By David Hill
Growing up in Williamstown, I always enjoyed its coastal environment including the former Rifle Range being opened to the public many years ago. The location and tranquillity of that area is a haven for native flora and fauna, including its wondrous Jawbone Reserve, and it is pleasing to see the level of interest the local community has in caring for it.
Similarly, the transformation of the former Newport quarry into the Newport Lakes is another wonderful sanctuary in Melbourne’s inner west. Further west, of course, there are the Cheetham Wetlands visited by migratory birds from the northern hemisphere and which is another wonderfully serene part of the west.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever to have these places to relax. Going for a stroll along the beach, relaxing in your local park or having a leisurely walk along the banks of the Maribyrnong River or one our many creeks are just some of the ways of coping with these challenging times.
It is also important that we care for our natural environment more broadly, not just in our local community. Victoria has some of the best natural wonders in Australia and it is critical that these are also protected for present and future generations to enjoy. In that regard, The Wilderness Society has been playing a major role in protecting Victoria’s natural environment for 40 years. To further that objective at the local level, the Westside Wilderness Group was formed two years ago for like-minded people to get together and work towards our common goal of nature protection.
The Westside Wilderness Society Group is a team of passionate and empowered community members from the inner Western Melbourne community who care deeply about nature and its protection, including the creation and protection of the greenspaces we have within our community.
We are a growing group who represent over 900 Wilderness Society supporters in Gellibrand. During the past 18 months we have organised multiple events including team community meetings, calling parties, campaign nights and stalls at our local festivals. Our achievements also include meeting with and building relationships with politicians in the local community to help establish our voice in this area.
Our team’s main community activities to date have been dedicated to raising awareness of the Wilderness Society and our current campaigns to protect Victorian native forests and the national campaign for stronger environmental laws.
Our local community meetings provide an opportunity for meaningful discussion on local, state and national environmental issues and how grassroots campaigns can contribute to achieving change. One activity we are planning for later this year, COVID-19 restrictions permitting, is a tour to Victoria’s magnificent old growth mountain ash forests in Victoria’s central highlands, only 80km from Melbourne. These are the tallest flowering plants in the world and home to a treasure trove of native animals including Victoria’s faunal emblem the endangered Leadbeater’s Possum. These little critters are only as big as the palm of your hand and are nocturnal, so hard to find during the day. However, like many things in life, it’s nice to know they’re there scurrying around at night. These tours are always good fun and an informative way to learn about the diversity of Victoria’s flora and fauna.
Our group meets at 7pm on the first Wednesday of each month, either at the Newport Bowls Club or via Zoom if social gatherings are not permitted. If you are interested in learning more about our group, or coming along to one of our meetings, please contact David Hill: HillDW95@gmail.com. For more info visit: www.wilderness.org.au/work/movement-for-life.