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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackerel Beach

November 1, 2021

Newsletter for the Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia – Volume 22, Issue 1163

We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Custodians of Pittwater, as well as our indigenous readers


A community meeting in the old fire shed, 1984. Photo: June Lahm

Scotland Island Residents’ Association was founded in 1955 as the Scotland Island Progress Association, before judiciously abandoning ‘progress’ in the mid-1970s. Over the intervening 66 years, SIRA has been islanders’ representative body, lobbying first Warrangah Shire, then Pittwater and now Northern Beaches Council. What’s more, the Association has since its inception set up a fire brigade, managed an emergency water system, community vehicle and community hall, as well as organising numerous festivals and countless other projects.

As we approach SIRA’s AGM, this edition of the PON is dedicated to the many islanders who, over the last seven decades, dedicated time and energy to SIRA. I don’t suppose any of them pleased everyone all of the time. But they sacrificed time, energy, and sometimes popularity, doing what they they thought best for the island. For that they deserve our respect, and we salute them.


A Year in SIRA

SIRA’s Annual Report, 2020-21

Roy Baker

A SIRA committee meeting in progress
Left to right: CB Floyd, Colin Haskell, Juliet Wills, Brian Rodgers, Tim Turpin, Sue Armstrong, Robyn Iredale, Boyd Attewell. Photo: Shane O’Neill

‘Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in’.

Author uncertain

‘This has been a very difficult year’. With these words, SIRA President Colin Haskell opens the SIRA annual report for 2020-21. I doubt whether anyone trying to keep island community life afloat during this global pandemic would disagree. Numerous events have been planned, only to be cancelled or postponed. Rather than meet face to face, meetings have gone online, with all the technical and interpersonal difficulties that can engender. It is axiomatic that community flourishes through constant interplay, and when interactions become sporadic we start to rely on reserves of goodwill.

Above: the new pump installed at the top of Bells steps.
Below: a comparison between water bought and rainfall (Boyd Attewell)

Given the circumstances, it’s impressive how much SIRA has managed over the last twelve months. Among its principal achievements was a solution to a problem that has long dogged the island’s emergency water system. This has always relied on mains pressure, which has not always been enough to push water to the top of the island. Water would be delivered as barely a trickle: a 12-hour booking would scarcely start to fill a tank. At times the fire truck’s pumps were required to augment pressure, otherwise homes would have gone without water.  

Fortunately a solution has been found: a computer-controlled twin pump system above Bells, housed in an acoustic box to reduce noise. As a result, water pressure has been improved throughout the island. For instance, a house at the top of the island might expect six times the water for the same length of booking, while one further down might get double the water it would previously. In the words of Brian Rodgers, coordinator of SIRA’s Emergency Water Group, ‘2021 has seen the most significant upgrade to the water system in years’. Further improvements to the booking system are planned.

The annual report contains a timely reminder that the water line is not intended as the primary water supply for the island. It is an emergency back-up, and it’s important that we collect rainwater from our roofs wherever we can. That said, statistics compiled by Boyd Attewell suggest that water purchasing isn’t always a matter of choice. 2018, an exceptionally dry year, was accompanied by a spike in water buying. More water has been bought in 2021 than in 2016 or 2017, despite this being a wetter year. But the pandemic has meant more working from home.

In terms of SIRA achievements, special mention must also go to the Recreation Club, under the dynamic leadership of Robyn Iredale. It’s amazing how, among lockdowns, SIRA has managed to take over the running of the old kindy, create a successful café, provide residents with free dancing and table-tennis sessions, and lay on a major arts festival. And that’s all while (more or less) observing social distancing rules.

Above: the Two Catherines’ Café in operation.
Below: new surfacing on Richard Rd, completed May 2021

Meanwhile, regular SIRA activities have continued. Most of SIRA’s work is done by sub-committees, and a lot of their time is taken up with lobbying council on the mundane but important issues that challenge island life.

