Youth volunteers come together to protect Great Keppel Island in Coastcare restoration project
More than 14 volunteers aged 18 – 28 spent a memorable May weekend on Great Keppel Island, gaining D.I.Y. skills, learning about the Island’s cultural heritage and working together to restore an aged boardwalk for public use.
Actively supported by Bunnings, this Coastcare environmental restoration project involved collaboration with the local community including Capricornia Catchments, Livingstone Shire Council, the Woppaburra traditional owners and Gen Yadaba, a youth group dedicated to the preservation and conservation of land and resources in their area.
Providing young people with the opportunity to actively participate in a D.I.Y. project, through the construction of a raised boardwalk over an Aboriginal midden and protecting the Indigenous cultural heritage values of Great Keppel Island were the aims for this project.
The midden, which was at risk due to erosion, contains artefacts dating back over 300 years. The demolition of the dilapidated boardwalk prior to the weekend and the construction of the new 120 metre boardwalk were undertaken with great care to limit any disturbance. The new boardwalk is designed to protect the site for many years to come.
The old boardwalk was dilapidated and unsafe
The volunteers also spent time with Woppabura Elders, like Uncle Bob Muir, learning about the Island’s cultural heritage and the importance of caring for their local environment.
One volunteer related that although she lived nearby, she hadn’t been aware of the Island’s history and cultural significance. She said that now, she will share this knowledge to help increase awareness in the community about the importance of this site.
“I was involved with the build of the old boardwalk and now I’m back with my son who helped me then when he was a child. He’s now a carpenter. To have all these volunteers here is just like having my family here,” said Uncle Bob.
One of the male volunteers said: “I’d used a drill a little bit in the past, but with this project I used one a lot more, so that was new for me. And the hand saw was something I’d never used before, so learning how to use these has been cool.”
Uncle Bob Muir, a Woppaburra Elder and his son, Rob helped build the first boardwalk over 20 years ago and were back in May 2019, supporting the construction of the new boardwalk.
Bunnings’ Queensland State Operations Manager, Kent Payne, added, “The team is really proud to be part of a project that has genuine community and environmental outcomes. In addition, being able to share our D.I.Y. knowledge and skills with the volunteers that they can take away with them was a real pleasure. We look forward to continuing to work on similar future projects, as this has been a fantastic opportunity to empower young people with D.I.Y. skills whilst getting involved in their community.”
In late 2018, Shelly McArdle, Capricornia Catchments Project Officer, sent Landcare Australia a proposal seeking funding for this project. According to James Link, Landcare Australia’s head of partnerships, “We know that Bunnings has a commitment to supporting grass roots projects in local communities and to helping empower people with D.I.Y. skills, so we spoke with them about helping out with this project. This is our first project with Bunnings and it’s been a unique and successful one. The benefits for the local community and the environment can already easily be seen on the island.”
Volunteers and skilled workers construct the new boardwalk
Shelly says Capricornia Catchments and everyone involved are thrilled with the results, acknowledging that it would have not been possible to fund a large scale project like this, especially in such a remote location, without the generous support they received.
A female volunteer remarked that she’s made connections with other like-minded people. And although she lives near many of them, they’d only met because this project brought them together. She’s looking forward to returning home with a new group of friends who shared common interests about caring for the environment.
Volunteers and other participants proudly show-off their D.I.Y. restoration construction project—a new 120 meter raised boardwalk over an aboriginal midden located between Monkey and Long Beach on Great Keppel Island.