Hear Our Voices – Women of the West Speak Out

Panel 6: Environment – There is always something to do protecting the environment

Natalie Gatt

When Natalie Gatt moved to Werribee,’Victoria’s Green Garden Bowl’, she was anticipating building a new house on a large block and enjoying fresh clean air. When she heard that there was a plan to develop a toxic dump in Werribee, she wanted more details and became involved in the campaign to prevent this happening. Werribee’s identity has been shaped by the development of its market gardens in the 1920s by the Italian settlers to the area. Their livelihood would be greatly affected by this development. Over an intense 3 year campaign, Natalie worked closely with other residents to educate the community of the west and finally of Victoria and Australia to understand the implications of the development. The campaign was successful. The actions taken by this group have encouraged people in other areas to work together to fight against developments that may impact on their local communities. This campaign showed that the voices of community members can make a difference.

It’ s now or never. I wanted to save my future. That was my turning point. I thought I might be sorry if I didn ‘t do it [express my opinion] …no matter how small it makes a difference. I have to do something with my energy. I wanted to be part of the decision making.

Pat Pettit

Pat has lived next door to the Maribyrnong River since 1954 and has been committed to improving the condition of the river for many years. Pat has been a major force in the work of the Maribyrnong Residents Association since moving to the area. She was involved in community actions preventing companies and groups from using the river as a sewer and drain. By 1986, it was apparent that another group to monitor the river valley and proposed developments was necessary. She therefore established the Friends of the Maribyrnong Valley which included representatives of five Councils. Pat is part of a team of dedicated residents working for change.

The objectives of the Friends of the Maribyrnong Valley have been:
to upgrade the river environment;
to improve public awareness about the Maribyrnong, especially in regard to its history, natural environment and utility;
to collaborate with local municipalities, authori ties, educational establishments and other environmental awareness groups;
to improve the condition and appreciation of the river and its surroundings;
to monitor applications for building permits near the river;
to foster public use of the river.

The major achievements of the Friends group have been
The publication of the book ‘Birds of the Maribyrnong Valley’
The production of an Education kit and video ‘The Other River’
The organisation of the Maribyrnong River Heritage Trail Signs
The development of the Maribyrnong Catchment Advisory Panel
On-going revegetation programmes and clean up river days.
We want people to develop pride in the river and valley and to behave in a responsible manner towards it.
‘Our latest project is to convince Parks Victoria for the necessity for works/maintenance to be implemented along the Maribyrnong River Tidal section of reed beds and rock beaching.’

Tammy Hunter (Capocchi)

Tammy until recently worked with the Koori Gardening Team which is a program initiated by Melbourne’s Living Museum of the West. The Koori Gardening Team works as a business enterprise providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with economic independence, the opportunities to train and obtain recognised qualifications; and assisting with employment opportunities. Tammy completed the final year of her horticulture apprenticeship in 1998. She is now forming a horticulture business Native Dreaming with another gardening colleague, Odetta Webb. This business is aimed at developing health products and bush foods using indigenous plants. Native Dreaming is committed to teaching others of the healing properties of Australian native plants and of the links and methods of cultural and horticultural Aboriginal heritage.

I’m a Koori and it doesn ‘t matter what colour my skin is. My Koori identity is very important to me as it is who I am and if you ‘ve got Aboriginal blood in you, you ‘ve just got the feeling inside.
The feeling just comes from the heart. You can always learn something every day and you can never know enough.

Tammy Capocchi. (Courtesy of Living Museum of the West)