For instance, Sharon Kinnison leads the Roads, Drainage and Environment group, which has advocated (with considerable success) for better roads: one only has to admire the pristine stretches of asphalt on parts of Richard Road.

As a result of work by the Water and Wastewater group, led by Fabienne d’Hautefeuille, NSW minister Melinda Pavey has asked that Sydney Water study a feasibility study into providing the island with sewerage.

Alec Beckett, leader of the Wharves group, is starting to see the fruit of his labour, with the refurbishment and forthcoming extension of the wharves. And Marie Minslow’s focus has ranged from the ethereal to the sublunary. Thus as Vision leader she has tried to articulate values that unite us all, while in Waste Management she has sought solutions to the perennial problem of getting junk off the island.

Thanks go to these people, the members of the committees they lead, and the other groups and sub-committees not mentioned.

It goes without saying that we owe a debt of gratitude to the community heavyweights who power SIRA along: Colin Haskell as president, Sharon Kinnison as vice president, treasurer Tim Turpin and secretary Juliet Wills. But I want to put in a word for the many who make contributions that can go unnoticed, yet also help grease the wheels of community. I’m thinking of those who take on such tasks as designing and distributing posters, running the website, monitoring Facebook, taking photos, making the tea, baking cakes, washing up afterwards, calming frayed tempers and putting away the chairs. There are unsung heroes in the community who aren’t always part of the SIRA committee, and they too deserve praise.

To end, I think it’s worth stating a few points about SIRA which, though obvious, are often overlooked. First, SIRA will never please everyone. However much we share a broad vision for the island, we differ in our priorities and particularities.

Secondly, we have to trust the people we elect at the SIRA AGM. I don’t think we can insist that they endlessly consult the community on every little matter. When we choose our leaders we have some sense of what they stand for, and if we aren’t prepared to put up our hand for a position on the committee then sometimes we have to let those who do get on with the job.

Thirdly, SIRA is primarily a pressure group, not an authority. SIRA can lobby for change, but rarely do they have the means or power to implement it. If you are unhappy with the rules, fees and infrastructure that govern island life then don’t blame SIRA committee members: the chances are that the irritants of island life affect them too.

And finally, these are volunteers who give up their time and energy when they have other things to do. They don’t always get it right, but at least they are trying. For that we owe them a lot.

The outgoing SIRA Committee for 2020-21:
Colin Haskell – President
Sharon Kinnison – Vice President
Tim Turpin – Treasurer
Juliet Wills – Secretary
Shane O’Neill
Fabienne d’Hautefeuille
Carol Beth Floyd
Robyn Iredale
Boyd Attewell
Brian Rodgers
Sue Armstrong

The full annual report will be publicly available shortly.

SIRA AGM and Barbecue

Sunday, 14 November

AGM: Scotland Island Fire Station, 10 – 12 noon

Barbecue: Catherine Park, 12 – 2 pm

SIRA’s annual general meeting will be held on Sunday, November 14, 10 am to 12 pm.The meeting will be in the fire shed. At this stage, 20 people will be able to sit inside, but there will be more seating provided outside. An upcoming SIRA News will provide a Zoom link, should you prefer to attend that way.

After the AGM, you are invited to attend a gathering in the park (with appropriate social distancing) from 12 noon to 2 pm. Sausages (including vegetarian options), salads and rolls will be provided. BYO drinks, but the Two Catherines Café is also open that day, and will stay open until 1 pm.

Nominations for the committee: closing date November 7, 2021
Nominations for officers: President, Vice-Presidents (2), Secretary, and Treasurer, and for ordinary committee members (5-10) are invited.

Anyone who is a member of SIRA can nominate other members for the committee. If you are interested in a position, let someone know so they can nominate you! Nominations must be sent to the secretary (secretary@SIRA.org.au) at least seven days before the AGM: 7 November 2021. One person can hold up to two offices, except for both President and Vice-President.

