In late July, the Act on Climate collective hit the road down the southwest coast of Victoria to chat with communities about their concerns when it comes to climate change impacts, and their hopes and visions for the area. Here's a report back on how it went...
Much of FoE’s work happens in regional communities. In 2023 we think it's time to be catching up with our allies in the regions, meet new friends and supporters, and build the profile of some of our key campaigns. So we are hosting a series of road trips to different parts of the state during the year.
The first one was a Mountain Roadtrip in March 2023 by the Forests Collective, which focused on north eastern Victoria.
The Act on Climate collective organised and executed the second one - a West Coast Roadtrip, which began on 17 July and ended on 24 July. We visited and held events in Torquay, Apollo Bay, Warrnambool and Portland, on Wadawurrung, Gadubanud and Gunditjmara Country, meeting up with local groups active in the area, as well as interested community members from all walks of life. We heard about and witnessed the coastal climate impacts these places are already experiencing, and the solutions that locals would like to see. Here is our diary from the trip.
July 17: Torquay & Surf Coast – Surfrider & FoE Meet-up
In Torquay, folks from Surfrider and Friends of the Earth met up to chat about local observations of climate impacts, concerns, and efforts towards climate solutions. We were hosted by 4 Pines X Boardriders Torquay and the event was held on Wadawurrung Country.
We talked climate impacts with the surfing and beach-going local community. The surfers' relationship with the ocean gives them deep insight into the changes occurring, of which the most commonly mentioned was accelerating erosion of coastal cliffs.
This crew are also currently fighting off a proposal for seismic blasting in the sea to test for offshore gas drilling potential. Many in the group were previously involved in years of staunch action in the Fight for the Bight campaign, and are fired up to knock this new offshore gas proposal over.
July 18: From Torquay to Apollo Bay – Coastal Impacts Tour
Act on Climate collective member, Kajeera, took us on a tour up the next section of coast on the way to Apollo Bay, showing us the changes they had noticed as a local surfer in the area. They pointed out erosion of many cliffs and showed us where cliffs had fallen, as well as revegetation and other adaptation works that had been done, such as seawalls.
July 18: Apollo Bay – Coastal Impacts Community Meet-up
The following afternoon we gathered at Marrar Woorn Neighbourhood House in Apollo Bay on Gadubanud Country, to talk about local climate impact concerns over tea, crumble and cake.
The community are actively working on local climate solutions, but shared concerns about the lack of government consultation and communication around adaptation planning.
The area is vulnerable to climate impacts and people are feeling anxious about them, as well as seismic blasting for gas, which the room strongly expressed opposition to.
Apollo Bay locals expressed their thirst for investment in long-term resilience to climate impacts, rather than the government only making resources available after climate disasters hit the area.
Local community groups doing great work that were represented at the event include Colac Otway Shire Climate Action Team, local citizens advocating for urgent action from government, Otway Climate Emergency Action Network (OCEAN), an informed and motivated Otways community taking bold and effective action for climate justice by protecting the coast and country from the threat of unsustainable development, and Southern Otways Sustainable (SOS), which is energising the community of Apollo Bay and Southern Otways on its path to 100% renewables by 2030, as well as the newly formed Voices of Apollo Bay, which hopes to amplify issues affecting the community.
July 21: Warrnambool – Secret Cinema Screening and Community Discussion
Friends of the Earth local Jemila kindly opened her house on Gunditjmara Country to us to host a screening of 'Power On': Friends of the Earth's new documentary produced by Ellen Burbidge about the story of the energy transformation from fossil fuels to renewables in Gippsland. It was a cosy evening with soup, mulled wine, and wide-spanning discussion about the climate impacts people are concerned about locally and the solutions they want to see.
Community members brought diverse perspectives to the room: we heard from people who have lived in the area for decades, newer arrivals, farmers, and people studying marine science at the local Deakin University campus. Coastal erosion, species decline, refugee farmers, inconsistent seasons, poorly planned new housing, increased bushfires, and floods, were mentioned by community members as top concerns.
People are keen for council to take the lead on climate mitigation and adaptation projects instead of waiting for upper tiers of government to act. As in the previous towns we had visited, there was strong concern about the proposed seismic blasting for offshore gas, and the harm it would cause to local whale and other marine species populations.
July 22: Portland – Screening of 'Power On' and Community Discussion
We held a screening of 'Power On' in Portland at the beautiful local arts centre, which is also on Gunditjmara Country. A passionate group of people gathered for this screening and a chat about local concerns and solutions.
A lack of consultation over local infrastructure projects was of concern, and spending money on saving infrastructure likely to be lost was questioned. The huge impacts of seismic blasting for gas were once again a clear concern, as we would well expect - it was many of these staunch community members that fought for years in the statewide Gasfield Free Vic campaign that eventually won a permanent ban on fracking for Victoria.
Locals want to see the council to take climate impacts into account in its planning, invest in making the aluminium smelter carbon free, and are excited about the idea of local community renewable energy generation, so that everyone can reap the benefits of the energy transformation.
July 23: Port Fairy – Seismic Blasting Protest
We joined a protest on the beach lead by Fight for the Bight Port Fairy to oppose seismic blasting for new offshore gas on Sunday. It was a stunning event which community members across the coast turned out for, with singing and beach art.
The impacts of the noise on marine ecosystems can kill zooplankton and immediately affect larger marine animals’ hearing and physiology. Plus, drilling for new fossil fuels in a climate crisis is cooked. It was heartening to stand in solidarity with the Southern Ocean Protection Embassy Collective (SOPEC) in protecting Gunditjmara sea country!
July 24: Bridgewater – Great Southwest Walk Erosion Control
We ended our trip with an excursion led by a Friends of the Great Southwest Walk (GSWW) volunteer to see and learn about a nature-based erosion control solution being used along the walk, which is celebrating 40 years this year since it was created (also by volunteers and school groups!).
After helping lay Coastal Wattle branches out over patches of bare soil to protect young plants as they grow and reduce topsoil loss, we spoke to the school group about organising around climate change locally in their community.
We loved hearing how many of the students in these school groups go on to volunteer in their own communities in some capacity. Community members working together and being tight-knit is key for adaptation and resilience.
That's a wrap on our West Coast roadtrip listening tour. Thank you to everyone that came along for a chat at the events! We learnt so much from all of your incredible local knowledge and will be turning this into action soon. Watch this space!