Triumphs & Tears…Over 30 Years of Caring
Gecko’s history really began 10 years before Gecko was conceived when Lois Levy saw a tiny story in 1979 which horrified her. The State Government intended giving away the entire north bank of our beautiful Currumbin Estuary to Lend Lease to build a marina, shopping centre and condominiums. She became one of the main activists who rallied thousands of locals and finally won. The Tarrabora and Beree Badalla reserves exist today as a celebration of that win.
By then Lois was, as she admits, hooked as a committed environmentalist. In 1989, Friends of Currumbin Association sent her and Philip Follent to a 4-day workshop in Sydney on effective activism and there she learned about Environment Centres.
The activist workshop inspired us to call a meeting of existing community and conservation groups’ local branches – Australian Conservation Foundation, Wilderness Society, Groups Against Sewage Pollution, Wildlife Preservation Society, Friends of Currumbin and Gold Coast Protection League – and we formed a steering committee.
Six months later, on October 29, 1989, the Gold Coast Environment Centre became a reality, with its base at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. The member groups grew and so did general membership. Later, the name was changed to include the hinterland and it became Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Centre, then Council. “Gecko” (coined around 1995), as it is now affectionately called, has always been run by management committees of many dedicated people.
From 2002 to 2012, Gecko employed a manager and administrative officer to undertake the day-to-day running of the organisation. The Management Committee was free to frame the policy, but also worked hands with the many teams that make up Gecko’s organisation. Then, with the global financial downturn, funds tightened. We could no longer employ a full-time manager and assistant. It was the strong volunteer base of the organisation that ensured the high morale and commitment necessary to continue to implement Gecko’s policies, despite that setback. Today, the highly-motivated hands-on Management Committee, together with enthusiastic volunteers, provides an exceptional community service to the Gold Coast.
In 1991 Gecko moved from the main Sanctuary building to a shed that was enthusiastically rehabilitated by Gecko volunteers. There Gecko’s work thrived, despite the odd flood, until in 1995 it bought what’s now Gecko House from the Currumbin Country Women’s Association (CWA) with the help of a donation of half the modest price from then-GCCC Councillor, Peter Turner. So, from its start in 1924 as the second Currumbin State School, the building morphed into the home of Lions Club and CWA before it transitioned to the Gold Coast and Hinterland Environment Council headquarters.
Gecko outgrew the small school office and in 2001 it gained sufficient Centenary of Federation Funds to raise the building and construct the downstairs offices. Since then Gecko House has been lovingly cared for by its members and volunteers as grants and donations allowed it to be comfortably furnished and equipped for its expanding work. Upstairs the rental of the old hall and office earns Gecko some income. The hall, once a classroom, is appreciated by a wide variety of community groups and people who enjoy the ambience of pursuing their interests beside the beautiful Currumbin Creek.
In the grounds of Gecko House a native plant “learnscape” complete with native bees and frogs—for students and the general community—is a work in progress, but soon an interesting and attractive garden will frame the wonderful mural, painted by Indigenous artist Megan Cope, that graces the forecourt of Gecko House.
Gecko House is a community hub providing opportunity and service to community members who value the work of protecting and advocating for the Gold Coast’s exceptional natural environment and sustainable built environment.
Many volunteers have come and gone over the years, and many have stayed around for the long haul. Life often gives us windows of time which we can dedicate to helping our community. Some people may be between jobs, wanting to increase their skills, desiring to be of service, or just seeking companionship. The unifying factor is that they all hold a passion for protecting the environment. Whatever the reason or however long their available window of time is for, they are appreciated and their input has a great impact on fulfilling Gecko’s vision of “a vibrant Gold Coast community where people and animals, plants, water, air and earth all form a healthy, harmonious system.”
Currently, we enjoy our enthusiastic volunteer team of more than 100 people, who bring their unique talents and abilities to the huge amount of work in the many different areas of service to the Gold Coast community and its environment. We are only ever as good as our volunteers, and this stands as testimony to the talents and passions of those who have touched us.
