Winner - Inspiring community engagement and education

(Community volunteer groups / individuals)

Beach Patrol 3280-3284

Warrnambool to Port Fairy

Beach Patrol 3280-3284 is a group of dedicated volunteers that operates from Warrnambool to Port Fairy on Victoria’s west coast, led by Colleen Hughson.  Their vision is a coastline and ocean that is free from plastic pollution.  Beach Patrol works to achieve this vision through volunteer clean-up of local beaches, working with industry and government to prevent marine pollution and educating and engaging the wider community.

Colleen's campaign to protect the marine environment from plastic pollution began in November 2017 following a large spill of plastic nurdles from the Warrnambool wastewater treatment plant onto local beaches. Colleen raised the alarm with local authorities and coordinated a large volunteer clean-up effort. Colleen engaged the Warnambool council and Wannon Water to gain assistance with the clean-up, lobbying authorities to have the incident investigated by the Environment Protection Authority. Her efforts resulted in the 2017 nurdle spill being declared as a Class 2 Emergency by State Government bringing much needed control, coordination and resources to the situation so that it could be dealt with efficiently and effectively through a multi-agency response. Following this event Colleen has continued to engage with the EPA and Wannon Water to report marine pollution incidents and bring about improvements to wastewater monitoring and treatment. These efforts have resulted in changes to EPA legislation (in relation to nurdles) and Wannon Water licence conditions.

Colleen continues to find new ways to engage with stakeholders and the wider community, such as:

  • using marine pollution in the creation of art pieces
  • development of online educational resources linked to national and international marine debris programs, .
  • school and community education presentations, encouraging and training students and volunteers to engage in weekly beach monitoring and clean-up activities.
  • social media pages Pick-Up Sticks, Beach Patrol 3280 and Good Will Nurdle Hunting

Beach Patrol 3280-384 has held 295 clean-up days, logged 2,575 volunteer hours and removed 650,000 plastic nurdles removed from the coast along with hundreds of kilograms of other plastic pollution such as plastic cotton bud stems. These impressive numbers continue to grow as Beach Patrol continues to work tirelessly for local beaches. Beyond the promotion and delivery of their clean-up activities, the impact of this group in raising awareness via a range of media forms of a problem most people did not know existed has been crucial to achieving change, and in inspiring the community and the next generations to consider and change their own behaviours in relation to waste.

Page last updated: 20/11/20