach. That’s why I go and see him every day.

It strips me back to who I am, to who I really am, barefoot. It gives you a connection to the heart. Merricks Beach is a lovely place. It’s always beautiful, but at low tide it’s especially beautiful. There’s a kind of metaphor there for being uncovered, the bareness of low tide, baring all of who you are. There it is, warts and all, like it or not kind of thing.

You see dolphins down there. A whole lot of shorebirds, eagles … it’s just beautiful, beautiful bush at the back of the beach as well. You get rid of all that crap from what you do. I work in construction. I work in multi storey buildings. It’s such a contrast being at Merricks Beach in a pair of bathers. It’s the other end of the world.

What I really l like about Western Port bay is the kind of humility it has. It’s not beckoning people like the south of France, the Riviera, or even Port Phillip Bay with its hype, really. Western Port Bay just sits there quietly being beautiful. It’s a very simple kind of bay with French Island right in the middle of it. For me it’s the innocence and humility it has and that’s why it doesn’t need anything else added to it.

I love Wooley’s Beach. It’s a great place to go and sit and contemplate. I love the contrast there with the mangroves, the wetlands compared to the beaches you get further down the bay. Crib Point’s just a lovely little haven really. A place where you can get away from it all. Once again, it’s humble.

It doesn’t need any complications. It doesn’t need to be added to with a great, ugly FSRU.

At first, I didn’t think much about AGLs proposal. Then I started reading some of the initial environmental studies and found out that they’re going to use the water from the bay to evaporate the liquified gas. They are going to create chlorine for the electrical reaction system, to keep the heat exchange clean and pump that back into to the bay, at a temperature 6 to 7 degrees lower than it would have been when it got drawn in. There’s a whole eco system there and now it’s 6 degrees lower and stinks of chlorine! Things began to mount, and I realised, this is wrong it’s totally wrong.

I think a lot of people are ignoring the potential for a very bad accident as well. This a huge vessel and it’s full of liquified natural gas. If that goes off, if we were sitting here, which is 800 meters maybe a kilometre from it, it would be the end of it. It’s got such potential for an environmental disaster. That’s what really worries me.

If I was sitting across from the politicians, I’d say, ‘You need to come for a walk with me to Merricks Beach. Come with me for a ride around the bay and then tell me you want to dig a bigger trench because the shipping lane’s got to be widened, you want to bring in 12 to 40 more liquified gas carrier ships a year and you want to shove this horrible great thing in Crib Point, near my house. Come with me for a ride around the bay and see if you still want to do it.’

They wouldn’t know what Westernport is. Most people, they say, ‘Where do you live?’ and I say, ‘Crib Point.’ And they say, ‘Where’s that?’ I like it that way. I would show them the diversity of flora and fauna that exists in the little biosphere. Let them see. Why would you want to change this, make it different? We’re kind of devoluting evolution. We’ve done enough to the planet. Let’s leave the rest alone. What we’ve got left of it we are ruining.

Our beautiful Bay. That’s what I’d be showing them.

I was born in London and came here when I was 13 and even in England, we were always moving houses. We came to Australia and moved houses 2 or 3 times again and I have lived in 3 different places around St Kilda, for example, before we moved here. Even though when I go to London, I really have that sense of place, I’ve also found it here. There’s more to life than the day to day samsara, more to life than living and working in the city, with all the great cafes and restaurants.

I know I belong. This is where I belong. It’s a good place to stay and see it out. It’s grounded me. It’s made me see the world from a different point of view.

The Le Fevre Family’s Heart Story

The Le Fevre Family’s Heart Story

We are looking back through 15 years worth of family photos camping at Balnarring and trying to find the essence of what is so special about this place for us.

Our kids aged, about 9 and 12, seeing dolphins for the first time, swimming close by as they sailed out on the catamaran. Seeing a humpback whale another time.
The queue of about 10 other kids waiting their turn to go out on said catamaran.

Getting lost on a bush track coming back from the beautiful Coolart Wetlands, talking to my dear friend the whole way and not worried that it is was getting dark.
Trying to draw the dear Fairy Wrens, who are too fast, flitting in and out of the sheoaks.

Swimming at midnight under a full moon, feeling safe in this protected Bay.
While the adults were playing games beside the camp lights, the kids were running around the bush, getting muddy in the creek. Something they will never forget. We had talent shows. We sang together. We sat on the beach feeling like no time would ever pass and this stunningly divine place would stay the same forever and we would look forward to bringing our grandchildren here.

We want the shoreline and the vista to stay pristine and gorgeous as it is now, to be able to see across to Phillip and French Islands. We don’t want to have to apologise to our grandchildren for not doing enough and letting industry spoil something so precious to us, and the flora and fauna of the area. It simply must not happen.

From the Le Fevre Family, submitted by Jo Roszkowski