There has been a lot of activity at Gecko since its inception. Apart from campaigning, we have also educated and entertained thousands of children in school settings, onsite experiences and school holiday programmes through GeckoEd. We operate Clean Up Australia Day, co-ordinate Gold Coast Green Week (built upon Green Day Out), and present Annual Environmental Awards. We also operate Bush Care groups to rejuvenate our native lands and of course, our successful Regen Australia company still continues its work with regeneration projects.
While we do all this, we are engaging with the community through many different mediums. We produce an incredible magazine for you to enjoy. We engage in social media through Facebook and Twitter. Monthly guest speaker nights are held where we showcase the incredible knowledge that exists on the Gold Coast.
Gecko is a large community organisation. We are owned by the community, serviced by the community, and service the community. We have learned to stay united in our vision to better the world in which we live and give freely in this endeavour.
The future will be sure to hold as many tears and triumphs as before. We have a very passionate and ever-changing team and I believe that we are well-prepared to face all challenges and celebrate all the joys which are yet to come our way.
The Eel, the Man and the Cave
(a dream story about Currumbin Rock-pools as told by Aunty Joyce Summers)
In the days of Dreaming, there lived a man who often
Went to the bank of a creek near his camp
On one occasion he went right into the water and
A large eel rose to the surface and swallowed the man.
For many day, he remained inside the body of the eel.
At length, the eel came to a cave under the water.
It entered the cave and laid down.
At once the man made his escape from the stomach
Of the eel. The man who was carried in the body of the eel
To the cave under water, has become the spirit of that cave,
And he still lives there up until this day.
On the eastern side of Gecko House a colourful mural tells an Aboriginal story of a man and an eel in Currumbin Creek. The mural was painted over 10 years ago by Aboriginal artist Megan Cope*, who wanted to illustrate a local story relevant to Gecko’s position on the bank of the Currumbin Creek. The story itself was told to Megan by Aunty Joyce Summers, a local elder and artist.
Over the years the original mural wore away from the impact of the many feet of Gecko members and visitors to Gecko House and its dilapidated state was a source of concern to members. Several months ago it was decided that something had to be done before this evocative artwork disappeared altogether.
Initially some young volunteers and Gecko members came along and started the process, but the detailed work was completed over a period of months by our fabulous House Care Coordinator, Lynne Hargreaves. She has done an amazing job and the mural is now a great asset to Gecko House as well as recognizing in some small way the legacy of the local Aboriginal people.
The paint for the restoration of the mural was generously donated by Rockcote who recognized the value of preserving this unique art work. Rockcote has been a generous supporter of Gecko over many years when the House has needed care and maintenance. They are also an inspiration to all in the manner in which the company itself lives the sustainable life.
Rockcote is a Queensland owned company who blazes a trail as an innovator of life-enhancing architectural coatings. Rockcote’s range of renders, textured coatings, zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints and clay plasters are designed to enhance architecture and provide healthy living spaces. Rockcote has always believed that sustainable business practices are good for the people within the company, the environment, the community and the profitability of the company.
Rockcote is also the proud developer of the Rockcote Design Centre in Nerang. This building was primarily created to showcase its range of architectural coatings. The result is a commercial industrial development designed and constructed with a passion for the environment and sustainability.
Rockcote is proud to be involved in the important community building, Gecko House. Rockcote’s zero VOC emission EcoStyle paint was used in a multitude of colours to create a mural that not only provides spectacular decoration to Gecko House, but also does no harm to the people and environment who are around to enjoy it.
To learn more about Rockcote’s range of zero VOC paint, EcoStyle, visit www.rockcote.com.au. To visit the Rockcote Design Centre, phone 07 5554 2100.
Megan Cope has continued her career as an artist and is now a lecturer at the Sunshine Coast University. Gecko will always be grateful to her for her contribution to the ambiance of Gecko House.
Gecko was established with a dual purpose: to advocate for the protection of the natural environment and to educate the community about the value of the unique and highly biodiverse environment of the Gold Coast’s coastal and hinterland regions.
And there’s so much more!
