Bill Shorten calls Tathra’s Eddie Blewett to say congrats on marriage equality

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten was among the first to thank and congratulate Tathra’s Eddie Blewett and his family this morning following news that Australia had said YES to marriage equality.

Phone call to Eddie

Remember Eddie? He came to Canberra a while ago to tell the country about why his mums deserve equality – just like other families. Eddie’s story persuaded a lot of Australians to vote yes. After the result today, there was one person I wanted to talk to.

Posted by Bill Shorten MP on Tuesday, 14 November 2017

 

Eddie and his mums, Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson gathered at The Wharf Locavore at Tathra with friends to hear the announcement from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

The YES win was greeted warmly by the crowd of 30 or so people, but tempered by the need for parliament to now ratify the will of the people.

“I am relieved today has finally come and that the ‘YES’ vote has won,” Eddie says.

“Let’s get this done now so that families like mine can go back to doing what families do.”

Eddie took his story and point of view to Canberra the day the first survey forms were posted – September 12.

The Labor caucus lead by Mr Shorten and his Deputy Tanya Plibersek came and shared Anzac biscuits and a game of soccer with Eddie and his mates (which includes my family) on the front lawn of Parliament House.

The event made national news, Eddie’s simple and authentic message rang loudly.

“People who know my family, know that there is nothing wrong with us,” Eddie told the Canberra media pack on September 12.

“We play soccer in the winter and volunteer for the surf club in the summer,” he said.

“I have two parents, they love me and they love each other, all couples and all families deserve the same respect and value.”

#Tathra's Eddie Blewett talks to the media pack at Parliament House, Canberra with Bill Shorten MP Mike Kelly MP, and Tanya Plibersek, asking #Australia to get this done and say YES for Rainbow Families.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Monday, 11 September 2017

 

Realisation today that 62% of his countrymen agreed was reassuring.

“It’s been hard, having your family talked about and judged, thank you to everyone who has supported us during this difficult time,” Eddie says.

“I really hope the Prime Minister makes good on his commitment to take this to parliament and have this finalised by Christmas.”

Bill Shorten’s call this morning was a surprise, but points to the power of Eddie’s campaigning.

“Bill told me he wants this done by December 7, that was good to hear,” Eddie says.

“I am really grateful for Bill and Tayna’s support.”

Celebrating a win for YES at Tathra Wharf. Photo: Ian Campbell
Celebrating a win for YES at Tathra Wharf, November 15, 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell

With the sea under Tathra Wharf being whipped up by biting winds from every direction, those gathered started to unpick the detail of the results.

There was disappointment at the New South Wales result – the lowest YES vote in the country with 57.8%.

“Queensland (60.7% YES) and Tasmania (63.6% YES) seem more progressive,” was one cheeky comment I overheard.

News that 17 of Australia’s 150 electorates had voted NO also chipped away at the mood.

For the same-sex couples and gay people gathered seeing a number put on those who seemingly oppose who they are and their way of life was stark.

“I am really pleased most people have said YES, but it’s an uncomfortable feeling knowing that almost five million people (38%) have said NO, it’s hard not to feel that personally,” Claire Blewett says.

Seeing the local results come through renewed the energy in the 150-year-old wharf building.

Sixty-five percent of Eden-Monaro voters said YES, 62% in the Eurobodalla/Shoalhaven based seat of Gilmore.

“The way we got to this result has been damaging, ” Neroli Dickson says.

“But locally it’s been incredibly encouraging to experience the genuine support of so many in this country community, friends and ‘strangers’ who all want diversity celebrated, a 65% YES vote confirms it,” Neroli says.

“To know that the community we call home said YES so strongly is brilliant,” Claire adds.

“But we’ll wait for the next step to take place in parliament before we really relax and enjoy this result.”

The 'Yes' campaign kicks a goal at Parliament House. Photo: Ian Campbell
The ‘Yes’ campaign kicks a goal at Parliament House, September 12, 2017. Photo: Ian Campbell

Labor’s Mike Kelly, Member for Eden-Monaro says he is intensely proud of his electorate today.

“A result amongst the highest in Australia. I am even more proud of the respectful way in which this community on both sides engaged in the debate,” he says.

“The result demonstrates the intelligent and compassionate nature of this electorate and their steadfast belief in equality.”

In neighbouring Gilmore, Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis thanked the people of her electorate for taking part.

“I welcome the outcome, a YES vote supported by 62% of the electorate,” Ms Sudmalis says.

“I welcome the Prime Ministers commitment to have this legislated by Christmas, I will support a YES vote in the House of Representatives,” Ms Sudmalis says.

Speaking to About Regional later in the day, Bill Shorten paid tribute to the power of individual voices like Eddie’s.

“When Eddie spoke to the country about his family, I think he persuaded a lot of people to vote YES,” Mr Shorten says.

“This victory belongs to Eddie, his family and other LGBTIQ families in Australia.

“Eddie is an absolute legend. I’m really proud of him, and I know his mums are too,” Mr Shorten said.

Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell
Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell

“When there are only 50 left, every koala counts,” – Chris Allen, NSW OEH

The Wapengo koala found yesterday (Oct 17) clinging to an oyster lease. Photo: Chris Allen
Briny the Wapengo koala found clinging to an oyster lease,  in care at Potaroo Palace before being released on Sunday. Photo: Chris Allen

Small, fragile, and very precious communities of koalas scattered in the forests between Bermagui and Tathra are not only opening doors to their own survival but also the survival of their cousins around our continent.

Bega’s Chris Allen has been keeping watch over local populations since 1996, and since 2001 has coordinated a survey and research program through the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

“Because it’s such a small population, and really widely scattered, maybe 50 koalas over something like 30,000 hectares, it’s been a very difficult project,” Chris says.

Bunga Pinch Road marks the northern edge of this key habitat, then extending 10km south to Smith’s Road and Tea Ridge Road, and west to Lizard Road is the main area of koala activity.

“But there are other important patches,” Chris says.

“Into Mimosa Rocks National Park, in the Nelsons Catchment, there’s good evidence of koalas.”

Two of these koalas have ‘gone viral’ in the last 3 weeks, social media delighted in seeing a strong, healthy looking specimen tramping along the side of the Bermagui – Tathra Road at Aragunnu.

This little fellow was spotted near aragunnu this morning

Posted by Catherine Clarke on Sunday, 24 September 2017

 

“Oh it’s just lovely, it’s a beautiful bit of footage, lovely that people are able to see it,” Chris smiles.

