10 Years of Cleaning up Chili Beach!

In the final week of July, a very excited crew of volunteers and staff headed up to Chili Beach to conduct the annual clean-up… for the 10th year in a row! The Chili Beach clean-up has a great history of community working together in Caring for Country, and the seed was planted 10 years ago with a group of school children.

Lockhart River School kids back in 2011

In 2011, local man Greg Westcott coordinated a clean-up day with the students of Lockhart River State School and Cook Shire, QPWS and the Lockhart River Shire. This is the second year that he’d organised this successful event and Heidi, CEO of Tangaroa Blue Foundation, attended the event to provide support for data collection and work with the Lockhart River Ranger team.The following year, Tangaroa Blue supported a crazy idea to expand the clean-up to a five day event to clean the whole beach. With a team of 11 volunteers, QPWS Rangers and the students from Lockhart River School, the whole beach was cleaned for the first time! The only thing that was able to be fully counted was 4,700 thongs, which marked the beginning of the Golden Thong Award!

The start of the Golden Thong Award in 2012…

Over the next 10 years, the support from the community continued to grow with involvement every year from Lockhart locals, Biosecurity officers, Border Force Australia, Traditional Owners, QPWS and Kuuku Ya’u Rangers and of course many, many volunteers.

This year, as we arrived to set up camp we were greeted with an already large pile of debris which had been collected by Tangaroa Blue staff member Ian and his brother in law, who had arrived a week earlier to tackle the Southern end of the beach. 

Ian came to join the clean-up all the way from Gladstone!

On day one, the tides were in our favour to head down to the most dense area of the beach, south of the tree line. In these areas you’re picking up rubbish in the same metre for minutes on end wondering how you’re ever going to cover the whole beach! Despite the mammoth task ahead, the volunteers were all smiles on the first day of the clean-up, including Mr Happy, who was glad to be rescued from the ocean. A massive thanks to the travelers and Lockhart River locals who came to lend a hand in the dense Southern end of the bay as well. 

The Southern, most dense, area of Chili Beach is laden with plastics which are buried in pumice stone
Volunteer Lucy with Mr Happy, who was retrieved from the beach on day 1!

As the week progressed the data team had a great system going, fueled by good tunes and enthusiastic volunteers. Janice did an amazing job of counting hard plastic remnants, a task that very little people can do given the sheer and consistent number of them. Leslie was the Consumer Item Queen!

Leslie counts consumer items diligently

We were joined by Efren, from QPWS, as well as Cameron, Branden and Horton from the Kuuku Ya’u Aboriginal Corporation, which meant more hands on deck! Campers in the area also took a couple of bags each to the beach and loaded them up for us.

Volunteer Kat with Efren, QPWS Ranger and long time participant of the Chili Beach clean-up

At the end of the week the ever-enthusiastic kids from Lockhart State School joined us for a day, picking up the final bits of marine debris and bringing our total in at just over 3 tonnes. That’s a whopping 36 tonnes collected from Chili Beach in a decade!

Lockhart River State School students learn about the history of the clean-up and try and spot their friends and family in the photos from previous years

To celebrate 10 years of cleaning up together Tangaroa Blue gifted the community a storyboard, which will be displayed in the school, at the Kuuku Ya’u Aboriginal Corporation office and the art gallery in town. 

The Chili Beach story board which is being displayed in the Lockhart Community – thanks everyone!

Thank you so much to everyone for once again making this an awesome trip!! We’d also like to extend a massive thankyou to Aunty Lucy and Aunty Norma for taking the time to come out and visit us during a very difficult time in the community. We send our well wishes to Gary who has been an incredible supporter of this event over the years but could not make it this time, and look forward to coming together again next year to kick off the next decade of keeping this beautiful part of the country clean. 

We would like to acknowledge the Kuuku Ya’u people (including the Kungkay people and Kanthanampu people) as the Traditional Owners of Kutini-Payamu National Park, and pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Published by