In addition to these major campaigns, Gecko is always vigilant against repeated commercial interest attempts which seek to exploit the Coast’s public open space, both conservation and recreational. We are ready to take up an issue, seek out the latest and most accurate information and bring it to the attention of the public plus make well-researched submissions to government. Gecko also supports important State and National campaigns and works in conjunction with Queensland Conservation Council and other regional conservation groups.
Here are some examples of this.
Powerlines, Koalas, Flying Foxes…Gecko worked with the community to defeat the construction of high voltage powerlines through Palm Beach and two other cableway proposals in the north of the city. We continue to work to protect the declining koala and flying fox populations, to get the shark nets removed to protect the annual whale migration and now endangered shark species, to stop a massive quarry in Tallebudgera Valley, to raise public and political awareness of the impending dangers of climate change, and to encourage sustainable town planning and building.
Planning and Development
One recent and very intensive campaign involved engaging the public in the consultation for the new draft City Plan 2015. This complex and powerful document required careful examination and dialogue with the community in order to highlight the impacts and make suggestions regarding changes and improvements that are needed. The result was a record number of submissions.
Gecko recognises that an active, informed community is essential to garner public appreciation and care for the environment. While there have been too many public events to list, here are some highlights.
- The annual World Environment Day celebration started as “The Do”, a one-day festival held in Winders Park next to Gecko House and later at Broadbeach. It was renamed “Green Day Out” and featured market stalls, music, food and fun, all with the theme of environmental protection and sustainable living. It has evolved into Green Week, showcasing the environmental activities of individuals, groups and enterprises across the City, culminating in a successful Wildlife Expo at a public venue. These have been eagerly attended by a broad sector of the public and Green Week has proven to be a winning formula.
- An ambitious Living City Festival and Expo was held some years ago to focus attention on sustainable building design and the interface between urban settlement and nature. Again Gecko called upon a band of dedicated volunteers to deliver a highly impressive and well-attended event.
- Informative Guest Speaker Nights have run for many years. This year, guest speakers have drawn big crowds at the new Currumbin RSL venue. The range and quality of speakers has made it a ‘must attend’ for many people.
- Youth Earth Symposiums: Gecko ran a number of these three-day events with field trips and workshops in the Numinbah Valley. Their aim, to help students hone their skills as environmental leaders, was obviously successful as many went on to study environment-related courses at university.
- The Journey Project: This five-day event took a group of 24 vulnerable young people on a journey from the head of Currumbin Valley to the river mouth, an initiative which also resulted in the book; From the Valley to the Alley.
Gecko has always worked collaboratively and indeed our campaigns could not have been won without others’ help. To foster this mutual community support, Gecko organised monthly meetings of the member groups which were great occasions for sharing ideas, policies and campaign strategies and just for encouraging each other and sharing a few laughs.
Later this morphed into the Environment Alliance and while it has not met for some time, our collaborative work continues. Recent examples of this joint work are the Save Our Spit campaign, Save Black Swan Lake, protection for flying foxes, lobbying against opera house yabby traps which trap platypus, and the campaign to rescue our national parks from recent ill-advised changes in legislation and allowed uses.
Working with local and state authorites
Gecko participated in the Environment Advisory Committee and the Building and Technical Services Committee set up by the Gold Coast City Council. They provided wonderful opportunities for dialogue and developing trusting working relationships with Council at the time.
Gecko also served on many temporary Council Committees, such as the Gold Coast Waterways Authority, The Settlement Committee, Greenheart, Springbrook Tourism, Gold Coast Harbour 2020 Vision and Light Rail. While this took preparation, time and energy it was worthwhile.
Gecko has also participated in Community Reference Groups formed as part of the approval process for projects referred to the State Government, such as the Tugun Bypass, the Energex high voltage powerlines between Reedy Creek and Tugun, various Airport Major Developments and the Regional Forest Agreements.
Where the community is invited to help shape government policies at both State and Federal level, Gecko has always been active in ensuring the need for effective environmental protection is clearly articulated.
IT'S NOT OVER YET
The environmental campaigner’s work will never be done especially with the continued growth of this city. Being a part of Gecko and campaigning is challenging, hard work, but exciting, intellectually stimulating and a great way to make lasting friendships as well as caring for this city and the planet.