Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moonah stump: entrance to Churchill Island

For around 50,000 years, tribes of Aboriginal people have wandered throughout the chain of islands in Western Port Bay and Bass Strait, and have used their knowledge and keen observation of the natural environment to gather oysters and other shellfish, as well as yams and the sacred red ochre used in their storytelling, songs and dance. They also fished and gathered the eggs of sea birds, such as mutton birds.

Churchill Island was known by the Bunurong people as Moonah'mia, a name reflecting the Moonah trees that grow on the island. Moonahs are a type of melaleuca (Melaleuca lanceolata). They can live for three to 400 years and when fully grown have rugged, twisted trunks and branches, sculptured by wind and time.

At the entrance to the Churchill Island Visitor Centre and Pelicans on Churchill Cafe stands a sculpture suggestive of past Aboriginal life and legends, and also a huge and ancient Moonah stump. The building was completed in the year 2000 and is the creation of architect Gregory Burgess.

Designed to blend into the natural surroundings, the cafe provides light refreshments and meals, as well as space for special functions. Some of the timber used in the building originates from that used in the construction of the old bridge that formerly spanned the distance between Phillip Island and Churchill Island.

Outside the cafe a sign gives a list of the daily farm activities that can be enjoyed by visitors to the island. And of course there are 57 hectares to explore, including expansive gardens studded with trees such as young Norfolk Island pines. An experimental plot of lavender is just one of the farm's many sidelines.

Tomorrow I'll show you some of the other birds and animals that live on the island.

Apologies about the repetition of photos, and I didn't mean to include the Clydesdale today! My mind was elsewhere!!

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