Port Amble (02/11)

Port Amble

Down the south-east coast of Australia is a long and winding road known as the Great Ocean Road. Stretching out from Melbourne for hundreds of kilometres, this road clings to the shoreline, and is the only connection between a series of small towns, fishing settlements that sprung up beside the picturesque beaches and have now evolved into locations of their own. Peppered among these towns and along the road itself, are landmarks and historical points both happy and sad. For every historically commemorated location, there is a monument to a bleaker moment in the past. Some are precise, on the spot where the tragedy occurred. Others are simply markers – the event did happen, but people are not clear as to just where. Port Amble has a liberal scattering of statues and plaques, all pointing to successes and achievements of its citizens.

The town likes people to believe they have a lot to celebrate, and nothing to mourn.

Previously a bustling hub of commerce, the Port once saw a lively fishing industry keep its waters busy, as trawlers came and went all hours of the day. Similarly, the train station served as the only mode of transport for the grain and other commodities farmed in the near fields. But times have changed, and these once vibrant industries are now a pale reflection of their former selves, as big business and changing climates have led to a decline in produce. Being the largest town in the region, the Port is still seen as a hub, but more of social activities: the only secondary school is Port Amble Secondary College, and the Port Amble train station is still the largest train facility in the area. But the people are leaving.

Some are simply packing and departing, many reasoning that they want to be closer to their other family members, or wanting to now live in a city. Others are simply disappearing, almost overnight. Such a change is being seen as the beginning of the end – the tell-tale sign that Port Amble will soon be nothing more than a quiet pit stop for those taking the Great Ocean Road.

And then, just as quietly, people are coming to the town. Sometimes they are old faces making a long overdue return. Others have never set foot in the town, but feel it’s somewhere they should be. Like sleepwalkers, they seem to be finding themselves in the town without an aim, or a goal, and so spend their time merely sightseeing.

For the most part, no one minds. The new arrivals aren’t doing any harm, and they are bringing in some much needed business, but not everyone is so happy to see them. For some members of Port Amble’s shrinking community the sudden departures, and just as sudden arrivals, are a signs of something else; a darker point in the Port’s history that has no monument, for fear of the ramifications such knowledge would bring.

The quiet seaside town of Port Amble has a past it has tried to forget.

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~ by nick on November 2, 2013.

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