‘We just want a fair go’ – is what everyone wants. A fair go in life, love and opportunity. Yet many are not given a fair go. Are not recognised. Are not valued. Are not acknowledged.
I couldn’t have felt the rawness and intimacy of community knowledge about the southern beaches of the Gold Coast any better (or empowering) than what I experienced the other day. I am at the stage of collecting community knowledge about Rainbow Bay for my Honours thesis, which aims to discover the value and use of community knowledge – experiences and memories – of the (a) beach.
Discover is quite the understatement for the process behind pealing-back the layers of community knowledge (e.g. what does that even mean and represent?) that is yet to be interpreted in my own youthful, passionate words.
Although the other day occurred as simple and organic as I imagined it to be. Under the shade of a Pandanus tree I listened to an awe-inspiring journey of community leaders who have laid a path (wave by wave; meeting by meeting; win by win) into what appears to most people as breathtaking coastal vistas to enjoy and experience for free, every day, every year. If I had to sum it up into one sentence I’d say it’d be a coastal legacy that has given a voice for the beach and its community and users.
In the context of coastal community engagement such a legacy starts with developing relationships, trust and respect to open a leveled-playing field for everyone to contribute and share ideas and knowledge. This can’t be achieved during abstract bite-size consultation processes or even under the florescence lights of council meeting rooms, halls and libraries especially when on one side of the table you have the engineers and scientists and on the other side you have the community. And there they debate about what is best for the beach.
Instead the journey occurs [must occur] over years of determination, persistence and commitment to the cause – qualities that all community leaders show. A community leader might be one of four at a meeting under the florescence lights but their experiences and memories of the beach speak the truth of community knowledge and validate historical accounts. And for some the journey began as a child discovering what the beach means and have experienced change longer than any scientific document might capture. Change that now exists in history and frames distinctions about when and why decisions were made only to bare the consequences of an engineered coastline with a ’25-story fence’ isn’t what the beach needs…
Yet, when decisions are made about the coast we tend to invest is enormous-expensive reports that make no sense to the community.
But if you really dig deep and question the alternatives to collecting community knowledge what would you say?
You see the journey of my thesis echoes the community desires as my journey starts with talking with the community, which they appreciate and acknowledge. Because I believe the value of community knowledge about the beach surpasses any scientific analysis on how sand moves and where it goes. And I am determined to break the cycle of the them-and-us approach.
Some might say I am passionate about beaches and coastal community engagement. I would say that I know the truth and determined to speak the truth.
Many thanks to those who are contributing to my thesis.