Petition. The Wise Women of the West love to share a yarn.
Many of their stories are set in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape or state reserves.
Formed by Eunice Atkins, Jocelyn Flint and Sue Popowski, the Wise Women of the West is an online group for locals and visitors to share their stories and experiences of those areas.
The Circular Head locals are seeking support to keep this land open to all, with a petition to be presented to the state parliament.
“We’re a voice for the whole community,” says Sue.
“We have no political [alliance], we have no monetary gains. We are just true blue women who are passionate about this area and we want it to remain open.”
The women recognise the history and culture of the traditional owners of the land, and hope stories of this connection to land can be shared.
“I love the wildness, the freedom of the place,” says Jocelyn.
“I look back as a child mustering cattle down there, the memories of being with my dad. You never knew what was going to happen next because of the wildness of the place.”
It encaptures all the senses, says Eunice.
“You close your eyes and you can hear the sea, you can taste it and feel the grittiness, the smell of saltiness in the air.”
It is an area where learning takes place, they say, where traditions both old and new can be passed on.
“You have to respect the land . . . read the land, read those rogue waves that can come from nowhere,” says Jocelyn.
“I teach my grandkids to listen, always look behind you and always listen.”
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The Wise Women of the West fear the land they love will be locked up.
To stop this, the women are speaking up and asking others to share their stories too.
“We are frightened we won’t speak up in time,” says Jocelyn.
“We’ve lost Mt Cameron; Kings Run has been bought. Slowly things are happening.”
Married almost four decades, with four sons and six grandchildren, Jocelyn’s family has been raised by the sea on the west coast.
“A huge part of all our lives is in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, a place we love with passion,” she says.
“As a photographer I have recorded the years gone by and hope to record many more years to come.”
An avid photographer, historian and conservationist, Eunice too has recorded the history of the area and observations throughout her life.
“As a child I, along with my siblings, used to travel the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area coast on the backs of utes to Dad’s favourite fishing spots,” she says.
“I’ve also helped muster cattle from south of Sandy Cape to south of Marrawah for many years.”
In 1972, she married the then-manager of the Temma Farm Tony where the couple raised their two children.
On January 1, 2005 the family gathered to scatter her father’s ashes near the Sandy Cape lighthouse, which he had helped to build in 1953.
These stories are a drop in the ocean of the memories Eunice has of this area. It is stories like this, that the Wise Women of the West want others to share on the Facebook page.
For the Popowskis, more than five generations have experienced life on the west coast in the shack built by Sue’s father-in-law back in 1952. Sue and husband Ashley later purchased the shack in 1980.
“Of course we have seen many changes since then: a bridge over the Arthur River, a gravel then sealed main road. What used to take three hours to get here now takes a bit less than an hour,” she says.
The Wise Women of the West have so far collected more than 1000 signatures to keep the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, Sundown Point and West Point State Reserves, and Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape open to all. Petitions are placed in businesses throughout Circular Head.
The group will be outside Woolworths in Smithton today (Thursday February 7) and on Thursday February 21 to collect signatures.
To find out more, check out the ‘WWW – Wise Women of the West’ group on Facebook.