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Day By The Bay Festival offers a stunning cultural experience along Victoria's coastline

Port Phillip Bay is a big part of life for many Melburnians. As the most densely populated catchment in Australia, there are about five million of us living along its coastline. We fish, swim, surf and boat on the bay, frequenting beaches from the eastern tip of Portsea, all the way around to Geelong.

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It’s an iconic part of our great state and the natural heart of our city, offering some sort of respite from the concrete jungle we’re otherwise confined to.

But the wonder of this environmental gem is often taken for granted, and as such, the health of the bay is declining. In order to protect and preserve the Port Phillip waterway, charity organisation Remember The Wild want us to understand why it’s so important. 

“Port Phillip Bay is a really special and unique place, there’s really nowhere else like it in Australia,” says the organisation’s Managing Director, Christopher McCormack. “People value it for a whole range of reasons, but our population’s growing pretty rapidly.

“Combine greater population – more people using the bay and drawing from bay – with more pressure and pollution being put on the bay, it means that even though it’s a special place and we love it so much, it’s sort of under threat, and we need to look after it.” 

McCormack and his team stand by their strong environmental ethos, focusing on fostering connections between people and the natural world. In the current digital age, rebuilding our relationship with the environment is as important as ever, and crucial for the longevity of areas like Port Phillip Bay. 

“You can talk about this connection to nature and this connection to Port Phillip Bay as a bit like if you see a stranger down the street,” McCormack explains. “You know that they’re a person, you know they’ve got hopes and dreams, but if you don’t know who they are, and you don’t get to know them, it’s going to be hard for you to really care about them.

“Basically, don’t let Port Phillip Bay be a stranger to you. Because, whether you know it or not, it’s an important part of your life, so you should work on that relationship.” 

In a bid to encourage people to do just this, McCormack and the team are throwing not one, but two parties in honour of the bay. Running for the first-time next year, the Day By The Bay festivals will be held in Mornington and Point Cook, giving locals a chance to come along and celebrate their stretch of coastline. 

As McCormack points out, parts of the Port Phillip shoreline such as the Mornington Peninsula, already garner quite a lot of attention from both locals and tourists, but other areas are more often overlooked. 

“If we just focused on one area of the bay, we’re going to miss out on a whole group of people,” says McCormack, of the decision to host two events. “That Eastern part of the bay gets a lot more attention, and for good reason, it is a gorgeous part of Port Phillip Bay, but you know, it’s a big bay.

“Looking at Mornington, that’s an esteemed, pristine, beautiful popular area, and I think a lot of people from the city would be keen to head down that way,” he continues. “Then, looking at the Wyndham area with Point Cook Coastal Reserve, it’s important that we focus on that top end of the bay, because it doesn’t get as much love.” 

The festivals, which will be held in February and March, will play host to a range of speakers, educating and empowering attendees on the issues that affect the bay, and what they can do as individuals to combat these. Of course, there’ll also be the usual festival fan-fare, with heaps of food vendors, entertainment and live music onsite. So far, they’ve only got headliners for each location lined up, but it’s already looking to be an impressive pair of events. 

“Mornington Peninsula will have the band Mildlife as their headliner, and Point Cook are very excited to be hosting Mojo Juju,” says McCormack, who also hopes to draw attention to Port Phillip’s Indigenous history. 

“A huge element of the festivals as well is not just about celebrating environment, but celebrating the cultural heritage of the bay,” he explains. “We’ll be working with Boon Wurrung [foundation] throughout this initiative and through the festival to make sure that we’re raising awareness for the cultural heritage, and promote the idea that humans have been living along Port Phillip Bay for thousands of years.” 

As with all festivals, the Day By The Bay events are designed to entertain, but there’s so much more to them than just a fun day out for the family. McCormack and the group at Remember The Wild want this to be a way for people to reconnect with the waterway, with each other and with the nature lover in themselves. 

“This festival I think, is our way of saying, ‘hey let’s just have a day, one day a year, or two days a year really, where we all stop, we come together as a community, we have a good time and we celebrate the fact that we’re connected to one another and we’re connected to the bay.’” 

Check out Day By The Bay's full lineup below:

Saturday February 23 (Mornington)

Mildlife

Baptism of Uzi

Empat Lima

Jess Ribeiro

Jaala

Ferla

Saturday March 23 (Point Cook)

Mojo Juju 

The Orbweavers

Jess Ribeiro

HEXDEBT

Leah Senior 

Way Dynamic

Day By The Bay festival goes down in Mornington on Saturday February 23, and in Point Cook on Saturday March 23. For more information, visit the festival website.