In the fight to retain the unique recreational shack site of Wedge Island, West Australia, the tight-knit community are drawing on their social affiliation with the site in a bid to have the shacks protected under heritage law.
The secluded beach dwelling of Wedge Island was first formed as a getaway for local fisherman and farmers in the 1950’s. Built from recycled materials and scrap supplies, roughly 320 shacks have been cobbled together over the past 40 years, with a further 130 shacks up the coast at Grey.
The Wedge dwelling is now the largest shack site in the state and despite having been built illegally on crown land, the small community has operated independently from the Government for several decades.
There is a distinct sense of camaraderie among the shack owners, and the additional 15,000 people who holiday at the site throughout the year.
With their shacks under threat of removal, the community are arguing it is this strong bearing of social and cultural character that should have the site protected, or somewhat preserved under heritage law.
After a report lodged to the Western Australian Heritage Council was unsuccessful, the Wedge Island Progress Association (WIPA) has sought the help of the Western Australian Natural Trust (NTWA) in an attempt to have the site listed on the State Register of Heritage Places.
WIPA committee member Murray Knowles says that a series of community gatherings saw an outpouring of emotion and demonstrated the strong connectedness people can have to a place they hold dear.
“We were inundated with people sharing their old photographs, stories and memories. We had people in tears, some of which were big tough blokes, and families, just talking about the threat that it could all disappear.”
Photographs, poems, audio recordings, kids’ drawings and family history have been used as evidence in support of the strong cultural heritage at Wedge Island and Grey.
“There’s a whole history of hundreds and thousands of people represented in that dialogue and those artefacts,” Murray says.
A preliminary report from the NTWA is due in February 2012 which will then go through a drafting process before a final heritage assessment is completed.
Only takes a few years to feel strong affection for land and place. Wonder if this feeling-it-through might one day help understanding what country means to those who’ve been here a lot longer…