Altona marine ecologist, diver and educator Matthew McArthur speaks with Goya Dmytryshchak.
What’s your connection to Hobsons Bay?
I moved to Altona Meadows in late 2010 after 10 years away from Melbourne. We moved to Altona about three years ago. My wife works at the Altona Meadows Primary School and our two children attend Altona P-9 College. I started a science communication business here two years ago and kicked off the Altona Beach Patrol litter removal group with another highly motivated community contributor, Melinda Corry, a year and a half ago.
What do you like about Altona?
After three years in Canberra, it was a relief to be back on the coast. I’m teaching our children to snorkel at Jawbone [Marine Sanctuary], which is a suburban gem of a spot. Meandering to the beach on a hot afternoon is easy here, where in Canberra a beach trip is a major expedition.
I’m not much of a birder, but you can’t help but notice the diversity and density of bird life in the area … our home backs on to native grasslands, so I’m well served with insect and reptile wildlife encounters, too. For a biologist, Altona’s about as good a suburb as Melbourne has to offer.
What would you change?
Duplicate the railway line and double the services. With the limited roads in and out of our suburb, the rail line seems the only option for increasing the movement of people as housing density increases.
What’s your favourite local cafe or eatery and why?
The Pines. Nothing beats a feed of hot chips after a mid-winter dive. While I’ve only lived here a few years, I’ve been visiting Altona for a lot longer and I have vivid memories of a childhood meal on the foreshore as a storm rolled in. With the pine trees and she-oaks whipping in the wind and the sea rising as the dark clouds piled up, I filled my belly with excellent fried goodies. Still serving excellent fried foods, so it’s a mix of quality, nostalgia and warming up after diving that keeps my money flowing through their till.
You’re involved in the Hobsons Bay marine debris source reduction plan, initiated by Tangaroa Blue Foundation to reduce litter such as cigarette butts entering waterways and the sea.
With the ban on smoking in alfresco dining spaces coming in, we’re encouraging smokers to pick up one of the pocket ashtrays the Hobsons Bay council made available in cafes, or from one of our volunteers, so hopefully we won’t have butts that would formerly have gone in cafe ashtrays ending up in garden beds and gutters.
We’re also collecting empty tins from the various mint brands and upcycling them for the next batch of pocket ashtrays we’ll hand out when the council ones run out. So if anyone loves their mints, please drop your empties in the boxes you’ll see at the libraries and community centers. Butts that end up on the ground almost always wash into the bay.
Matthew McArthur will give a public presentation called “Help Save Sam Seadragon” from 10am on Saturday, August 5 at Altona’s Logan Reserve.