Rehabilitating the Birrarung for cultural, social and environmental benefit

December 08, 2023

The Birrarung Confluences Report draws upon the knowledge of Traditional Custodians to inform landscape architectural design and management strategies. The report proposes a re-framing of confluences as cultural heritage districts supporting sensitive Aboriginal values through Indigenous-led management and education. “Confluences embody rich ecological diversity, where sediments, nutrients, flora, and fauna converge,” Professor Felson said. Long term recommendations include initiatives such as reinstating cultural flows to billabongs, rehabilitating floodplains and exploring co-ownership models. Professor Felson said the report offered practical strategies to help the environment.

The Darebin Creek Trail. (Image: Gina Dahl).

A newly launched University of Melbourne report has proposed a series of progressive strategies aimed at acknowledging cultural heritage, fostering social capital and cohesion, and enhancing water quality and biodiversity along the Birrarung’s (Yarra's) confluences.

The Birrarung Confluences Report draws upon the knowledge of Traditional Custodians to inform landscape architectural design and management strategies. These initiatives seek to guide urban development and ecological regeneration to restore cultural identity, address environmental degradation and improve the resiliency of the Birrarung and adjacent floodplains to the impacts of climate change.

As a starting point, three confluences at the Darebin, Merri and Gardiners Creeks were identified for practical interventions. These interventions encompass initiatives including public space making, revegetation, storm water management and the establishment of cultural hubs.

Strategic partnerships with schools, golf clubs, community organizations, and homeowners in these areas aim to improve public access and amenities as well as ecological health and habitat connectivity.

The report proposes a re-framing of confluences as cultural heritage districts supporting sensitive Aboriginal values through Indigenous-led management and education.

Project lead Professor Alex Felson, Director of the Urban Ecology and Design Lab at the University of Melbourne, said confluences are recognised as significant sites for Traditional Custodians.

“Confluences embody rich ecological diversity, where sediments, nutrients, flora, and fauna converge,” Professor Felson said.

“They were also spaces for women to give birth and should be recognised as sensitive cultural areas.”

The report outlines strategies including the creation of ecological regeneration zones, replacement of invasive species with native flora, improved filtration systems and the implementation of water-sensitive urban design to manage rainwater run-off effectively.

Long term recommendations include initiatives such as reinstating cultural flows to billabongs, rehabilitating floodplains and exploring co-ownership models.

Professor Felson said the report offered practical strategies to help the environment.

“By creating simple, straightforward urban design and land management actions that people can understand, our report shows members of the community how they can get involved and help implement these strategies,” Professor Felson said.

“Ultimately, we would like everyone living in the catchment to be aware that they are part of a broader ecological system and be involved in a shared effort to manage the Birrarung and help to make meaningful improvements now and into the future.”

More about the report:

  • The concepts in the report were developed by the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning with funding and support from the Yarra River Keeper Association.
  • The project was spearheaded by Professor Felson, who is also the Elizabeth Murdoch Chair of Landscape Architecture, in collaboration with Jefa Greenaway and Kirstine Wallis,
  • The University of Melbourne team worked with three graduates from the Design with Country: Resilience Studio and through consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation Education Group.
The source of this news is from University of Melbourne

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