Words by Jessica Sellke, coordinator of Fraser Coast Intrepid Landcare
Recently I was lucky to volunteer on the best environmental project I’ve ever been able to support (thus far)! Volunteers and contributors travelled from all over Australia to help build a boardwalk to protect an Aboriginal midden on Woppaburra Country. Cassandra, Ashlee and I, from Fraser Coast Intrepid Landcare, were lucky to be invited to help, especially to visit some special places on Great Keppel Island in Central Queensland!
After an interesting night prior to the project commencing (a six-hour drive and not being able to get into our accommodation until 11:30 pm… the struggle was real but it was all in the spirit of adventure, right?!). After a rough barge ride over to the Island and a super quick lunch, we headed over to the midden. Here we were introduced to the entire build team, including Uncle Bob, a Woppaburra Elder, his son Rob, Shelly McArdle from Capricornia Catchments, Gen Yadaba, Bunnings, Landcare Australia, and Livingstone Shire Council.
We then jumped straight into the build with levelling sand and arranging sections of the boardwalk to create steps down to Monkey Beach. Later, I helped with the centre of the build, which required using drills and impact drivers. Safe to say I felt totally out of my element considering that I’d never used a power tool in my life! Thankfully the other volunteers already working on this section were incredibly helpful, and after a few goes at the drill I got the hang of everything and we finished our sections super quickly.
That night Uncle Bob involved us in a smoking ceremony, with Rob playing the didgeridoo, which was an incredibly humbling and beautiful experience to be a part of. It was also lovely to be able to talk with everyone and relax before a big day of trying to finish as much of the build as possible.
On Sunday, I helped with the Long Beach side of the build, and with everything, I’d learnt the day prior I was feeling more confident. By the afternoon I’d even learnt how to use the circular saw (this one felt like a massive accomplishment). The mini team we had created worked together really well and we were able to put almost all the remaining sections of boardwalk into place.
The weekend was an incredible success! Having never travelled to Great Keppel Island or used power tools I could not have picked a better firsthand experience to have. Getting to share this experience with two of my fellow Intrepids’ made the weekend even better.
We all felt like we had made friends for life and learnt so many valuable skills. In fact, most of our drive home was spent brainstorming ways we could run similar projects across the Fraser Coast region.
We are so thankful for all the people we got to meet over the weekend, and most importantly, I’d like to thank Shelly McArdle from Capricornia Catchments. Without Shelly, we wouldn’t have had the incredible team with many different people coming together from across Australia to help bring a long-awaited upgrade to the midden boardwalk.
The weekend adventure not only brought together an incredible group of people, but we also helped to protect many hundreds of years of memories for the Woppaburra people.
This project was a collaboration among Bunnings, Landcare Australia, Woppaburra Elders, Capricornia Catchments, Gen Yadaba and Livingstone Shire Council to facilitate a D.I.Y. environmental project on Great Keppel Island.