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.