“I chatted with that person [who took the video] and in fact, it was just near the Aragunnu turn-off.

“He was just driving along the Bermi – Tathra Road, six o’clock in the morning, and here was this koala,” he says.

East of this spot is Mimosa Rocks National Park, on the western side there’s a bit of private property, then the newly created Murrah Flora Reserve.

According to Chris, there have been four or five sightings in this area, with one koala in poor condition rescued and returned to the wild healthy.

“That is one of the few points where koalas are crossing the road,” Chris says.

“Probably dispersing eastwards from the maternal home ranges we have identified in the Reserves.”

This is a really important stretch of road if this small population has any chance to grow in numbers, as Chris says, – “Every animal counts.”

“Slow down a bit, particularly at night,” Chris pleads.

And just this week, photos emerged of a young male who was rescued from the waters of Wapengo Lake clinging to the side of an oyster bag.

Farmer Brian Orr told Fairfax media, “He was pretty shook up, but he eventually came out onto the boat to get a little bit of sun and warm up.

“I was thinking about letting him out, but I called WIRES and they told me to have him checked by the vet,” Mr Orr told Fairfax.

How the koala came to be stuck on Mr Orr’s oyster lease is a mystery, perhaps he went exploring at low tide and got stuck.

The koala, which was named Briny in honour of Mr Orr and his saltwater experience, had a few days of TLC at Potaroo Place wildlife sanctuary at Merimbula, before being released in bushland north of Tathra on Sunday (Oct 22).

While koalas have been making the news lately it doesn’t mean the population is growing. Numbers are still small, in his 7o odd years, Chris says he has only seen five or six.

Our growing knowledge…

The fact that we know about these koalas and that management practices and response protocols are in place is a testament to a community-based effort that has a sense of magic about it.

Part of the initial drive to investigate this population came from forestry workers and local residents.

Since 2007 people from a range of agencies and backgrounds have literally been on their hands and knees on the forest floor looking for koala evidence – scats (droppings) mainly.

“I get terribly excited about finding koala poo,” Chris laughs.

Koala scat, AKA poo. Photo: Ian Campbell
Koala scat, AKA poo. Photo: Ian Campbell

That work has triggered higher level scientific research that is shaping future koala management in South East New South Wales and beyond.

“Since the 1960’s koala numbers in these coastal forests have been shrinking, and shrinking from the north,” Chris says.

“There were koalas north of the Bermagui – Cobargo Road, in Wallaga Lake National Park and Naira Creek, and on the northern side of Bermagui River, and gradually those numbers declined.”

Research has suggested that the decline has continued southwards – until you hit the Murrah River. South of the river that ‘hands and knees’ bush survey work points to a population that is at least stable and has been so over the last decade.

Sydney University has added its weight to the investigation looking into the secrets of this southern population.

“The way that’s done is that any time we find fresh koala poo we send it off to Sydney Uni and they are able to extract DNA,” Chris explains.

Genetic mapping is a part of the information recorded but so too is a snapshot of disease.

“What has come out of that research is that to the north of the Murrah River animals are carrying chlamydia but to the south – they’re not,” Chris says.

Explaining how and why that is the case remains unresolved, the results of this work are very preliminary.

“The koala is described as a chlamydia rich organism, the population is often carrying several different strains,” Chris says.

“Clearly some populations have a higher level of resilience.”

Chris believes the isolation of this southern population might be a factor in its survival which makes the management of their landscape more critical.

“We’ve picked up evidence of four perhaps five females breeding, we know where their home range areas are, ” Chris says.

Wildfire and climate change the big threats…

Habitat destruction has been one of the issues facing koalas across Australia, these particular Bega Valley marsupials received some respite from the NSW Government in March 2016 when the forests they were living in were protected from further logging with the creation of the Murrah Flora Reserves – taking in what was the Murrah, Tanja, and Mumbulla State Forests, and the southern section of the Bermagui State Forest.

“Almost certainly the greatest threat this population faces now is a major wildfire,” Chris says.

Managing that risk now drives a collaboration between the Rural Fire Service, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, local residents, and the Aboriginal community.

“We’ve been through a research project with the University of Melbourne where they’ve run what’s called fire simulation modeling,” Chris says.

The results highlight the likely progression of fire through this landscape, pinpointing areas for fuel reduction work. In turn, the threat to koalas as well as human life and property is reduced and the capacity of an effective response in the event of a wildfire is improved.

“Koalas can be very good neighbours,” Chris laughs.

The board managing the Biamanga National Park, which is made up of traditional owners, are keen to take on that key role of reducing the fire risk.

“For many years they have wanted to introduce a cultural burning program and I strongly support this,” Chris says.

“The way they see it is on two levels, one is to make an ecological contribution and [two] to provide opportunities for Aboriginal people to be working back on country.

“Within it [cultural burning] is the idea of small, low-intensity, patch burns, small terms just working over a long period of time,” Chris says.

Aside from fire, climate change is the other looming threat to these precious creatures – it’s change that is literally turning the koala’s stomach.

“It’s fairly clear that increased carbon dioxide levels are actually reducing the palatability of eucalypt foliage,” Chris says.

The fear is that the pressure of climate change on local forests will cut the number of suitable feed trees available.

“These koalas are widely scattered because there are only relativity few trees providing adequate nutrition,” Chris believes.

Increasing the number of suitable species like Woollybuott is another ‘rod in the fire’ of this conservation project.

“Woollybuot is really struggling to regenerate,” Chris says.

Thirty small research plots have been established throughout koala country where a range of bush regeneration techniques are being trialled – one of them is the use of seed balls.

“Seed balls are made up of the seed of the target species, clay is mixed with peat mulch and Cayenne pepper,” Chris smiles.

“The Cayenne pepper is the magic ingredient that stops ants and other critters eating the seed.”

A solid clay ball is the result which sits in the bush waiting for good rain.

“Now it’s a question of monitoring and seeing what is most effective in encouraging the regeneration of Woollybuot and other preferred browse species,” Chris says.

Using this research in conjunction with cultural burning; regenerating burnt areas is the long game.

The future…

This relatively small forest holds big potential, not just for the survival of the koala according to Chris but so many other species.

“If we can’t hang on to our koala populations we are in big trouble,” Chris says.

