Beach, please!

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By Gregoire Molle

St Kilda now has a volunteer beach patrol, a civic triumph that will keep our beach nice and tidy. Graham Chappell and Terry Lobert spearheaded this initiative in St Kilda following the success of other beach patrols in Middle Park, Albert Park, and Port Melbourne.

Their best advices was, “keep it simple”, Graham Chappell told St Kilda News. At this stage, the St Kilda Beach Patrol gathers once a month, for one hour. This time can seem short, but it was enough for the volunteers to gather fifty kilograms of litter during their first meeting.

After travelling around the world, Graham wondered why our beaches are this dirty. Unlike many of us, he did something about it. Despite the fact that there are government bodies that are meant to take care of the cleanliness of St Kilda beaches. First of all, the City of Port Philipp, but also Melbourne Water, EPA Victoria, Sustainability Victoria, and the Department of Environment and Climate, to name only some of them.

However, despite their work, which Graham Chappell does not criticise, the public information campaign to keep the area clean has failed in making people truly conscious about the environment. Therefore, Graham explained, the first objective is to increase awareness about the need for clean beaches, not only for the people living there, but also for the numerous visitors to St Kilda.

Surprising volunteers

Among the thirty-six volunteers who showed up for the first event, was Martin Folley, a local state Member of Parliament. It was an unexpected surprise; he popped in during the first gathering of St Kilda BeachPatrol, and was “fantastic” according to Graham Chappell. “He literally jumped in the bushes to help clean the beach”. Martin Folley has previously been involved in climate issues, and has been critical about the way previous governments, both Labor and Liberal, have tackled the issue of the environment.

Graham Chappell was happily surprised by the very positive reaction of the volunteers; some of them even did not want to stop work after having spent one hour gathering rubbish on the beach. “Stop, and come enjoy a coffee”. After the effort comes the enjoyable part, which is a well-deserved coffee with all the crew at the Republica Café, who showed great interest and support in the volunteers’ project, Graham told St Kilda News.

Other restaurants and associations in St Kilda have shown “wonderful reactions”, said Graham. However, the St Kilda BeachPatrol wants, for the moment at least, to remain independent from all political and economic pressure. For this reason, they have not contacted any government officials. The St Kilda BeachPatrol is also attached to keep its economic independence, and has declined so far some commercial sponsorship proposals.

What’s next?

Graham Chappell got very positive reactions afterwards from the volunteers who took part in the first event, which let him think that many of them will show up for the next event, on the 3rd of March, which is Clean Up Australia Day. However, “St Kilda BeachPatrol needs more people if we want to do the job properly. I hope we will be a hundred by the end of the season, but really we would need to be around two hundred people”, Graham said.

There are some strong arguments to convince people to join his crew, a free T-shirt and a cap. They are purple, which is the trendy colour of the year. And after one hour of cleaning, it’s off to the Republica Café!

It seems that Graham Chappell and Terry Lobert have managed to project a positive and relaxed attitude into the program, which has made for a good atmosphere for the volunteers – and will surely translate into cleaner beaches for locals and visitors.

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