Australia Day was, and is, for many people, a day of moral struggles and contradictions.
It began for me, as co-recipient of a Bass Coast Award for a Community Event supporting families.
This unusual participation in the celebrations was the result and acknowledgement of a great deal of hard work by our group.
Immediately following this event, where the benefits and liberties of Australian life were celebrated, I participated in the protest walk along the beach in Inverloch, for dog-owners.
As the small group gathered, we realised there was confusion about the starting time and we lost some of our number.
However, an elderly lady stood beside me with her two old, docile dogs. She told me rather tearfully, that she had lived in Inverloch for 46 years and had regularly enjoyed the beach with each of her dogs.
They loved it and in recent years, served to get her out every afternoon. Now, being banned during the day, she was extremely distressed for herself and her animals; so she had made a huge effort to join the protest walk. Due to our delays, she sadly, eventually withdrew.
The breadth of the unfairness of the dog bans once more struck me, further reinforced by the plethora of diverse activities I observed, all condoned and permitted along the beach front.
To avoid disrupting yachts, we detoured from the yacht club, and then traversed the 12 or so fishing rods and fishermen enjoying their stretch of beach.
We passed the beach volley ball games – always good to see young people enjoying sports, and our small group completed our protest within 10 minutes, not disrupting the enjoyment of anyone.
However, a rather well-oiled, plump and red couple, baking in the hot sun, muttered “smartarses!” as we passed by and took our photos – presumably to send to the ‘authorities”.
It was unnerving to be harassed, but far less important than the welfare of our dog-owning community and our animals.
I then moved on to the FIDO (Friends of Inverloch Dog Owners) Forum in Inverloch where apparently a congregation of 45 or so people were expected.
It was quite amazing to see about 200 people cuing at the door of Inverloch Hub.
The forum was expertly conducted, without disrespect to any individual and always aiming for the middle ground.
I suspect that only the community is searching for the middle ground and that “under no circumstances will the council rescind their current decisions”. I hope that comment proves incorrect.
I would like the four councillors, who voted to change our daily lives so ruthlessly, to meet with the older members of our community and those of us who rely largely on dogs for company.
The people who don’t play volleyball, don’t yacht or fish, or even lie on the beach in the sun, but do have companion animals.
I would like the councillors to hear the extent of the impact of their preferences and decisions on the daily lives of people, the reduced sense of inclusion and powerlessness that is the result; their sorrow at having to deny their dogs a little pleasure and relief from the heat.
These laws are not an inconvenience to which we will adjust. They are far more far reaching than an inconvenience.
The current Bass Coast Health & Well-being Plan states that “The function of a council under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 is to seek to protect, improve and promote public health and wellbeing within the municipal district by:
Creating an environment which supports the health of members of the local community and strengthening the capacity of the community and individuals to achieve better health.
It also states: Our community feels connected, safe and strong by enabling our diverse communities to be strong and healthy; Providing opportunities for involvement in a range of lifestyle and learning activities for groups and individuals, and fostering wellness in a supportive, inclusive, healthy and active community.
It was apparent by her distress, that the elderly lady with whom I talked before the dog walk, no longer experiences a sense of her well-being promoted or protected, her lifestyle activities supported or her wellness fostered, in this new “inclusive” community.
I have to say, as a worker and carer denied beach access with my dog throughout the day every weekend, I feel similarly.
K. Chugg, Inverloch.