“This population is a real litmus test as to what we can do about koala conservation nationally, this is a nationally significant effort.

“This is not just about koalas, the conservation initiatives that flow around the management of koala populations are conserving a whole lot more,” he says.

The success of this work so far has been the amount of knowledge collected and cooperation around better and more careful management of these forests.

It’s understood that the NSW Government will release its NSW Koala Strategy before the end of November.

A whole-of-government approach Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton hopes will stabilise and start to increase koala numbers around the state.

The work of Chris Allen and dozens of other locals have contributed to that process – advice that gives the koala a fighting chance.

While the survival of the koala is the main game, this locally based 10-year project has already had a big win. Its magic has seen a coming together of community will, good science, and politics.

“This is a population on the brink, it’s the last one we’ve got here in the coastal forests of the Bega Valley, let’s do what we can, we owe it to them given their history,” Chris says.

Koala in the Murrah Flora Reserve near Mumbulla. Photo: Dave Gallen
Koala in the Murrah Flora Reserve near Mumbulla. Photo: Dave Gallen

About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members – thanks to Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Tathra Beach House Apartments, Claire Blewett, Neroli Dickson, Jeanette Westmore, and Nigel Catchlove.

Eddie Blewett and his community point to ‘The Power of One’

Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell
Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell

This time last week I was witness to the most amazing thing.

A fourteen year old boy went to Canberra and caught the ear of national media and the alternative government.

Last Tuesday’s ‘event’ on the lawn in front of Parliament House was born from Eddie Blewett’s experience 12 months prior.

Eddie and his two mums traveled from their home in Tathra to Canberra in September 2016 with other Rainbow Families lobbying against a plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

On that occasion the presence of Eddie and his mums Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson shaped Question Time. Reporting for Fairfax, Matthew Knot wrote that, ‘Eddie stole Question Time”.

On his return last week, the issue hadn’t changed much and Eddie was keen to address that.

Six weeks ago, Eddie wrote to Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull hoping to help the PM campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote in the postal survey that has replaced the failed plebiscite.

The same correspondence was sent to Labor Leader, Bill Shorten, Deputy Labor Leader, Tanya Plibersek, and Eddie’s local MP, Mike Kelly – all pointing to September 12 as a possible meeting day.

Remembering the impact of Eddie’s visit almost 1 year before to the day, there was real warmth and a genuine interest from Ms Plibersek especially, who seemed equally hopeful that Eddie might meet with the PM.

Eddie’s friends (including my family) had agreed to meet at 10am on the grass in front of the big flag pole.

We were a diverse mix of country people, kids and adults, including a Vietnam vet, a school teacher, retired police officer, a Canberra Raiders fan, two Registered Nurses, a retired steel worker, and an arts administrator, to name a few.

All there to say, this issue is important to people beyond just ‘the gays in the village’.

The 'Yes' campaign kicks a goal at Parliament House. Photo: Ian Campbell
The ‘Yes’ campaign kicks a goal at Parliament House. Photo: Ian Campbell

The plan was to set – a picnic and a game of soccer, like any family might and see what happened.

The convoy that travelled with Eddie that day numbered around 20, not large in number but our aim was to help those with an ability to pull a crowd get a message out – vote YES.

Using the group’s Bega Valley soccer connections, a bundle of spring loaded corner posts and witches hats were borrowed to mark out a field.

A rainbow flag was gaffer taped to one of the fences attracting the interest of patrolling members of the Australian Federal Police, who made sure we knew it was a no-no but turned a blind eye with a wink of support.

Our soccer field looked great, as did the picnic rugs and assortment of nibbles and baked goods. Mind you no one was hungry – nerves suppressed any craving for one of the Anzac biscuits on offer.

Somethings about to happen, the crowd is building. Photo: Ian Campbell
Something’s about to happen, the crowd is building. Photo: Ian Campbell

Eleven o’clock arrived quickly. We had high hopes and a sense something great was about to happen, but we didn’t know what was going to happen at the same time.

Mr Shorten and Ms Plibersek had agreed to meet and we hoped the media might tag along – as overwhelming as that felt.

All involved were keen to protect Eddie from potential ugliness, the Canberra press pack comes with a reputation and Eddie had a taste of that last time round.

He was nervous but kept pushing though. Having a ball to kick with his mates was key and he knew he had something valuable and important to say.

We’d worked with Eddie on a statement to read to the media if they showed up, rather than being bamboozled by questions left and right.

The first sign of what was to come started to emerged from between the marble columns of Parliament House.

A cameraman from Fairfax was the first, a scout to make sure everything was ready for his media comrades.

A lectern was positioned with Parliament House and our soccer field in the background, and as if they appeared from the Aladdin’s lamp, the Opposition Leader and his Deputy were mingling at the edges of our picnic rugs.

Anzac biscuits were offered as the number of MP’s streaming down the path increased, cameramen and journalists manoeuvring around our morning tea.

Watch the Anzacs! Photo: Ian Campbell
Watch the Anzacs! Photo: Ian Campbell

It was hard to say and no one counted but our group ballooned to 50, 60 or 70 people.

Ms Plibersek spoke first, “We know that households across Australia will be receiving their survey papers in the coming days,” she said.

“And we are here to urge people to fill their papers in straight away.”

Bill Shorten was next, “Australia’s modern families come in all shapes and sizes, I think it’s long overdue for the law to catch up with the way in which millions of Australians are already constructing their lives,” he said.

“Today the survey goes out, about 600,000 of the 16 million surveys will be posted today.

“Tick the ‘Yes’ box and we can get this done before Christmas.”

Showtime! Bill Shorten introducing Eddie to the media. Photo: Ian Campbell
Showtime! Bill Shorten introducing Eddie to the media. Photo: Ian Campbell

Mr Shorten then introduced Eddie to the media pack.

Eddie had continued to tweak his statement over breakfast that morning, the nicely typed one pager replaced by his own hand written thoughts.

With many of those assembled blubbering quietly (Ms Plibersek included) – Eddie nailed it.

“People who know my family, know that there is nothing wrong with us.

“We play soccer in the winter and volunteer for the surf club in the summer,” he said.

“I have two parents, they love me and they love each other, all couples and all families deserve the same respect and value.”

