Coast care conversations and stories

On a sunny winter’s day at the end of August, around 50 people gathered for conversations at the Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club.

People from community groups and government agencies who are passionate about our coastal environment spent the day sharing stories and their ideas for the future.

I was privileged to help the Coast Action – Coast Care team at DSE design and facilitate the event. Matt, the state manager of the program, does a great job at nailing the purpose of the forum.

The Harvest

My friend and colleague Chris Corrigan has re-shaped my approach to the design of these events. Chris says “Don’t just design a workshop … design a harvest”. By harvest he means …

“There is no point in doing work in the world unless we plan to harvest the fruits of our labours. Harvesting includes making meaning of our work, telling the story and feeding forward our results so that they have the desired impacts in the world.” Source – Chaordic Stepping Stones from the Art of Hosting website

And more recently … “Just as important as designing the process for participatory engagement is the imperative to be clear what you are harvesting from the effort. Harvesting refers to taking what has value from the process.” Source – Recent thinking on Participatory Engagement

And so for this volunteer forum I encouraged the hosting group (Jess at DSE, Gail at GORCC) to plan for a harvest so that we could continue the conversation with the workshop group and people beyond.

Here is one example of something we created to share and carry forward …

Another way of sharing (and better understanding) the fruits of our labour was to ‘blog about it’.

Rather than create a boring pdf report that no one would ever read, we committed to writing a series of blog posts that summarised what emerged from conversations and group activities.

Here are the links to various posts written on the GORCC Blog … (and great work here by Gail Chrisfield of GORCC and Jessica Brown of DSE to bring this to life!) … these are mostly a collection of stories that were shared and explored by group members and now open for anyone to read and comment on.

And these blog posts came from a process (at the end of the video clip) we used called Jumpstart Stories – where participants share stories with each other and select the most compelling to communicate forward …

Guest blog post by Geoff Brown, Tangent Consulting

Creating interest in young and old alike

On a cold, dreary winter’s night, some 40 brave Ocean Grove locals gathered at the Piping Hot Chicken Shop for a movie night with a difference.

The movie screened was called ‘Message in the Waves’, an inspirational and beautiful film set in Hawaii, which covers various coastal issues including litter, species protection and population growth.

The event’s young organisers hoped its messages would motivate viewers to sign up for a new Coast Action/Coastcare group in Ocean Grove, which was sorely needed. Despite the township boasting an untapped source of volunteers young and old, such a group did not then exist.

The Piping Hot Chicken Shop proved the perfect venue with its amiable atmosphere and quirky décor – featuring walls plastered with music posters, ceiling dripping with all kinds of memorabilia and fascinating knick-knacks throughout – not to mention its great food and coffee.

Following the screening, 35 people registered their interest in joining the new group, which was a fantastic outcome. The involvement of younger generations – as well as those not so young – was particularly exciting, especially since Ocean Grove had never had a group like this before.

In all, the event provided a catalyst for encouraging and motivating the local community to start caring about coastal issues and to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility for the coast, rather than relying on often under-resourced land managers. It was also a fun way to spend a cold, miserable winter’s evening.

The movie night highlighted:

  • the importance of enlisting new volunteers to maintain momentum and ensure a diverse and dynamic group
  • the need to delegate responsibility and give new members distinct roles to perform to really get things done
  • the value of setting achievable goals and then achieving them to keep spirits high and maintain the group’s momentum, and
  • the need to identify appropriate ways to attract people into the group, which can be as simple as providing a cup of tea.

Story provided by Cate Barham, Ocean Grove Coast Action initiator

Our coast’s future in good hands

It may be stating the obvious but recent days have provided us with a timely reminder about the future of our coast – and indeed our world – lying with the adults of tomorrow, being the young people of today. Torquay College students planting the dunes.

What a delight then to see eager and enthusiastic Torquay College students hard at work and play down at White’s Beach this week as part of an ongoing partnership between the school, ourselves and the Marine Discovery Centre at Queenscliff. The sound of children’s voices ringing through the dunes was music to the ears while the sight of youngsters involved in coastal conservation activities while learning was a pleasure to behold.

For several years now, scores of local school children have learnt about the fragility and importance of our coast’s dune systems through their participation in the Dune Edu-Action program. The program’s focus on learning by doing sees the students undertaking a range of activities aimed at protecting our coast’s increasingly vulnerable dunes. Such activities include laying brush matting to minimise erosion and planting local indigenous plant species to restore native vegetation cover. Trent with Torquay College students working to protect the dunes

We are a proud partner in this program – providing plants, tools, materials and onsite supervision – and see it as providing a vital foundation to nurturing our coast’s future custodians.

Perhaps it was a similar program that planted the seed during their past primary school days for current students from Deakin University and Gordon Institute of TAFE to take the lead in creating a new coastal volunteer group in Ocean Grove. It was so exciting to hear during the past week about this initiative, which sees the students working in partnership with their local community, Barwon Coast Committee and Coast Action/Coastcare to encourage a fresh approach to caring for the coast. Torquay College students planting out the dunes.

These enterprising young adults are hoping a film night at 7.30pm on Thursday 5 August at the Ocean Grove Chicken Shop inspires other locals, young and old alike, to join them in looking after their patch of Victoria’s beautiful coastline. We applaud them for their initiative and wish them well in this important endeavour.

It’s so heartening to see local young people taking such active roles in caring for the coast as indicated by these two events. It reassures us that the future of our coast – and indeed our world – is in good hands!

We are grateful to Torquay College for providing us with the beautiful photos above and allowing us to reproduce them with this blog.