Returning to the 6,058 submissions to the Crib Point Gas Import and Gas Pipeline Project and the underlying theme that the people want to retain Western Port’s unique environment in a world where such places are being destroyed by inappropriate industrialisation, perhaps ultimately, there may be only one solution:
Western Port be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Am I reaching for the stars, maybe?
Take for example, Submission 487 by Tasma Walton, a Bunwurrang/
Bunurong Custodian. I would suggest there is sufficient argument in this statement on which to base a case for world heritage listing. It is not the only one, for Submission 2663, by Casey City Council, along with many others, present coherent and plausible reasons that could be used to support the declaration.
Link this to the fact that Mornington Peninsula and Western Port Biosphere Reserve is a UNESCO designated area, and we are almost there.
However, even with UNESCO biosphere status, the Inquiry has shown that expert witnesses can present arguments that attempt to marginalise this status. Hence, it’s imperative that Western Port become a UNESCO World Heritage Site as soon as possible, for this may be the only way to thwart the ambitions of the next industrial raider and those that are sure to follow.
To commence the task, it would seem if an applicant can meet at least one of the ten UNESCO selection criteria, a case can be prepared. A good starting point is Selection criterion 9:
“To be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.”
Our Old Women’s stories from pre-European contact, tell of a bay area teeming with whales, dolphins, seals, and occasionally orcas and sharks, although Lore speaks of agreements of sanctuary between these creatures in this significant area. Our stories speak of times when ceremony, song and dance made direct contact with cetaceans. This is not uncommon amongst many Aboriginal coastal clans along the marine Songlines. There are several, well-documented occasions of Europeans witnessing these interactions between cetaceans and Aboriginal people.
For Bunwurrang/Bunurong and Kulin Nation women, this contact, predominantly with whales and dolphins, in both Western Port Bay and Port Phillip Bay, was an extremely important element of our ceremonies and Initiations around Motherhood and Womanhood. And these traditions are being reclaimed and revived today, and thus the whales are returning.
Over the past decade, numbers of migrating whales entering the bay have been increasing. As evidenced in the Two Bay Whales Project survey from 2019, whales and their family pods, including calves, were sighted all the way into the Bay, around the Project Area and beyond, gathering around traditional Bunwurrang/Bunurong Women’s Country, and specifically, ancient whale ceremonial grounds and Dreaming sites around Sandy Point.
Extract from submission by Tasma Walton, Bunwurrang/Bunurong Custodian
If our politicians need any incentive to support this cause, I suggest they watch “Time to See”, for Dr Laura Brearley and her colleagues present a compelling reason why Western Port should now take centre stage.
Hope springs eternal and I may yet see the day when Greta sails into Western Port.