Reflections- Growing up in Somers ~ by Sue Byrne

Reflections- Growing up in Somers ~ by Sue Byrne

Three generations of our family have lived in Somers. Pa, Ron Stone, built the General Store in 1927. Mum and her brothers grew up there and we grew up across the road.

Growing up in Somers on Westernport Bay was wonderful. Dirt roads, a few cars and
a small population. Families became extended families, looking out for each other.

As kids we explored the bush and beach, the rockpools and sea life. I learnt to swim in the bay with aunty Bren holding my waist, telling me to kick and float as waves washed over us. Terrifying at first but I grew to love swimming and the sea.

We enjoyed family picnics on the beach especially during warm still evenings after closing the store. The dads enjoyed spotlight fishing. We were allowed to go occasionally. Garfish were the main fish caught, (so many bones!).

The summers were a buzz with visitors, and new friends to play with at the beach; water-skiing, sailing, swimming, snorkelling, paddle boarding etc. We rolled down sand dunes and built cubbies in the bush. We were blessed to see dolphins silently cruising and joyfully playing with humans and dogs.

We’ve watched the changes to the beach landscape; erosion, shifting sands, rock walls and groins.

As we drift off to sleep, the sound of waves lashing or lapping on the shore is very soothing.

The bay is abundant with sea creatures and birdlife. There was much to learn. We also learnt to respect the bay and her moods.

It would be so devastating to have AGL interrupt the serenity and pristine eco system of Westernport Bay with such huge infrastructure and commercial destruction.

I pray they stay away.

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]

Westernport Bay Heart Story by Vicky Karitinos

Westernport Bay Heart Story by Vicky Karitinos

What’s in a name like “Westernport Bay”? An unpretentious name, perhaps even somewhat unremarkable.  A name you would be forgiven for passing over when planning your next camping or fishing trip, day outing, walk, photographic excursion, swim.  But oh! it’s a name that belies the world that is Westernport – Warn Marring.

Hop in the car, on the train and bus, or on your bike! Let’s go!  

You’ll find the journey itself feels like traveling through a portal to another time – a journey which takes you across the magnificent vistas of Mornington Peninsula, which together with Westernport Bay is one of our nation’s 9 UNESCO biospheres and a RAMSAR site of international ecological importance.  Yes, you know this in your head, but as you make your way, you’ve noticed a melting away, a release of tension as your shoulders soften, your breath slows and deepens. You may feel somewhat mesmerised by the gentle undulating land through which you travel.

You may not know it right now, but this is a journey you’ll relish with the greatest anticipation, for all of your life.  A journey which you’ll want to share with those you love most.  A journey you’ll be drawn to make – like a migratory bird – throughout the seasons.  

After the picturesque drive you’ll arrive, catching a glimpse of her waters, sometimes cerulean, sometimes ultramarine blue.  You’ll feel surprisingly relaxed after your journey, because there won’t have been miles of traffic and bottlenecks to hinder your way, and you may feel a fleeting curiosity about the absence of congestion.  Then you’ll take that first step out.  You’ll step out under the spacious skies above Westernport Bay, you’ll walk to the shoreline anywhere between Flinders and the Nobbies at Philip Island.  You will be transformed, renewed and never the same.  

What do I mean by transformed, you ask?

Well, at a glance you will appreciate the quiet beauty. But if you spend a little more time, linger and gaze out across the Bay, it won’t be long before you grow to know that you have arrived in a place of great mystery and sacredness.  At first you may find it difficult to put into words, the all pervasiveness of the deep “something” that you sense.  This “something” you will feel compelled to find words to describe, to convey to others.  Perhaps you’ll say “Westernport Bay has cast a spell” over you.  

Is it the light at a certain time of day – the pastel muted colours shimmering on the water – pink, purple, mauve, soft blue? Is it the enormous fluffy clouds floating just above the horizon, reflecting their white light on the waters below?  You may ask yourself, “how is it the clouds themselves have a luminosity that lights up the calm Bay beneath them, and makes it glow white?”.  You thought this mastery over the water was reserved for the heavenly bodies of Sun and Moon, not the lowly clouds!  And yet, at Westernport Bay, you will find the clouds reflect a pathway to you standing on the shore there!

