90 students joined some special guests at a coastal forum in Torquay this week to celebrate of a year of coastal conservation achievements.
Year nine students from four regional schools came together at the environmental education forum which is held each year as part of the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Coast Guardians Program.
GORCC Community Liaison Manager Jane Rowlands said the forum celebrated the significant contribution the students have made over the past year to the local coastal environment.
“The day included interactive activities and challenges, prominent guest speakers, student presentations and prizes and giveaways.
This year’s guest speakers and special guests included:
• Wathaurung aboriginal elder Bryon Powell
• Phil Armato: manager of Marine and Freshwater Discovery Centre for Fisheries Victoria. Previously worked at the RSPCA and Zoos Victoria.
• Dr Kate Charlton-Robb: founding director and principal researcher at the Australian Marine Mammal Conservation Foundation. Researcher, lecturer, campaigner, and discoverer of the unique species of Port Phillip Bay Dolphins called Burrunan Dolphins.
The day has been designed to increase and extend understanding on topics students have covered over the last twelve months including aboriginal culture, coastal animals and plants and threats to and management of, the natural coastal environment.
“We hope that these Coast Guardians will now graduate to become ongoing ambassadors for our beautiful and fragile coast,” said Ms.Rowlands.
Students received thank you gift packs donated by Quiksilver and, spot prizes donated by other local businesses.
“GORCC thanks Quiksilver and other local businesses for supporting this very special program and for recognising the achievements of these students who are making a very real difference to the environment.
The GORCC Coast Guardians Program sees four schools take ownership of the rehabilitation and conservation of four sites. Schools involved are:
• Lorne Aireys P-12 College
• Geelong Lutheran College
• Northern Bay College
• Surf Coast Secondary College
“This is a long term program where students, mainly year 9s, look after a specific site between Torquay and Lorne over 5 years.
“The Coast Guardians Program aims to relate work undertaken on the ground to the school curriculum, linking to subjects such as science, outdoor education and community volunteering,” said Ms. Rowlands.
Students from four regional schools came together to celebrate a year of coastal conservation achievements at an environmental forum held in Torquay last week.
The educational event formed part of the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) Coast Guardians Program and included environmental activities, guest speakers and student presentations.
Geelong Lutheran College Middle School Co-Ordinator Georgia Quirk said the forum highlighted the importance and impact of the students’ year of environmental work.
“It was great to see the students come together with the other schools in the program, and realise that what they have done has a larger purpose.
“Together we can achieve a whole lot more and it was wonderful to see our students interacting with others by take part in this community endeavour,” Ms Quirk said.
Participants learnt about indigenous foods, protecting and caring for wildlife, the impact of marine debris on our environment and were encouraged to consider environmental volunteering and future careers in conservation.
GORCC Conservation Officer Georgina Beale said the forum acknowledged the students’ hard work and contribution to maintaining the coastal environment.
“The students have assisted us to protect and enhance the natural environment and supported the incredible work of local environmental volunteer groups,” said Ms. Beale.
The program covered a range of environmental topics integrated with hands-on activities such as weeding, planting and erosion prevention.
Geelong Lutheran College, Northern Bay P-12 College and Lorne-Aireys Inlet P-12 College and Surf Coast Secondary College Students took part in the Coast Guardians Program for 2012.
Each school took ownership of the rehabilitation and conservation of a coastal site with the help of GORCC’s conservation team and supported by local volunteer groups including ANGAIR, Friends of Queens Park and Torquay Coast Action.
Students involved ranged from years 7-10 from four schools. The activities the students undertook this year helped to increase awareness of environmental issues and encouraged social responsibility and environmental stewardship and it is hoped that participants will be able to walk along that section of coast in years to come and see the results of their hard work.
The program is additional to GORCC’s general Environmental Education Activities Program and is provided free of charge to the schools involved.
Stand at Point Addis and look east to Port Phillip Heads in the distance. Gaze west along the coast to the Split Point lighthouse at Aireys Inlet. Look across the southern ocean and glimpse gannets diving or swallows swooping past the cliff face.
Spectacular Point Addis and the Ironbark Basin are fairly new additions to the Great Otway National Park but they have been important to people for thousands of years.
The importance of the area is evidenced by the middens that have been found in the Basin. Middens are the remains of meals of shellfish once gathered and eaten by Aboriginal people. These middens show that the Wathaurong people feasted on the sea bounty available here thousands of years ago.
Unfortunately the area’s more recent popularity has put increasing pressure on this fragile but beautiful and diverse environment, already scoured by wind and wave. Some older locals remember driving their cars onto Addiscott beach to go surfing and swimming although fortunately beach access is now only by foot on a new boardwalk and steps.
The work of volunteers in the area has become integral to its wellbeing. The Friends of Point Addis (FOPA) formed around the time that Point Addis became a Marine National Park in late 2002. Under the passionate guidance of Lynne Flakemore, the group embarked on cliff top revegetation, intertidal monitoring of the shore species, film nights and disseminating information to the public.
In the past two years, FOPA have worked closely with Parks Victoria which now manages the Ironbark Basin and Point Addis. Rip Curl and Quicksilver have also given invaluable support to the group.
Working bees have included a ‘Boneseed Blitz in the Basin’, weed eradication, plantings of indigenous species on degraded areas, mulching and fencing to protect against rabbits.
Members have also been on “rock pool rambles” and participated in the Great Victorian Fish Count to assist in monitoring marine species at the Jarosite Reef at the eastern end of Addiscott Beach.
Warning to visitors: stop the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi!
The group has turned its attention to the dangers posed by Phytophthora or Cinnamon Fungus as it was once commonly referred to. The FOPA is calling for all visitors to the area to be aware of the damage caused by the Phytophthora which can be spread by walkers and bike-riders. You can avoid the spread of this disease by sticking to the designated track signs and keeping their dogs on a lead.
An invitation to all those passionate about the area:
Many of us who love and respect the coast also acknowledge and respect the role that Indigenous Australians have played in its history over the past 25,000 years and the ongoing relationship that they share with the land as traditional custodians.
The Wathaurong people were our coast’s original settlers and land managers, arriving on what is now the Great Ocean Road coast long before us non-indigenous folk.
They ranged across the land, according to seasonal food sources, ceremonial obligations and trading relationships, with the coast offering them a rich supply of fish and other marine-based food sources.
As the first residents and coast managers, the Wathaurong conscientiously managed the land by building substantial houses, cultivating root vegetables and promoting grasslands through the use of controlled winter fire to promote the best conditions for plants and game while eliminating the risk of wildfire in summer.
One can still find evidence of their footprints along the coast today. Midden sites (pictured), for example, are quite common and are generally recognisable by a collection of several different types of shells (e.g. abalone, mussels, oysters, limpets, periwinkle, pippis) plus evidence of burning such as pieces of charcoal.
To ensure our precious Indigenous cultural heritage is protected and conserved, the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee has recently started work on a Cultural Heritage Management Plan.
The plan is being prepared in partnership with local Aboriginal representative groups and will help us to identify and conserve important cultural sites along the coast. It will also provide a sound foundation for bringing our coast’s cultural heritage to life through education and interpretation.
In this way, we hope to honour the Wathaurong people of the past, present and future, and to share their stories with you.
(Note: Indigenous languages are orally-based and spelling of names and words can vary. The use of Wathaurong in this blog is one of several ways the name can be spelt.)