#Tathra's Eddie Blewett talks to the media pack at Parliament House, Canberra with Bill Shorten MP Mike Kelly MP, and Tanya Plibersek, asking #Australia to get this done and say YES for Rainbow Families.Ian

Posted by About Regional on Monday, 11 September 2017

 

More mingling and private discussion followed (the soccer game resumed) as well as one on one media interviews and photo requests.

Eddie, Neroli, and Claire handled it all with grace. The support of local media at home the day before helped with that – Fairfax, ABC South East, Power FM and 2EC, all recognised Eddie’s courage early and helped build confidence and momentum.

At about 12:30 we got our patch of grass back, mind you, we’d been sharing it from the very start with a large group of people wearing yellow and practicing Tai Chi. There must have been at least 50 of them highlighting the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners in China (note to self, find out more one day).

At 1:30 Ms Plibersek said she would take Eddie’s message to the floor of parliament in a session that runs before Question Time known as ‘Ninety Second Member Statements’.

Buggered and hungry for shade (we’d come prepared for Canberra cold not sunshine) we moved inside for coffee ready for 1:30.

Having half undressed to pass through security we took our green seats in the public gallery of the House of Representatives just as Ms Plibersek rose to her feet…

Earlier today, the Leader of the Opposition and I met with three very special people. Eddie Blewett, and his mums Claire and Neroli – from Tathra, NSW.

I had hoped that since they were last here, about a year ago now, that the Parliament would have done its job and legislated for marriage equality.

Sadly, the Prime Minister has delivered a ridiculous $122 million postal survey instead.

None of us wanted it, but we’re determined to win it.

We’ve already seen the vitriol that Malcolm Turnbull’s postal survey is inflicting on LGBTI Australians, their families, and friends.

I know that the next few weeks are going to be tough for young people like Eddie, and for his mums.

But today we say, we stand with you. We’ve got your back.

Ballot papers will be arriving in people’s letterboxes over the coming days.

I urge people to fill out their ballots, and post them back as soon as possible.

I urge people to vote yes.

I’m voting yes, for families like Eddie, Claire, Neroli’s.

I’m voting yes for the person I’ve never met – a young person in a country town who might be struggling with their sexuality.

I’m voting yes because I want to live in country that supports equal rights for all its citizens.

I asked Eddie this morning if he had anything he’d like me say for him in the Parliament.

He said:

“Voting ‘yes’ takes nothing away from anyone, but voting ‘no’ will take something away from me and my mums.”

Thank you so much for coming to Parliament today.

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

By that stage, media coverage was starting to appear – News Corp, SBS, the Huffington Post, the Canberra Times. 

On the way home, we heard about our day on ABC Radio’s PM program, and some of the group were home in time to flick between the various TV news bulletins between 6 and 7:30pm, most featuring Eddie.

Eddie chatting to SBS News with Neroli and Claire. Photo: Ian Campbell
Eddie chatting to SBS News with Neroli and Claire. Photo: Ian Campbell

A week on I am left appreciating the power people have when they speak up and share genuine experience. I think we all knew that to be the case as we travelled up the Brown that morning but it was terrific and reassuring to see it at work.

Eddie, Claire, and Neroli made this on going discussion real. Real for politicians who will ultimately decided the future of same-sex marriage, real for the media who are no doubt bored of covering this issue, and real for the 16 million ordinary Australian’s who are casting judgement.

What I also love is that country voices carried weight in the city that day, and perhaps our ‘countryness’ was part of our appeal – we represented a group of people who hadn’t been heard.

Most of all I love that my kids stood shoulder to shoulder with their friend Eddie. They saw the power of thoughtful, respectful debate.

“Dad if people can just see Eddie’s face when they fill in their ballot paper, then it’s been a successful day,” one of my boys said.

As an aside, there has been no acknowledgment from the PM to date, Eddie’s invitation to meet with him stands, this isn’t political for Eddie and his family – this is life.

A look at what’s to come – the Tathra to Bega Community Bike Ride

The Bega Tathra Safe Ride Track is no longer ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but becoming a reality. Photo: Doug Reckord
The Bega Tathra Safe Ride Track is no longer ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but becoming a reality. Photo: Doug Reckord

A Community Bike Ride from Tathra to Bega later this month will showcase the vision and potential of the ambitious plan to build a permanent track between the two towns.

Over $3 million in State Government funding earlier this year has turned the idea into a reality.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time so to secure this funding was a dream come true, but we need to keep fundraising,” says Robert Hartemink, ‘Lead Rider’ of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Committee.

On Sunday, September 24, rolling road closures starting at 9am from Lawrence Park Tathra will give riders a chance to experience the journey without the normal pressure of traffic – and the perfect way to wrap up NSW Bike Week.

“This will be a great family day, only the brave and keenest of riders can tackle this course normally, the speed and the closeness of cars and trucks is just too much for most,” Mr Hartemink says.

“I can’t wait to see families enjoying our beautiful countryside without that stress, not only on September 24 but whenever they choose to ride once we complete the track.”

Planning and design work for the new track is in full swing led by Bega Valley Shire Council.

“Council are keen to get as much bang for buck as possible, we are hoping to get as far as we can with the $3 million,” Mr Hartemink says.

“In the meantime we’ll push on with fundraising chipping away at each kilometre until it’s done.”

Entry fees for the ride are part of that effort but Bega Valley Legacy will share in the funds to support their work with families affected by war.

“When we finished this track it will be such a community asset – fitness, fun, sustainability, tourism, and we’ll get a taste of that on the twenty-fourth,” Mr Hartemink says.

The Community Bike Ride on September 24 will allow people to ride 'stress free'. Photo: Doug Reckord
The Community Bike Ride on September 24 will allow people to ride ‘stress free’. Photo: Doug Reckord

Entries are now open and the number of riders is starting to build as word spreads.

“For those who haven’t taken part in a mass ride before this will be a real thrill, there will be a real community spirit, everyone will be looked after,” he says.

The Tathra Sea Eagles AFL Club are preparing a hot breakfast and espresso coffee for riders from 7:30am, and the money will go towards the Clean Energy for Eternity solar panel project at Lawrence Park.

The finish line is the Bega Showground, with riders expected to arrive before 11am.

A bus donated by the Tathra Beach Country Club will get you back to your car at the start line.

Bega Tathra Safe Ride Secretary Doug Reckord adds, “This is a new event for the region and I really hope people are bitten by the riding bug and get a group together and register quickly.”

Tathra Beach and Bike have chipped in with a $500 voucher for the purchase of a ‘Specialized’ bike from their store. All riders will be in the draw for that fantastic prize.