You will most certainly take a walk. Perhaps across a long sandy beach where the red capped plover nests, fringed by thick coastal woodland, wetland and dotted with banksia. Or by the banks of a hidden tidal creek where you’ll hear frogs, reedwarblers, yellow robins, superb fairy wrens and honey eaters, and you’ll make a mental note to bring binoculars next time.  Perhaps you’ll stroll along a low boardwalk beside gentle sea meadows, salt marshes and mangroves marvelling at the resident or migratory wading birds. You’ll gaze out over the swathes of rich fertile mudflats which nourish them. Perhaps you’ll traverse a high boardwalk hugging the rugged windswept cape where fairy penguins roost. You may meander a sandy track beneath the steady gaze of 500-year-old Moonah trees on one of the Bay’s National Parks. Or wander the sand dunes overlooking a glistening surf beach beckoning, or tip toe across shiny black volcanic rock pools at low tide.  

What you’ll notice is that every terrestrial and celestial thing is full, abounding with a gentle benevolence. Teeming with life, the abundance both soothes and enlivens your senses. You feel held and embraced without having to ask.  You feel comforted by the stillness, the quiet.  You come to understand this deep peace and profound stillness is what nurtures a gazillion birds at the end of their long journey from the Arctic and allows the marine life to thrive.  The benevolence of the Bay is palpable. It’s in the air, on the breeze off the water, in every aspect – so much so, you start to understand you are a part of the deep, generous web of life you’ve found here. You will inhale the goodness deeply, and you’ll exhale deeply.  You will take it all in – and let go.   

You won’t feel small or overwhelmed. You’ll feel in communion as with a dear friend, welcomed by the full and generous place that is Westernport Bay.

You will see groups of people quietly walking, fishing, sailing, beachcombing, talking – unpretentious. Everything feels perfectly balanced. Everyone seems to share in the deep knowing, which, like you, they have found here. 

You may feel you have woken in a dream, with a sense of place so magical, you could be walking through the pages of a picture book you read as a child.

You come to understand Westernport Bay’s uniqueness.

Our children knew it too, because they felt safe to wander freely in the Bay’s gentle snug circular lap, comforted by long slender land arms they could see across the water. They banded together to explore, inspired by the sense of wonder and adventure they developed here, unperturbed. They delighted in covering themselves from ankles to earlobes in an impervious layer of thick pasty mud from the “crater” at the creek and paraded in sheer joy their mud-suits. They kayaked alongside playful dolphins and dared each other to swim to the orange buoys floating offshore, noticing the distance of the swim varied according to the tides.  They set off in the mornings to explore rock pools and they trekked together to the high dunes in the baking heat, mid-Summer, and found respite in the cool sand beneath the dense dune scrub, rewarding themselves with a game of hide and seek in the network of verdant tunnels.  

If you want to give a gift to those you love most, this is it. The gift of the internationally recognised magnificent ecological, natural wonder that is Westernport Bay – home to infinite precious wildlife.  A gift that will stay in your heart always to nourish you throughout the days and weeks, months and years.  And if you thought someone may take this precious gift and degrade, tarnish, destroy it, would you allow that to happen?

There are many things I wish to ask our politicians, however all of them can be summed up by just one question asked of me, this week, by my soon-to-be-18-year-old daughter who is in year 12. I pose her question to the politicians, because I was unable to find a plausible answer to give her.  So, on behalf of my daughter, I ask “How can the government possibly let this happen (allow AGL to do business) in a RAMSAR site of international importance?  How can such a thing ever be allowed?”.  I would appreciate a response to give her.

 

 

 

World Wetlands Day 2020

World Wetlands Day 2020

Today is World Wetlands Day and Save Westernport celebrates all things wetlands as one of the most precious ecosystems on our planet.

We must all do everything we can to protect, preserve and enhance our wonderful wetlands.

On this day we call out to everyone to ensure no more wetlands are threatened and to ensure that proposed threats like the AGL Floating gas plant at Crib Point in Westernport bay are rejected.

Tell AGL you do not support their plans, tell your local Member of Parliament and tell your friends to boycott AGL.

Sign our Petition

Sign the pledge to boycott AGL

Celebrate our wetlands

Mangroves of Westernport Bay Video by Green Collar Productions

Mangroves of Westernport Bay from Green Collar Productions on Vimeo.

Created by Green Collar Productions in support of community group, Save Westernport. These mangroves are an essential ecosystem providing carbon sequestration, coastal stabilisation and home to at least 30 species of migratory birds. They are culturally significant and are considered a Ramsar listed wetlands and UNESCO Biosphere reserve. AGL is threatening this habitat and our community by proposing to moor a 17 storey, 300m regasification factory in our bay, within this wetlands. It could be moored for 20 years. These mangroves are located approximately 1km from where I grew up, spent time as a child and learnt about nature. This is where I continue to spend time as an adult. Because these mangroves cannot speak, I decided to make a film about them to show how precious they are.