The East Perth Community Walking Club (EPCWC) has just three rules:
No Fancy Pants
And they have served us very well. The Club officially opened on Wednesday 14 July, 2019.
That's likely an overstatement as the launch consisted of a Facebook invitation a few days prior and the end result was me taking a wintry solo walk around the Claisebrook neighbourhood. I could hear my cheeky younger brother saying "Annie, Annie no friends!" At least it didn't rain.
Fast forward ten months and the story is quite different. A core group of thirty plus members participate in walking options six days a week. Long walks, morning walks to Elizabeth Quay, a ladies walk that finishes with pot luck dinner and the Wednesday and Saturday walks that still depart rain, hail or shine from Victoria Gardens. A Sunday morning departure from the Terrace Precinct from next week will round out the daily options.
There have been three key lessons in the establishment of the EPCWC:
1. Community is everywhere - Community development is an oft-used term that features in my own LinkedIn profile. However, my walking club experience has shown it to be misleading. Community is not something that can be developed against a strategic plan. It's always there; bubbling along like a warm flowing river under ice. It only takes two or three whacks with a collective pick to break through.
2. There is treasure in other tribes - There is a reason city folk find country people friendly. Outside metro speed limits, there is not the luxury of hanging with like-minded people. Or "People Like Us" as termed by London's self-appointed aristocracy in the 1980's. EPCWC members are an eclectic lot. We come from at least five countries, five Australian states and varied cultures and values systems.
We are plump, tall, skinny, short, strong and athletic. In most cases, before our walks, we'd have passed one another by in the local supermarket. But months of walking, talking and even arguing have uncovered so much. Life hardships, achievements, losses and the general fabulousness of people not quite like us. Yet now each is an important part of our personal tribe. The shared, rotating coffees at local cafes have further cemented our friendships and shared the economic benefit around the neighbourhood.
3. Common purpose is all powerful - Most effective and long-lasting community groups convene for a common purpose. It might be to protest against the development of a wetland, a shared concern about local crime or creation of a local event. Our club's success is evidence the fairly humble purpose of going for a walk can have enormous rewards through a shared experience.
We are all fitter, healthier and most of all, better connected to our East Perth community. Without being aware of it, each step established a wee connection to one another and our own country. The primary Club walk from Victoria Gardens, across Matagarup Bridge to Optus Stadium and back via Goongoonup (Windan) Bridge is a route to be shared with the world. That's a job to plan on our next walk.
By Anne-Maree Ferguson, Founder, East Perth Community Walking Club
*Images pre-date COVID-19 restrictions