There’s more information on the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Facebook page including a link to TryBooking.com for registrations.

“We are hoping the first section of track will be done in the first half of next year, and to keep the momentum going it would be terrific to see a big community turn out on September 24,” Mr Reckord says.

#Sponsored Post

 

Tathra’s Eddie Blewett returns to Canberra – we’ve got ya back Eddie!

Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell
Eddie Blewett and his mums, Neroli Dickson and Claire Blewett. Photo: Ian Campbell

In September 2016 Tathra’s Eddie Blewett stole Question Time in the Federal Parliament.

Eddie travelled to Canberra with his mums Claire Blewett and Neroli Dickson and other Rainbow Families asking MP’s to stop the plebiscite on same sex marriage and to have a free vote in Parliament.

Among the politicians they met was deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek, who took up Eddie’s cause with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Question Time that day.

“He said to me and I quote, ‘Why should people who barely know us make an assumption on our families and vote on how we can live?” Plibersek said as Eddie and his mums watched in the public gallery above, as reported by Fairfax.

“Can the Prime Minister explain why Eddie should have to put up with a campaign by people who have never met him, telling him that there is something wrong with his family?,” Ms Plibersek said.

Twelve months on for Eddie and the issue is still unresolved and the hurt continues.

Eddie is returning to Canberra next week, hoping to meet with the Prime Minister.

Earlier last month, Eddie wrote to Malcolm Turnbull:

I am Eddie Blewett (14 years of age).

In answer to a question in Parliament on 13 September 2016 you referred to me by saying:

“We all welcome Eddie and his parents to the House today. We are pleased that he is here. Eddie will understand that everything we do here in this parliament is designed to ensure that Australia becomes an even better place for him to grow up in and realise his dreams.”

One of my dreams is to have my same-sex parents given the same recognition as other parents in Australia. I believe giving equal recognition to all families will make Australia a better place.

I shall be coming to Canberra with my family and others to help with the ‘Yes’ campaign.

During my visit, I should be grateful if I could meet with you and offer support for your own ‘Yes’ campaign, especially for country towns.

Eddie has given voice to the impact this ongoing debate has had on him and his family.

In Canberra, last year he spoke of being bullied around this debate, and a sense of fear and dread he lived with.

“People were saying stuff about my family – that it’s not normal, it’s not right,” Eddie told Fairfax.

Communities across South East NSW are invited to join Eddie when he returns to Canberra on Tuesday (September 12, 2017) hoping to meet with the PM.

Tayna Plibersek, Mike Kelly (Eddie’s local MP) and their colleagues will meet with Eddie, and perhaps kick the soccer ball. Families and people of all back grounds are also invited to join Eddie and his family and friends in Canberra.

Bring a picnic lunch to share on the lawns of Parliament House and your soccer boots if you are keen for a game.

We’ve Got Ya Back Eddie – Tuesday, September 12 @ 10:00, meet in front of Parliament House.

Tathra made taiko drums head west to the beat of Japanese tradition

Luke Hamilton and Chris Korvin - Taiko Drums Works. By Ian Campbell
Luke Hamilton and Chris Korvin – Taiko Drum Works. Photo: Ian Campbell

Twenty-four Japanese drums hand crafted in the salty air of Tathra are being delivered to Western New South Wales today.

“We often stop work to watch whales breach and blow their spray,” Luke Hamilton says.

Luke and Chris Korvin are both drummers with the Bega Valley based Stonewave Taiko but have branched out to create their own taiko making business.

Taiko Drum Works was born out of Stonewave’s need for more authentic instruments to practice and perform on.

“Stonewave started playing on tyres wrapped in duct tape because we didn’t have any drums to play on,” Luke says.

Vertical slats are cut to the right angle and glued, forming the body of the drum. By Ian Campbell
Vertical slats are cut to the correct angle and glued, forming the body of the drum. Photo: Ian Campbell

Taiko is Japanese for drum, performances date back to the sixth century, where they were used as part of Japanese festivals and rituals – which is still the case today.

“Every little town has a taiko group,” Chris explains.

The drums also have a history of being taken into war and used to communicate announcements and motivate soldiers.

“David Hewitt, the leader of Stonewave had one made by a master, and he said – you can take this drum a part and have a look at it. So we did,” Chris says.

“We copied one drum and David played it and gave us the thumbs up and said keep going.”

Tape holds the timber slats in place while the glue sets, sanding and shaping will follow. By Ian Campbell
Tape holds the timber slats in place while the glue sets, sanding, and shaping will follow. Photo: Ian Campbell

Chris and Luke have been getting together twice a week to make more drums, outside of that Chris is a dentist and Luke works in Waste Services at Bega Valley Shire Council.

“I’ve been a model builder since I was eight, so I have good fine motor skills,” Chris says.

Luke describes himself more as a tinkerer, which perhaps undersells his skills.

“My main interest has been in metal work and forging and making knives,” Luke says.

Taiko in the drying room after being oiled. By Ian Campbell
Taiko in the drying room after being oiled. Photo:Ian Campbell

In recent months the pair’s taiko making has become more than a hobby that simply supplies Stonewave.

“We’ve been working on an order for 24 drums for a community group called Moorambilla Voices in Western NSW, our drums are spreading across the country which is really exciting,” Luke says.

“They are being split up initially to go to three different schools as part of the MAXed OUT group.”

For 12 years Moorambilla has been building ‘musical and cultural excellence’ from their home base in Tamworth.

The group’s vision is a cracker:

Moorambilla Voices celebrates life’s incredible possibilities.

We empower children and youth to think big and dream wide as they participate in our exceptional yearly choral programs incorporating Taiko, Dance and visual art.

We offer children the rare and valuable opportunity to connect with artists of the highest calibre – composers, musicians, choreographers and visual artists to co-create outstanding works for performance that celebrate the rich culture of this region to standing ovations!

We provide a unique chance for young people in remote and regional communities to share their creative selves in an environment that celebrates capacity. Like our rivers in flood – our creative capacity is powerful, breathtaking and immense.

Participating children come from schools at Brewarrina, Bogan, Nyngan, Bourke, Cobar, Coonamble, Gulargambone, Dubbo, Gilgandra Narromine, Trangie, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Collarenabri, Warrumbungle, Coonabarabran, Dunedoo, Baradine, Warren, Wellington, Tamworth, Orange, and beyond!

