River of Mists

Wurundjeri people called the Yarra river “Birrarung” – ‘river of mists and shadows’. When in 1835 surveyor John Wedge asked local Aborigines the word for the cascading waters on the lower section of the river now called Dights Falls in Clifton Hill.  They replied ‘Yarro Yarro’ meaning ‘it flows.’ Misunderstanding, Wedge named the river “Yarra.” In contrast to today’s practice in which the river marks boundaries e.g. separating North Warrandyte from Warrandyte, for Wurundjeri the river marked the centre of their traditional Land.

For thousands of years the Wurundjeri nurtured and protected this Land and its Dreaming stories. In return Wurundjeri enjoyed the highest standards of living, health and wellbeing. The teeming wildfowl in the wetlands of Bulleen, continual harvests in the fish traps and freshwater mussel farms along the Yarra, and abundant game and bush tucker in the stringybark and manna gum forests supported a population of several hundred people in Manningham. It took only two hours work a day to feed a family, so the rest of the day was available for social, recreational, and cultural pursuits.

The Wurundjeri often hosted intertribal events that involved thousands of guests. The last of these, at Pound Bend, Warrandyte in 1852, included what proved to be the last inter-tribal game of Marngrook – pre-cursor to Aussie Rules Football, after which the government effectively drew the curtain on traditional life and relocated the tribe, ultimately to Coranderrk Mission in Healesville.

Reconciliation Manningham therefore sees a central part of our role as working with Aboriginal people and their organisations to promote awareness and share pride in our Australian Aboriginal heritage. This includes the local history and heritage we share with present day Wurundjeri people as well as the physical features and vistas of our Yarra Valley haven.

Sources: Jim Poulter, Historian, Author, Secy Reconciliation Manningham and