Rallying for Mandurah’s Shores: Christin Smith’s Inspiring Journey to Protect Doddis Beach, Western Australia, from Coastal Erosion
How would you feel if you lived by a beach that was deteriorating and being eroded away? Would you stand by, or would you be like Christin Smith, a local resident in Mandurah Western Australia, who rallied her community to protect the iconic Doddis Beach before it disappeared beneath the waves?
Championing Local Causes
We all know that championing local causes can take courage and a substantial investment of time, but the result can be very rewarding. Change only happens when we act. This story, about a popular beach that was significantly deteriorating and being eroded, demonstrates how each one of us can make a meaningful impact on our local communities and the environment. No matter how big or small, these contributions collectively shape a better, more sustainable world.
Taking action can make all the difference in protecting and conserving a community asset whether that be a conservation area, flora and/or fauna. Without being proactive, we may sadly witness the rapid deterioration of areas and even lose their conservation value. Below, you will discover some straightforward steps that will empower you to make a meaningful difference.
Christin Smith and the Campaign to Protect Doddis Beach, Australia
Coastal erosion is increasingly becoming a global issue but at Doddis Beach, located in Mandurah Western Australia, the situation is exacerbated by local sand bypassing.
Following a spate of severe storms in August 2022, a large portion of coastline, stretching from Doddis to south of Blue Bay, was severely eroded. Many access points were washed away and made unsafe, and erosion observed under the beach carpark was equally disturbing.
The community was in despair, with many ringing and contacting the local council to express their concerns about safety issues and a loss of access to the beach.
Christin Smith, a nearby resident, with an educational background in earth sciences, sustainability, and community relations, started a petition on 22 October 2022 in response to this community concern.
Speaking on the subject, she said: “I had observed the widespread erosion to the beach and poor access following this major storm event, as well as erosion under the car park. I trusted that the City of Mandurah had it under control and watched on as multiple neighbors and local residents contacted the City.
When I received a text message from a neighbor desperate for action, I decided to step up and start a petition. At that time, I was unaware that other locals had been advocating for the beach for over a decade!”
The petition was supported by nearly 1200 residents and unanimously endorsed by City of Mandurah Council in January 2023. It called for urgent attention and repair of the access ways at Roberts Point, greater budget and staff priority for the care and management of this fragile dunal area, and an independent scientific review of the coastal care program.
Christin explains: “This significant community asset and one of the most popular beaches in Mandurah, was in decline and losing its appeal.”
In a Deputation to Mandurah Council in November 2022, the growing anxiety and concern of the local community about the erosion of the beach in the area was obvious.
Supporters were soon rallying behind the call: “Protect Doddis Beach”. One even designed an identifying logo for the group and supporters donned it as badges to demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
Christin says “In a Public Statement to Council in January 2023, we asked the Council to prioritize this area, provide regular communication and consultation with local residents, and actively engage with the community in the Coastal Hazard Risk Management and Adaptation Plan (CHRMAP), a WA State Government Planning process.”
In addition, the group requested an independent scientific review of the coastal care program to address the impact of the dredging/sand bypassing operation on the beach area. They also asked for an investigation into alternative ways to manage the Mandurah Channel opening that may have less environmental impact on the surrounding areas.
At a Council Meeting on 25 July 2023, the City of Mandurah approved the Mandurah Northern Beaches CHRMAP Action Plan and acknowledged the City officer’s response to the petition regarding concerns related to coastal management at Robert Point and Doddis Beach.
At the time of writing, work to address the petitioners’ concerns is continuing. The short term actions to repair the car park and reinstate beach access is underway.
The long term solutions will take some time, as the issues are complex. However, the action by local residents has raised community awareness and drawn attention to important local environmental concerns and issues. In addition, this action has resulted in a commitment by the City of Mandurah to work with the community to resolve these matters.
The EarthMAD Approach
By starting a community action, Christin Smith found (and could demonstrate) a groundswell of agreement that the beach was deteriorating. It all started with taking that first step.
Christin advocates an “EarthMAD” approach to life and explains “EarthMAD is an acronym for Everyone Acting Responsibly Today Helps Make a Difference. It’s a great motto to live by. We can all make a positive impact. Even a simple smile and kind words can mean a world of difference to someone.”
Simple Steps to Taking Action
Inspired to take action on a local issue or cause? It’s simple to get started.
Decide on a Cause
Firstly, take some time to look around and see if there are any local issues and causes that would benefit from your involvement. In deciding on a cause to be involved in, weigh up your interests and strengths and how these characteristics may align with the various causes and issues you see or are aware of.
For example, there may be a local environmental issue (such as the action to protect Robert Point and Doddis Beach) or one related to a group of people (for instance, accessibility for disabled persons to a public venue or place). Causes relating to animals are also popular (e.g. conservation of dolphins). Choose one cause that you identify with and be careful not to spread yourself too thin.
Connect with Others
Once you have identified the cause or issue, connect with others lobbying and working for the cause and educate yourself on the matter as much as possible. Consider joining groups either locally or online and attending related events.
You will be likely to find many active groups and events related to your cause by searching social media sites, such as Facebook and looking up the calendar of events on sites such as EventBrite and MeetUp.
Prepare and Plan your Action for a Cause
Thirdly, start preparing and planning your action for the cause. Think about your goals and resources. Consider who you will contact and collaborate with and how you will raise awareness about the issue. Also plan how you will meet challenges and overcome any obstacles that may be thrown in your path.
Review Progress on your Campaign
As you proceed with a campaign or effort, regularly review your progress. This can be done using feedback from those involved in, or impacted by, the action. Importantly, don’t get so busy that you forget to recognise supporters and volunteers for their efforts.
Celebrate Big and Small Wins
Lastly, take time to celebrate your milestones and achievements, no matter how small. Driving change takes time and effort and it’s important to recognise and celebrate wins along the way.
Positive Action to a Better World
This story is a reminder that collective grassroots action, no matter how small, by local communities, can lead to significant change. By acting today, we can all contribute to a better world for our children and future generations.
So over to you – what’s an issue or cause that you can become involved in or take action on to contribute to a better world?