The MAXed OUT Company is geared towards high schoolers with a focus on taiko.

This delivery of drums from the other side of the Great Dividing Range has been funded by a Government grant and will add to a small pool of instruments that are currently being shipped from school to school for rehearsals and performance.

Raw hides are used so that the markings on the animal shine through. By Ian Campbell
Raw hides are used so that the markings of the animal shine through. Photo: Ian Campbell

Luke and Chris beam as they detail the process they have gone through over the last eight months to fill the order.

Both explain that taiko making is a family business in Japan passed down through generations over hundreds of years.

Standing in their Tathra workshop, with the smell of eucalyptus turps and tongue oil thick in the air, I sense that both men have approached this traditional craft with the same respect and reverence as a young Japanese apprentice.

“These skills are kept closely within families,” Chris says.

“Finding out how to do this is not easy or straight forward.”

Both dream of being able to visit a taiko workshop in Japan one day.

Getting ready to lace up the taiko. By Ian Campbell
Getting ready to lace up the taiko. Photo: Ian Campbell

A range of materials have been used to fill the Moorambilla order, including red deer hides from Western Australia and cow hides from Tasmania.

Raw hides that are soaked in water overnight are the preference so that the unique markings and colouring of the animal are visible on the surface of each taiko.

“The drum is a hide stretched over a metal ring, ropes put tension on the hide, you can change the pitch with different tension on the rope,” Luke explains.

The timber used in the body of the drum adds its own characteristic.

“The thickness and the way the timber has been worked and shaped results in a different tone or pitch as well,” Luke says.

“And we have looked for Australian timber that is close in density and performance to traditional Japanese timbers,” he says.

Plantation Paulownia from Coffs Harbour and West Australian Jarrah have gone through the workshop and a rare sample of Red Cedar from Brogo.

“Brogo Woodworks at Tanja, a friend of ours, had a piece of cedar that was sitting in his workshop covered in dust and rat shit for twenty-five years, he generously sold it to us,” Luke smiles.

Stonewave Taiko by Ben Marden
Stonewave Taiko in action. Photo: Ben Marden from Stonewave.com

Outside of Japan is anyone else making taiko drums?

Chris believes other performance groups are making their own.

“But not on this scale or with this professional finish and quality,” he rightly boasts.

The craftsmanship and materials are reflected in the price, drums range between $1100 and $1800, plus up to $35 for a pair of Japanese drumsticks known as ‘bachi’.

Taiko Drum Works at Tathra is here to stay beyond Moorambilla, Luke and Chris have worked hard to understand this art form in every way and have developed their own systems and work flows – know how they keep close to their chest like an old Japanese master.

The finished product, ready for Moorambilla. By Ian Campbell
The finished product, ready for Moorambilla. Photo: Ian Campbell

 

This story was made with the support of About Regional members, Cathy Griff, Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, and Maria Linkenbagh. Thank you!

 

Over $5 million for local cycleways including Bega to Tathra link

The long-awaited Bega to Tathra cycleway is set to become a reality with $3 million set aside in the NSW Budget this week.

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said, “I am so excited to confirm the funds to build this important project.”

“This will not only better connect two of our great communities it will also provide a fantastic tourism driver and give the region a further economic boost.”

The money will go to Bega Valley Shire Council to work with the community and stakeholders to design, plan and construct the much-anticipated path.

The Bega – Tathra money was the largest part of a big splash of cash for local cycleways.

Other money announced by NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet included:

  • $2 million for a shared pathway from Rotary Park in Merimbula to Merimbula Wharf.
  • Construction of 660 metres of shared path in Moruya along Bergalia Street.
  • Construction of almost 500 metres of shared path in Narooma along the northern end of McMillan Road.

The champagne corks were popping as Doug Reckord, the Secretary of the Bega Tathra Safe Ride Committee shared the news with his dedicated group. Click play for more.

Disclaimer: Author is part-time media officers for Bega Valley Shire Council

Give peace a chance on Anzac Day AKA Lest We Forget

WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Rex Kermode has led Anzac Day in Tathra for longer than he can remember. As Rex asked the big crowd at the town’s cenotaph this morning to look eastward at the rising sun, I took up his invitation to reflect on the day.

Those thoughts had started brewing earlier in the week, and now at the dimming of the day, I am left thinking we need to sharpen and update our focus on Anzac Day.

For a long time, the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign and World War 1 and the depravity of World War 2 have rightly been at the center of commemorations on April 25.

But with the veterans of World War 1 now all gone and with the number of veterans from World War 2 shrinking dramatically every year, Anzac Day in the near future will be and needs to be different.

Victorian Anzac commemorations have gone through a somewhat rocky adjustment over the last two years, with the Anzac Day Commemoration Council instructing descendants to march at the back of the parade rather than mixed in with surviving veterans behind battalion banners.

In 2016, Council Chair and Victorian RSL state president Major-General David McLachlan told The Age, “The changes to the marching order reflect the belief that the march is about those who have served.

“Descendants are able to march collectively, after all the veterans,” he said.

The change has been hard to take for some.

Former federal member for Franklin, Harry Quick, son of  Robert Vernon Quick who served with the 7th battalion at Gallipoli and the 58th battalion on the Western Front told The Age, “We should be up there front and centre.”

“These banners have been handed down for the last 80 years and are cherished. There is all this history here and it needs to be recognised,” he said.

In protest, in 2016 and again this year, descendants held their own event before Anzac Day, marching behind battalion banners.

I hope there will always be a place for people to march wearing the medals of their ancestors, but the relevance and meaning of the day will be weakened if that’s all it becomes.

No one is suggesting the veterans and families of WW1 and 2 be forgotten or sidelined, their sacrifice and story carries great weight, but we need to update what we do in the name of our grandfathers and great grandfathers to recognise what’s happening now.

Perhaps the full impact of their stories has been lost in a popularisation and commercialisation of Anzac Day?

Speaking to Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore tonight on ‘The Project’, Retired Captain Chris Thompson-Lang said it was important to know and understand history, but more time needed to be spent thinking about today’s veterans.

“Quite often the general public does focus on veterans that are no longer here and they glorify them,” he told Channel Ten.

“The reality is we’ve got veterans that are my age and younger, with multiple tours, some of us are struggling, some of us are losing that connection to our communities, I think that more could be done to strengthen that and provide help.”

