AMIDST the banners, mounted police and swirling dust, the personal stories of the Beeliar wetlands can easily get missed.
Frances Bennet has lived beside the Coolbellup bushland, off Malvolio Road, for over 50 years.
The 80-something raised 11 kids in her house — including two sets of twins — and they all played in the Cooby bushland when growing up.
Despite being on morphine for a heart condition, Ms Bennet still goes for her morning constitutional stroll, and was shocked to find a heavy police presence and contractors putting up fences around the bushland in preparation for the six-lane Roe 8 highway extension to be pushed through from the Kwinana Freeway to Stock Road.
“I feel like crying,” says Ms Bennet. “All my kids played in this bush growing up.”
“There was this elderly Aboriginal man who lived in a hut beside Bibra Lake and he would teach my kids about all the different animals and what to watch out for when swimming in the lake.
“He would go walkabout for a while, but he would always come back and be really nice to my family.”
Ms Bennet says with the mere trace of a Birmingham accent that she came over from England after WWII as a ten-pound pom.
And then she’s off, padding past the flashing lights and mounted police in her slippers.
Former Cockburn councillor Val Oliver, 85, has lived on Malvolio Road for 49 years and was issued with a move on notice by police yesterday.
Undeterred, she defied the order and went down to the site again this morning.
“The police had forgot all about it and didn’t say anything to me,” she said.
“When I was a bit younger I used to take my dogs walking in the bushland.
“The new highway will come within 35 metres of Malvolio Road.
“This area is predominantly older people, who don’t go online and were caught unawares about what was going on, and younger people who are renting and don’t really care.
“But I’ll be spreading the word and making sure the community is kept up to date and aware about what is going on.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK