Warnindilyakwa singer, Emily Wurramara, took to the stage of Melbourne Capitol with the intimacy of a backyard gig but vocals that took the crowds breath away. Photo Leyton Bowen

PROTECT AUSTRALIA’S OCEAN: A FAMILY GATHERING TO THE TUNE OF WHALESONG

Last week Dave Rastovich and a group of ocean-loving friends travelled up the east coast for a series of events sending the message that we need to protect Australia’s oceans for good.

 

The events brought together films, conversation and live music in support of the goal to fully protect 30 per cent of Australia’s ocean by 2030 and prioritise First Nations stewardship of Sea Country. The focus of the campaign falls on the Coral Sea, which in 2013 saw the biggest single downgrade of a marine protected area anywhere in the world, an area three times the size of Victoria being handed back to the oil, gas and fishing industries.

 

The ‘Protect Our Oceans’ event series kicked off at Melbourne’s Capitol Theatre, with special guests Uncle Bunna Lawrie and Yaraan Couzens Bundle, featuring a keynote by Torres Strait climate justice campaigner Tish King, and headlined by Warnindilyakwa singer, Emily Wurramara, who grew up in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

 

The night featured a discussion between Dave, Yaraan and Uncle Bunna about whales, and the threat to them posed by seismic blasting from the oil and gas industry. Uncle Bunna recently led the Fight for The Bight, while Yaraan is currently leading the fight to protect the Southern Right Whale – koontapool – from gas industry expansion off her home on Gunditjmara Country in southwest Victoria.

 

Yaraan shared a song from the koontapool songlines, Gunditjmara country is their birthing waters. Her clapsticks echoed through the theatre – tum tumpa – Yaraan reminded us we share the same heartbeat. The audience listened as the room filled with humpback whalesong, which was then abruptly drowned out by recordings of seismic blasting. The contrast was brutal. Uncle Bunna then picked up his guitar and played two original tracks, written about his home coastline at the Head of the Bight. Through the tracks, Bunna mimicked the sound of humpback whales, which if you closed your eyes, sounded more like whalesong than whalesong itself. Uncle brought the magic.

 

The film highlight of the night was the world premiere of Lauren Hill and Andrew Buckley’s short film, Kin. Lying off the east coast of Australia is an island where marine protection has been implemented for decades. The place is a marine wonderland. Kin documents Lauren and her family visiting the island, and as Lauren puts it, “We got to see what happens when we get it right.”

 

The event series, hosted by Dave Rastovich, kicked off in Melbourne, then went to Sydney, Byron, Burleigh and Torquay. Kin meanwhile will be released in early 2024.

Dave Rastovich, barefoot, as comfortable as ever in his home venue, the Byron Community Theatre. Photo Matt Viesis

Uncle Bunna Lawrie (left) and Yaraan Cousens Bundle (right) shared stories and songlines of fights to protect Country – past and present. Photo Leyton Bowen

(Left) Dave Rastovich (Rasta), Belinda Baggs and Wayne Lynch – a conversation on the youth or yesteryear and the new generation of activism. Photo Matt Viesis (Right) Rasta, Dr. Simon Bradshaw from Climate Council and Belinda Baggs – an exploration of the state of the ocean and why we need to protect it. Photo Murray Fraser

While the reality of unicorns might be debatable, the reality of the ocean is not. No matter how you dice it – carbon, fish supplies, water – we need the ocean. Photo Leyton Bowen

Keynote speaker Tishiko King stepped up to the mic with energy and education: First Nations leadership and stewardship of Country is the way forward. Photo Matt Viesis

“We got to see what happens when we get it right,” said Lauren L. Hill as she introduced the magic of her latest film – KIN – a love letter to her family and the ocean. Photo Matt Viesis

Annie Ford from Surfrider and Belinda Baggs, co-founder of Surfers For Climate – a powerful conversation between two athletes and activists who know we need to protect what we love. Photo Cam Suttie

"My gut feeling is that the environment is changing. I think the worlds within can be revived with help," says Artist Atlantis Wade Lewis who brought the Patagonia Torquay Store to life. The mural captures the power and importance of the ocean.

The community is here – now we need to act. Find your local sea-roots organisation and get involved. Sign the petition. Spread the word. Photo Matt Viesis

Warnindilyakwa singer, Emily Wurramara, took to the stage of Melbourne Capitol with the intimacy of a backyard gig but vocals that took the crowds breath away. Photo Leyton Bowen

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