Re-thinking the 'digger'

“More could be done… to provide help.” Capt. (ret.) Chris Thompson-Lang speaks about what ANZAC Day means to him and other veterans.

Posted by The Project on Tuesday, 25 April 2017

 

I think we do a disservice to the memory of WW1 and WW2 veterans by continuing to send Australians to war and by not picking up Cpt Thompson-Langs insights.

Mick Attwill has been attending Tathra Anzac services for 25 years and in recent years has been called on to offer a reflection to the growing crowd. He doesn’t have a strong connection with the defence forces but is passionate about respecting their legacy.

In his Tathra addresses dating back to at least 2011, he has sought to give his audience a more modern context to consider.

“It is not any easy topic to discuss,” he says.

“The idea of promoting peace on Anzac day is a good idea, the problem is how do we as a community promote the idea, and still agree to having a defence force?”

I wonder does our focus on the distant stories of battles 100 years old cloud our ability to rise to the challenge of Mick’s question?

Local Mums and Dads with daughters and sons currently serving in Australia’s Navy, Air Force, Army, Border Force and Customs add to the need for a tweak to Anzac Day.

As do the local ex-servicemen who don’t attend Anzac services at the moment, uncomfortable with the growing nationalistic fervour and platitudes of the day.

The stark evidence presented in various health studies and statistics dealing with veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – more modern conflicts, adds further impetus for change.

According to the Federal Government’s Institute of Health and Welfare between 2001–2014, there were 292 certified suicide deaths among people who have served in the Australian Defence Force since 2001.

The Australian Vietnam Veterans Health Study, says of the 60,000 troops who went to Vietnam, 74.7% are classified as suffering from some form of health impact as a result – physical disability, health problems related to the chemical exposure and psychological trauma.

Studies of Australia’s Gulf War veterans tell the same story.

These people walk among us now and are clearly hurting, how can Anzac Day better meet their needs?

The veterans of WW1 and WW2 might be surprised to hear they still dominate the traditions of April 25.

These are men and women who it is said went to war to protect future generations, they had a real sense of looking after the now and the later.

The challenge to those who stand in respectful silence listening to the bugle sound is to take the memory of those people and turn it into an action for now.

From soldieron.org.au
From soldieron.org.au

Organisations like ‘Soldier On‘ are doing that and trying to give Anzac Day a 2017 perspective by encouraging people to donate money to support ‘our modern-day veterans and their families’.

During its first year in 2012, Soldier On assisted 200 veterans, in 2015, 500 veterans a month were being supported. The organisation is now positioning itself to help thousands more through an expanding network of Reintegration and Recovery Centres.

The stories and evidence of war compel us to encourage peace on Anzac Day and support veterans from all conflicts. How we do that is a rich and deep conversation to start.

And we have made a start – perhaps unknowingly when we say Lest We Forget. Lest meaning – with the intention of preventing something undesirable; to avoid the risk of.

 

Tathra Wharf recycled into a new future following monster seas

The sun rises on Tathra Wharf, photo from The Wharf Locavore
The sun rises on Tathra Wharf, photo from The Wharf Locavore

The record-breaking seas that slammed into the much loved Tathra Wharf in June 2016 have opened a new chapter in the history of this 150-year-old structure.

The timber that was salvaged from the wrecked sections of decking and pylons has been snapped up with a sense of reverence. A host of upcycled projects has been born spreading the affection for this Far South Coast icon.

Over the weekend of June 4 and 5 2016 waves of up to 17 meters high or more shattered timber and fixtures that had stood the test of time.

Protected from the more frequent rough weather of the south, the wharf was at the mercy of this north-easterly inspired weather event.

On the Monday morning that followed Bega Valley Shire Council confirmed that the timber ramp that leads from the roadway down to the old cargo platform had been lifted off its pylons by the monster seas.

A repair job estimated to be worth half a million dollars was launched, recognising the importance of this pinkish structure to the region’s tourist appeal and sense of identity.

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Any timber that could be repurposed at the wharf was, with poor decking in undamaged sections replaced with suitable timber from the damaged sections.

Some of the larger scale timbers salvaged remain in the Bega Valley Shire Council stockpile, ready for maintenance works on the 70 timber bridges that dot the shire.

The remaining timber was offered to the volunteers at the Tathra Wharf Museum.

Museum Secretary, Michelle Russell says the organisation has been able to sell some of the leftover timber as a fundraiser with some pieces seen as being sculpturally interesting.

“A lot of the timber has been sold to woodworkers,” she says.

Michelle has been surprised at the interest after first thinking the timber would be sold as firewood for winter.

“It’s a bit of history and that seems to be what people want,” she says.

Most of the load has been sold off, earning around $1500 for the museum. Some pieces have been kept as museum exhibits while others will end up keeping local homes warm during the months ahead.

Anthony Little, owner of Fat Tony’s Resturant on the hill above the wharf was one of those to snap up a chunk of Tathra Wharf.

“I remember climbing on the frame of the wharf as a kid and running down to see sharks pulled in by fisherman,” Ant says.

Three obscure hunks of rusted timber now sit in the front yard of Ant’s eatery, which was the former residence of the Tathra Harbourmaster; the last ship to take cargo from the wharf was the SS Cobargo in 1954.

“I’ll be putting up some display boards and mounting each piece properly to highlight the connection between this place [the harbourmaster’s residence] and the wharf,” Ant says.

Craftsman like Greg Wall and Peter Hull have given the salvaged timber a new use altogether.

“Some of this timber has seen 150 years of traffic, it’s too good for firewood,” Greg says.

The woodworker from Black Range has turned a mix old stringy bark, iron bark, and gray box into a mortise and tenon joint bookcase for the wharf museum.

“I wanted to construct the bookcase using the skills of the time, the skills of 150 years ago when the wharf was built,” Greg explains.

Tarraganda joiner, Peter Hull says it’s been a thrill working with such significant timber and turning it into vanity benchtops and mantle pieces.

“My clients have loved being able to share the story behind their new feature,” Peter says.

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Apart from using its stockpiled timber in bridge structures, Bega Valley Shire Council plans on using some of its Tathra Wharf stash to make street furniture and gateway signage at the northern, southern, and western entries to the shire.

Some of the turpentine has already found bums in need of a seat in the Merimbula CBD and on the very structure it came from.

On her sunny verandah in Jellat, Museum Secretary, Michelle Russell is just happy to have a few lumps of the wharf to sit pot plants on.

