Kingston Koorie Mob is a program coordinated through Parkdale Secondary College for Aboriginal youth in Kingston. The program highlights cultural identity, promotes goal setting, personal development and encourages educational outcomes. For the last six years Two Bays has had a Sea Country day for these students, supported by the Kingston Council and this year by Port Phillip Council. We travel to the nearest Marine Park from Beaumaris, in this case, Rickett's Point Marine Sanctuary and the young people get an opportunity to snorkel and swim, whilst also having cultural connections brought to life by Arweet Carolyn and Harry Breidahl share marine knowledge. Carolyn and Harry have been working together for at least 30 years and have developed an amazingly intricate shared platform, weaving traditional knowledge and science together.
This year the Koorie students wanted to invite a friend and the students together got to learn about both the cultural knowledge of the Bays and marine science .
The Two Bays program has been a very happy fit for guests to come on board and share knowledge of the Bays or projects they are working on. Simon Branigan from NC came on board to share the project to restore Port Phillip Bay's shellfish reefs. As part of the reef restoration project, native flat oysters raised at the Department of Environment and Primary Industries’ Queenscliff hatchery will be used to re-establish reefs in the Port Phillip Bay area. The first three reefs to be restored are at Geelong, Hobsons Bay and Chelsea. Before the influx of Europeans the Boonwurrung people would have had a huge bounty of shellfish (Blue Mussels and Flat oysters) to eat, which are recorded in the middens around the Bay. But the Europeans managed to completely destroy the reefs rich in food by over harvesting in ways that fatally affected the marine shellfish ecosystem. Nature Conservancy is interested in this ecosystem as shellfish reefs are one of the most threatened of marine habitats, with an estimated 85% lost from coastal areas globally.
Recent research into the shellfish reefs of Victoria indicates that 'the once vast mussel reefs of north and eastern Port Phillip Bay are all but gone, with remnant populations occurring on artificial structures and shallow rocky reefs.' and that the 'Blue mussel harvesting does not appear to have been important in colonial times, but appears to have increased with the arrival of eastern European immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s, along with the start of the scallop dredge fishery. ' 'Initially, oyster fishing was both an important source of carbonate shell for lime production (Pearson 1990) and of food for the colony (Hannan & Bennett 2010). Use of shell material for making lime was replaced by mined limestone by the mid-1800s in Victoria (Pearson 1990), but the colonial taste for oysters saw the oyster dredge fishery develop rapidly to supply the local trade. ‘Oyster Saloons’ became established in Melbourne and Geelong and vendors selling oysters were common in the streets of Melbourne, ' Quotes in the last paragraph come from The Forgotten Shellfish Reefs of Coastal Victoria: Documenting the Loss of a Marine Ecosystem Over 200 Years Since European Settlement by John R Ford and Paul Hamer.
The reef restoration project is of great interest to local First Nations people and also to those that are interested in the future health of the Bay. If, and it is still a big 'if', we can restore or recreate many more shellfish beds, we can not only restore a delicious seafood locally to our menus but we may also help with water quality in the bay, as shellfish are a natural purifyer of the waters they inhabit.
I learnt from one of the students who first came on board during their Year 7 and who is now in Year 11 that she is now inspired to do marine biology when she finishes school.
Thanks to Urban South Koolin Balit Project, Inner South Community Health for sponsoring the day.