Next steps to realising our future

The forum generated various ideas for the next steps that could be taken towards realising our future aspirations as coast carers. These ideas could be grouped into four key themes.

In the conversations we have from now onwards, we need to:

  • continue to talk about the BIG questions that we hold and find ways of communicating the key messages simply – with each other and with others (e.g. Why is our work important? What does it matter?)
  • create opportunities for more conversations between our community and the various agencies involved in coast care
  • look for opportunities where people are gathering to talk about related topics (e.g. fire management) and draw links to our purpose and activities, and
  • reframe the language we use when communicating with others (e.g. refer to ‘vegetation’ as ‘habitat’ – see Birds Australia publications for good examples of simple, accessible language).

We also need to use the stories we share as a foundation to:

  • create an ‘interpretive story’ for visitors to experience on the soon-to-be-built Surf Coast Walk
  • set a mission that everyone shares the stories (i.e. what we do and why) with as many people as we can and then invite them to join us in taking action
  • capture and share the great stories that we all know about (and start to actively collect these stories in words, photos and video), and
  • use our broader network to create its own online space that is accessible and simple, and allows local groups to upload and share stories, photos, event details, questions and video.

In the work we do together, we can start to:

  • fund and prioritise ongoing monitoring programs to inform our learning and outcomes
  • make our activities more visible to other people, starting with working bees and other activities on the Great Ocean Road (Note: during the forum, Coast Action/Coastcare provided a sign template that groups could use to promote their activities)
  • start to research and document (e.g. in a story) the extent to which we are ‘winning or losing’ the battle to save key ecosystem species/the war against environmental weed species, and
  • begin looking to the philanthropic sector as a possible funding source for our projects (e.g. www.ourcommunity.com.au).

By networking more we could:

  • find a central point of contact that works across all the agencies (e.g. Coast Action/Coastcare)
  • update our own lists of all current volunteer groups, starting with centralised information sources (e.g. Surf Coast Shire, Great Ocean Road Coast Committee), and
  • make the effort to do more ‘volunteer exchanges’ when doing on-ground works.

If we focus on implementing some or all of these ideas as we talk, share, work together and network, we will move forward together and achieve more on-ground success in caring for the coast!

Acknowledging our coast’s original managers

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. Midden at Aireys Inlet

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. Midden at Point Roadknight

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.)