Pillar 2 - Safety beach bay trail
Five thousand years ago or more
the Bunurong did fish this shore,
then blood-flows from an abattoir
suggest ‘Shark Bay’…
‘Baggamahjarrawah’ long before
the ‘Sheepwash’ way.
This ‘Jingle’ or six-line rhyme was written by Tom McCullough in 2015 to honour the first humans who lived on the shores of this large, shallow bay. Port Phillip Bay’s shorelines occasionally changed up until about five thousand years ago, when sea levels rose after the last Glacial Period and major earth movements like the Selwyn Fault became less severe.
Aboriginal tribes probably walked across the dry, ancient Yarra River valley until Port Phillip Bay’s ‘sunklands’ finally filled with salt water from the Bass Strait. The local Bunurong people would have picked Safety Beach to live because of permanent freshwater streams and rich hunting grounds. A stream flowed through a camping place that they called ‘Baggamahjarrawah’ and their way of life included fishing, hunting and gathering plants. The Bunurong people were displaced in the mid-1800s by European settlers who took over all grazing land south of the Mt Martha sheep station about one hundred and fifty years ago. Their sheep were ‘dipped’ in this creek to rid their wool of pests, and hence the name of Sheepwash Creek became commonly used by new settlers in this area, after the Bunurong lost their land in the Jamieson Special Survey.
In time an abattoir was built nearby to slaughter local farm animals for their meat. Blood and offal from early abattoir operations were dumped into the Sheepwash and Dunns Creeks, and carried by these creeks into Dromana Bay at Safety Beach.
Consequently, when lots of sharks were attracted here, people joked and called Safety Beach “Shark Bay” for some years. Eventually the abattoir’s operations were properly cleaned up by Health Department regulations, and Safety Beach never had its name changed from the original one ‘Safety Beach’ given by John Aitken in 1836 (see pillar Jingle No. 9).
Mornington Peninsula Shire funded these poetry pillars that were designed* by Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee Inc., in 2016 (*copyright T. McCullough).
There are 11 of these pillars with different ‘Jingles’ on each one. The pillars are spaced at intervals of about 200 metres apart, alongside the Bay Trail at Safety Beach foreshore. Marine Drive is parallel to the Bay Trail which runs from the south at Nepean Highway intersection, to the northern end at the Mt Martha cliffs (or Tassell’s Beach) opposite Bruce Road intersection, Martha Cove Marina’s channel entrance and S.B. Sailing Club building. Each Pillar has a red ‘port’ square or green ‘starboard’ triangle on it, similar to Channel Markers leading into an anchorage. They are meant to reflect our channel markers in Port Phillip Bay leading northward to Melbourne.
G. Patterson, Coastal Guide to nature and history Port Phillip Bay, p. 15, Coastal Guide Books, Victoria, 2013.
W. Calder, Mount Martha Lands and People, pp. 28,29 and 159, Jimaringle Publications, Victoria, 2008.
For further information or questions, please write to: The Secretary, Safety Beach Foreshore Landscape Committee, 65 Victoria Street, Safety Beach, Victoria, 3934.