“I have a family connection, Daniel Gowing was one of the first people involved in constructing the wharf,” Michelle says.

“I would like to thank Council for giving us [the museum] the timber because it’s been a great fundraiser,” she says.

“We haven’t decided what we are doing with the money yet, but we have a few projects in mind.”

Click on each photo to get a bigger view…

Apart from the acute damage that resulted from the East Coast Low of June last year, further assessments uncovered defects in 22 of the wharf’s 78 pylons. More work is needed to secure the structure’s long-term future especially in the face of increasingly testy seas.

Bega Valley Shire Council and the NSW Government are considering their options.

“We figure it’s been there a long time and will continue there for a long time yet,” Michelle Russell says.

“Mostly because the community considers it to be so important, it’ll be there in another 150 years I am sure.”

For those who don’t have a piece of Tathra Wharf as their own yet, small chunks are available for purchase from the Tathra Wharf Museum, which is open 10am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.

 

 

Disclaimer – author is part time media officer for Bega Valley Shire Council.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The best summer ever” at Tathra Beach – Tony McCabe, lifeguard

Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach
Tony McCabe in the patrol room overlooking Tathra Beach

The final days of the 2016/17 summer on Tathra Beach have been some of the season’s best, perhaps ‘the best ever’ according to longtime lifeguard Tony McCabe.

The water temp through most of January and February sat at around 21-22 degrees.

“We’ve had the best water temperature I can remember in 25 years,” Tony says.

Tony struggles to remember just how many summers he’s seen on the clean sands of Tathra, but thinks it’s about 41.

“For a couple of years I was down at Aslings Beach, I’ve had a season at Main, and I’ve done a few up at Camel Rock, but Tathra is my favourite,” Tony says.

Tex Glover was the man that started Tony’s professional career on the beach.

“He use to actually sleep in the surf club, he’d get up in the morning, sometimes a bit late and as young guys we’d come and put the flags out for Tex,” Tony remembers.

“He was a bit of a legend down here at the time and I sort of hung out with Tex for a fair while and then took over the mantle from him.”

Tony believe’s Tex is still going strong and is fitter than ever living in Canberra.

When Tony did his first patrol at around the age of 18, the belt and reel were still being used to rescue swimmers from the surf.

“You had to be a very strong swimmer because a lot of times you were towing 150 – 200 metres of line behind you.

“Then the guys on the reel would have to pull you back in, the guys on the line had to be strong as well,” Tony explains.

Like old Tex Glover before him, at almost 60 Tony is now inspiring the next generation of lifeguards.

“I enjoy training other guards and keeping the standard up.

“I just like to see the young people coming through, they’re enthusiastic and I just hope I can implant a little bit of my wisdom into them,” Tony says.

Click play, Tony talks about his time on Tathra Beach and what to do with blue bottle stings…

 

While keeping the public safe is the thrust of the job, Tony and his young team this summer have also become tourism ambassadors pointing people towards good coffee and a feed.

“It’s a great beach where you can meet people and tell’em a little bit about the area,” Tony says.

“A lot of families come back here, they just book year after year.

“All the locals embrace the tourists that come down here, it’s a really friendly area,” Tony says.

That relaxed easy approach can also open up discussion around surf safety.

“With rips, if they (swimmers) don’t know, they come down to the beach, they have a look at the big waves, and they see the calmer water, and think we’ll stay away from the big waves and jump in the calmer waters,” Tony says.

Tathra Beach looking north.
Tathra Beach looking north.

Not realising that the calmer water is often the rip.

“We’ve had a fair few overseas people here this year and they have just had no idea, and they have really appreciated that we have pointed out where the rip is,” Tony says.

The laid back look and nature of the paid and volunteer lifeguards at Tathra masks the dramatic twists and turns their day can take at any time.

“Sometimes the days you think are going to be your calmest, you have issues,” Tony says.

Tragically this summer a rock fisherman from Canberra died after being swept off rocks to the south of Tathra beach at Kianinny. Being a Saturday volunteers were on duty and responded.

“We have had to hop in the rescue boat and shoot down to Games Bay down near Wallagoot, where someone walking with their wife and baby trod on a stingray and couldn’t go anywhere so we had to go down and assist them.”

Over the years Tony also recalls drownings at the Bega River mouth, rescues at Nelson’s Beach 8km north of Tathra Surf Lifesaving Club, boats that break down, injuries at the nearby skate bowl, and heart attacks at the bowling club across the road.

“Only on Friday we had a lady bring a baby in from Turingal Head who had been stung by a blue bottle, and someone said get down to Tathra, the lifeguards are on duty during February, and she was ecstatic that we were able to help,” Tony explains.

“It’s not just sitting looking at the water, it’s all those other things that happen while you are down here.”

One of the big talking points of summer 2016/17 was the shape and look of Tathra Beach following June’s East Coast Low.

The wide strip of golden sand in front of the surf club was sucked away, creating an amphitheater overlooking the red and yellow flags and reducing the space people could claim as their own.

“We were really worried when we first started patrol, at high tide there is very little beach in front of the surf club,” Tony says.

“We were worried people would move further up the beach (away from the flags) where there is more room.”

Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job
Tathra Beach lifeguards on the job

To Tony’s relief most people this year did the right thing and swum between the flags even though they were pushed further up the beach.

This bronzed, buff veteran is confident the beach will recover from being chewed up by the storms of June.

“It will come back, but it will be over a long period,” Tony says.

Generally Tony describes Tathra as a pretty safe beach.

“Down in the corner we normally have a reasonably sized sandbar, and even though we do get north-east winds that blows in a bit of a swell, we get a southerly change and the swell only lasts for maybe one of two days and it levels out,” Tony explains.

“As you get further round towards the Country Club or further up the beach it’s a lot more dangerous, down in the corner it’s usually pretty safe.”

With the days of summer starting to shorten, Tony is called south again to Melbourne and his regular job as a carpenter.

Born and bred not too far from the Bega Swimming Pool, Tony is already preparing for his 42nd Tathra summer.

“We’ll be back up at Easter, followed by the yearly lifeguard testing in December.

“You jump in the water, it’s sunny, it’s clear, you have a swim around, and you get out, the salt water, it’s a fantastic feeling,” Tony says.

 

 

Disclaimer: Author is currently contracted to Tathra Chamber of Commerce