Mar 29

Crusaders of the Coast

As the autumn sun warmed the foreshore at Watsons Bay, Leonie, Katrina, Richard and Stu combed the sand for litter. It didn’t take long to start filling their bags – random pieces of washed-up plastic and absently discarded cigarette butts were aplenty – but the treasure was yet to be found. Tiny pieces of oddly shaped plastic, mostly, that would later be fashioned into art.

For many years, participants at Miroma had been visiting their local park and foreshore as part of their community access program. Concerned about the amount of rubbish to be found, they initiated a regular clean-up campaign – and Crusaders of the Coast was born.

Now a formal weekly program, the group has been going for three years. They’ve even caught the attention of Woollahra Council and were nominated for council’s Environmental Category Citizenship Award last year.

Michelle Rose, Environmental Education Officer at Woollahra Council, commented:

‘Crusaders of the Coast is increasing awareness of the impact of plastic on marine life and birds while improving inclusion for people living with disability.

‘Woollahra Council appreciates the dedicated efforts of this group as they reduce the amount of pollution in Sydney Harbour and support healthy marine life.’

Michelle has been very supportive of the group, giving an interactive session at The Gunyah on the effects of plastic pollution on the food chain, how it affects marine life and birds, and the importance of recycling. As Julian once commented to Stu, ‘We don’t want the animals in the sea to die, do we?’

And so, every week, the crusaders don sunscreen and hats, and walk down to Watsons Bay to clean up. They are known locally, and many people stop to say hello and see how the program is going. There is chatting and camaraderie, and an easy rapport within the group. ‘I like being with Stu and I like helping at the beach,’ says Richard, going straight to the heart of the matter.

The group now plans to use the collected materials to create an artwork that educates others on the effect plastic has on marine life. Larger dreams include expanding to become an environmental community group and a leader in environmental conservation in the Eastern suburbs. Watch this space.

As American Anthropologist Margaret Mead said, ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’

Crusaders of the Coast was officially launched at Miroma’s Autumn Festival on 9 April.

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