Nominations must be in writing, signed by two members of the association and accompanied by the written consent of the candidate (which may be endorsed on the nomination form). Nomination forms can be downloaded here.


SIRA Photo Collection

Former islander Anita Bennett with part of a collection of island photos, displayed at the commemoration of the island’s bicentenary, 2010

SIRA is endeavouring to compile a collection of photographs of historical significance to Scotland Island. The goal is to have both a digitised and a physical collection, with the digitised images available for public browsing, while the physical collection will be kept securely in the Recreation Centre. The plan is for parts of the physical collection to be periodically or even permanently on public display.

The last time this exercise was undertaken was in 2010. At that point experienced curator Shar Jones, together with Jenny Cullen, helped compile a considerable collection, much of which was displayed as part of the festival that marked the bicentenary of the 1810 grant of Scotland Island to Andrew Thompson. After the exhibition was dismantled the collection of photos became somewhat dispersed around the island.    

SIRA’s hope is to recreate and even expand upon the 2010 collection. Several long-term residents, including Tom Gibbs, Dick & Margaret Hughes and June Lahm have already been most generous in providing photos in their possession. Much of the 2010 collection has been reassembled, but it is believed that some photos may still be missing.

If you have any photos that formed part of the 2010 collection, or know of their whereabouts, please let me know.

Alternatively, if you have any photos relating to Scotland Island that you think are of particular significance to the island’s story and would be of interest to the general community, I would appreciate hearing from you.

I can be reached by email on editor@scotlandisland.org.au.

Roy Baker


Fires on Cargo Beach

The remains of a fire on Cargo Beach. On occasion they are left burning and unattended overnight.

There is a long history of fires on the beach next to Cargo Wharf on the western side of Scotland Island. These have even been lit during total fire bans. Often fires have been left unattended overnight, along with discarded beer bottles and the like.

There is perhaps a perception that fires are permitted on public beaches. They are not. The Rural Fires Act makes it an offence, without lawful authority, to set a fire not only on someone else’s private land, but also on land that belongs to a public authority or the Crown. In other words, you are committing a criminal offence if you light an unauthorised fire on Cargo Beach, regardless of where the fire is situated in relation to the high water line. Breaches of the Act can attract fines of up to $132,000 and 5 years’ imprisonment.

Besides the legality of these fires, they pose a real danger to the island, given the overhanging Casuarinas at Cargo Beach. What’s more, the noise, smoke and detritus are a nuisance to local residents. Although it may be tempting to light a fire for the purposes of cooking or socialising, please don’t.



New Scotland Island Book Club

Would you like to be a Daytime Bookworm?

Evening book groups have been thriving for years on Scotland Island. Members share a love of the printed word or audio books, fact or fiction, discussing the work and what they liked or didn’t like. Now, with the Recreation Centre up and running, it occurred to us that it could be the venue for a new group that meets once a month during the day.

There are decisions to be made: which day, 11am start?,  ideas on the format, book selection (personal choice or discussion of a single title), will books be available for others to borrow etc?

The plan is to have a limit on numbers so everyone gets a go.

If you are interested in joining, please message us. Your input will be welcomed.

Jane Rich 0421 549 370 or Rosemary Haskell 0410 500 704.


The Two Catherines: Perspectives on Island History

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 6 November, 2 – 4 pm

Saturday 20 November, 2 – 4 pm

Catherine Benns Catherine Bouffier
Catherine Benns (1838 – 1920):
an Indigenous midwife and ‘Queen of Scotland Island’
Catherine Bouffier (1857 – 1940),
after whom Scotland Island’s Catherine Park is named

Scotland Island Recreation Club, under the stewardship of Robyn Iredale, is working towards creating a performance, due to be staged on the island late next year, focusing on the lives of Catherine Benns and Catherine Bouffier. Both women’s lives helped create the Scotland Island we know today, and are remembered in the name of the café held regularly in Catherine Park.

