Local restoration project protects at-risk Woppabura site
GREAT Keppel Island is usually a weekend getaway and escape from fast-paced lives, but for a group of 14 volunteers, their weekend was more of a working getaway.
The Coastcare restoration project came about through a collaboration between Bunnings and Landcare Australia and brought as many as 30 people together on the island to protect a historically and culturally significant site.
The volunteers, aged 18 to 28, came together from across the country to restore a 25-year-old board walk which provides protection for an at-risk Aboriginal midden site near Monkey Beach.
As well as working with the skilled DIY team from Bunnings to build the boardwalk, the volunteers spent time with the Woppabura Elders learning about the island's cultural heritage and the importance for caring for the local environment.
The team worked over Saturday and Sunday to restore the 120-metre boardwalk, and although they didn't finish it on the weekend it was still a huge success in the eyes of all those who were there.
Maree McGarrigle, a 27-year-old Parkhurst woman said she was very grateful for the experience.
"What I found amazing was the kindness and the community spirit, and to be honest it was quite overwhelming, but it was also a wonderful cultural experience as well," she said.
"Before this project, I didn't know how many organisations we had in the region that are trying to make a difference, which I think is really amazing."
Encouraged to join the project by a friend, Ms McGarrigle said she met some amazing people and learned some really valuable lessons.
"There were people from Sydney, Melbourne, Hervey Bay, so it was really amazing to see how far people came for a good cause," she said.
"At night it was incredible, we had this traditional smoking ceremony with the Woppaburra people and that was really touching.
"It was special because of the stories they had to share, they were wanting to share them with us, and it was just really lovely that they did that.
"Everyone was open and supportive. We had musicians there and they would start playing their ukeleles."
Humbled by the experience, Ms McGarrigle said she was blown away at how gracious and willing to help everyone was.
"It was an extremely enjoyable learning experience," she said.
"It was really great how thorough and patient the tradesmen were, and they were so willing to teach us.
"It was a really good environment."
While there was still a small section of the boardwalk to complete, Ms McGarrigle said there would be a small team of tradespeople heading back during the week at finish it off.