MOST days I take a quiet, reflective walk along the beautiful Corinella foreshore. I observe the blue wrens and new Holland honeyeaters as they flitter and forage in the bushes. I breathe deeply to catch the scent of the wattles. I stand among the sheoaks and hear the wind whisper its eerie magic, catch the taste of salt on my tongue, and feel the waving soft grasses slip through my fingers. I am aware of my feet connecting with the ground and know that I, too, belong in this place.
In Archie Roach’s autobiography, Tell me Why: the story of my life and my music, he echoes these sentiments: “A thousand years ago, everything was part of everything; everything was connected. You were in nature, and everything in nature was part of you. The sensual being is about being in your senses – sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, spirit, everything.”
The Bunurong people lived sustainably around Western Port and the Mornington Peninsula for over 50,000 years, covering a territory of 7800 square kilometres. In 1837, it was recorded that 6000 Bunurong lived in the region. By 1890, only 300 were recorded living in the area.
Have your say
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has released its long- awaited draft landscape plan for the Corinella Foreshore Reserve. We can join together in leading the charter of protecting and enhancing this areas’ significant values, inclusive of its natural beauty, protected habitat areas, and aboriginal cultural heritage. We have an opportunity to unite as a community, for a shared cause, which seeks to preserve our precious environment.
To have your say, go to:
All offered accounts of the beautiful, lush gigantic forests, teeming with native animals and birds, waters rich in fish and aquatic life. Accounts also recorded the felling of these giant forests at an alarming rate for the building of Melbourne city, the clearing of land for grazing, and the removal of seagrasses and mangroves for commercial use. (Western Port Times, May 2021 pp.16-20)
Hindsight provides a valuable lesson, as mounting scientific evidence shows how these earlier actions have affected the delicate balance of nature and ecology, and subsequently the quality of our lives.
In the more recent past, areas of Western Port have been under threat from various enterprises and developments, including the AGL gas plant proposal for Crib Point. The State Government rejected the proposal last year after more than 6000 people, groups, councils and organisations made submissions during the environmental effect statement process. Currently local people are campaigning to save the Western Port woodlands, the last remaining forest in West Gippsland, much of it earmarked for sand mining.
On this narrow and fragile Corinella foreshore, similar threats of land degradation and loss of habitat remain very real, even as we celebrate its assets.
On the northern side, mangrove colonies provide valuable nutrients, habitat and shelter for breeding fish and their young. They protect shorelines from wave erosion and, with minimal disturbance, have the ability to increase by creating their own soil from trapped sediments. Mangroves can store carbon from the atmosphere 40 times faster than forests.
Beyond the mangroves, seagrasses provide important nurseries and refuge for small marine organisms, juvenile fish and crustaceans. They form large meadows which stabilise the seabed and influence water quality. Seagrasses absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, and in so doing protect both water and air quality. These fragile seagrasses are at risk of being smothered through soil erosion.
Above the sea level of saltmarsh and mangrove, is the bushland of the Corinella foreshore with native grasses, paperbarks, sheoaks, hedge wattle and blackwoods providing shelter and food for birds, bees and other local wildlife. Some 99.5 per cent of Victoria’s grasslands have been destroyed but a large intact stand of kangaroo grass remains at Settlement Point.
Western Port supports about 65 per cent of Victoria’s bird species. Shorebirds visiting our waters include egrets, pied oyster catchers, cormorants, herons, terns and pacific gulls. Many of the waterbirds are listed under international agreements. The red-necked stint, eastern curlew and bar-tailed godwit travel up to 12,000 kilometres from the arctic regions, seeking food and shelter in Western Port. Today, many migratory birds do not reach their destinations, due to extreme weather, which is increasing due to climate change, and human development creating obstacles that interrupt their path.
In the near future, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning will be consulting the community on a draft plan for the Corinella Foreshore Reserve. We can join together in leading a charter to protect and enhance significant values, inclusive of its natural beauty, habitat areas and Aboriginal cultural heritage. We have an opportunity to unite as a community, for a shared cause, to preserve our precious environment.
Take some time to walk along the foreshore, and ask yourself … what choices will I make so my children and my grandchildren can also engage their senses and feel the wonder of this environment? What choices will I make to ensure this environment thrives, and enriches generations to come?
Will I choose to:
- preserve our last remaining intact indigenous grass plain, because this unique and important wildlife habitat is rapidly diminishing?
- ensure diversity of habitat, including trees, which provide the best chance for our birds, animals and plants to survive and thrive, maybe even to return?
- accept that nature is not neat and uncluttered, and in its intact form provides critical habitat?
- abandon my desire for a water view in favour of providing a home for wildlife?
- keep existing trees growing on or near cliffs in order to prevent soil erosion and minimise the impact of buffeting winds?
- seek to understand the value of citizen science and learnings gained from careful and considered observation so that I may acquire new knowledge and learnings?
- honour the wisdom and knowledge of others, including our First Nations people who have cared for this land for thousands of years?
It is our individual and collective responsibility to protect and care for what we have. This is where we belong.
Western Port Chronology 1798 – 1839: Exploration to Settlement (Valda Cole, 1984, Shire of Hastings Historical Society)
Corinella Foreshore Reserve
City of Casey: Protecting Western Port