To kick-start the process, SIRA is presenting two talks on island and Pittwater history. Besides teaching offshore residents about local history, these will generate ideas that will help the playwright accurately reflect the past and character of Scotland Island. These events will include plenty of time for discussion, and will be offshore residents’ first opportunity to shape and participate in this exciting exercise in community co-creativity.

The first talk will focus on the area’s Indigenous history. Guests will include: Neil Evers, Chair of the Aboriginal Support Group – Manly Warringah Pittwater, and local historians Paul Griffiths and Craig Burton. Neil is the grandson of Catherine Benns’ nephew.

The second talk will examine the island’s European history, including how it came to be settled and subdivided. It will include contributions from islander and historian Craig Burton, plus Vivianne Byrnes, great-granddaughter of Catherine Bouffier.

Afternoon tea will be served at both events.

In order to be COVID-compliant, registration for these events is essential. Participants must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt). Please bring a mask and a phone to check in.
To register for the 6 November event, click here.
To register for the 20 November event, click here.


Table Tennis

Scotland Island Community Hall

Most Saturdays, 3 – 5 pm

With COVID restrictions lifting, table tennis sessions have recommenced. Groups meet most Saturdays.
Anyone over 12 is welcome, provided that those over 16 are fully vaccinated (unless exempt). Please bring a mask to wear indoors, although it may be removed during physical exercise.
If you would like to join a WhatsApp group for up-to-date information on sessions, please email editor@scotlandisland.org.au.


Caring for Catherine Park

Sunday 7 November, 9.30 – 12 noon

Everyone is welcome to come and help restore and regenerate habitat for our local fauna.
Bring gloves, hat and drink. Enjoy gentle exercise, meet someone new, ask questions of enthusiastic gardeners and take home a native plant. 

A perfect outing for the whole family.

Come any time, 9.30 – 12.00 to help put in baby plants.

Location: near emergency access gate to Catherine Park.

Covid-safe protocol will be followed, including check-in, 1.5m distancing and sanitizing.

Cheers, Sharon Kinnison


Scotland Island Café

Sunday 14 November, 10 – 1 pm (extended for SIRA’s AGM)

Sunday 28 November, 10 – 12 noon

Kids and double vaxxed adults are welcome!

The 28 November café will include stalls selling goods made by islanders. Get in early and do some Christmas shopping of hand-crafted gifts!
Further makers’ stalls will also be at our 5 and 12 December island cafés.


Expressive Landscape Painting Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Friday 19 November, 5 – 8 pm


Bird Prints Art Workshop

Scotland Island Recreation Centre

Saturday 20 November, 10 – 12 noon


Scotland Island Fire Brigade: Training

Sunday 21 November, 9 – 12 noon

Fully vaccinated brigade members are welcome to this training session at the fire station.

Please register your attendance using the SIRFB website.

COVID protocols will be observed, including the wearing of masks indoors.


International Folk Dancing

Scotland Island Community Hall

Saturday 27 November, 7 – 9 pm

Christmas party: please bring a plate and a bottle to share

NB:COVID protocols apply:

  • everyone aged 16 or older must be fully vaccinated (unless exempt)
  • Please bring a mask.


Book Launch: ‘Water Access Only’

Scotland Island Recreation Centre, Sunday 5 December



Young Musicians’ Concert

Scotland Island Community Hall

Sunday 5 December, 2- 4 pm

Family and friends are invited to enjoy music provided by local young and young-at-heart performers.
Come and watch your neighbours, and the children of your neighbours, show what they can do.
Please bring a plate to share.


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Pittwater Offshore Photo Gallery

Pittwater Offshore Photo Gallery

Updated June 2021

  • Festival of Making, April 2021

  • The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Scotland Island Residents Association (SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community Association (WPCA)

    Original Newsletter Design:Paul Purvis & Julian Muir

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