THE BEACH WAY OF LIFE
As a parent of three teenage children growing up in Wonga Beach, I am compelled to express an alternative perspective to the criticism and complaint colouring recent media articles regarding the shared use of the northern end of Wonga Beach.
Our daily quality of life is enjoying the beach in a multitude of ways.
A few years ago, we were regularly tubing, paddle-boarding and swimming in the shallows out the front of Wonga Beach, while the kids puttered around fishing and towing each other on the tube in an inflatable boat. Not so many years later, our use and enjoyment of the coastal beach is restricted to land-based pursuits. The geography and settlement of Wonga Beach lends itself perfectly to this shared use and activity.
The beach is long, relatively remote, with large and wide tidal flats and lagoons particularly at low tide, a beautiful vista north to the river mouth and east to Snapper Island, with a number of public and private access points providing a valued resource for recreational pursuits including fishing, crabbing, prawning, riding horses, motorbikes and quads, exploring, walking dogs, jogging, having a beach fire, building cubbies, and now, spying on unsuspecting visitors and neighbours with hidden cameras.
While, to some extent, motorbikes may represent an expression of youth freedom, I don’t think this is really the issue. Motorbikes and quads are simply the most evolutionarily efficient, effective and enjoyable tool kids and adults use to get to this location, and to enjoy its freedoms, in the same way as horses and bamboo rafts once were.
The inevitable actions of a few clowns, combined with the fear-mongering of local vigilantes, sees the issue of shared use of the beach arise every now and again. A couple of years ago, a wellchaired liaison meeting with the relevant authorities verified community understanding of the local laws for shared use of Wonga Beach. As a result of the meeting, adults and children continue to use and enjoy the beach as per their refreshed understanding of what they are permitted to do under the relevant local law.
Naturally, as our children grew older and more mature, we permitted them the freedom to extend their riding activities from circles in the backyard to visiting local private properties where they have the owners’ permission, and, over time, to the northern end of the beach. The mutual understanding of their privilege to use the area is that they show respect for both the landowners and their fellow users.
If anything happens on their ride at the beach, they needed to come home and report any incidents to us so that we have an accurate idea of what’s actually going on, and so that we can address any issues if required. We, and they, as growing teenagers, assume any risks of permitting them to ride, it is nobody else’s concern or responsibility. I’m under no delusion they are not always perfect kids, but I believe they are safe and respectful of fellow users, wildlife and the environment, and I am also very happy for them to be enjoying a unique quality of life.
The kids have been told to slow down, to ride away from, and to wave to people on the beach in acknowledgment of each other, as they ride past, particularly in the vicinity of Pinnacle Village, traditionally a hotbed of grievance.
With due respect to the vast majority of beach users, I have been astounded by the reported rudeness of some adults towards the kids, despite the kids being clearly friendly, acknowledging and respectful.
Some adults have stuck their fingers up at the kids as they are waving to them, yell at them, and now, feel very comfortable taking photos of them.
I’m afraid the current situation of encouraging witnesses to take photos of the kids is worsening this divide.
The kids wouldn’t dream of doing the same thing, and frankly are directed to protect themselves from such behaviour.
A child riding along the beach trying to be polite is not disrespectful nor offensive. This type of adult conduct is. As eye witness to one of these reported incidents of intimidating behaviour, I was shocked to closely observe the behaviour of BOTH adults involved, and this has certainly not been reported in previous articles.
I can only hope this explanation may help some Wonga Beach community
Beautiful Wonga Beach, southern end