The Yarra River – ‘place of mists and shadows’ still important today

Yarra River at Warrandyte

The Yarra River, running 242 kilometres from Mt Baw Baw in the Yarra Ranges, through to Port Phillip Bay in the state’s south, represents the heart of the Melbourne Region.

The Wurundjeri tribe is part of the Kulin nation that occupied the lands around Port Phillip Bay for over 30,000 years. To the Wurundjeri, the Yarra River was a life-source that had been etched into the landscape by the ancestral creator spirit Bunjil - the wedge tailed eagle.

They called the river Birrarrung – ‘Place of Mists and Shadows,’ and it was the dreaming path they followed and camped beside.

A major source of food and water, the river was treated with great respect by the Wurundjeri who felt that they did not own the land, rather, they belonged to it. Eels and fish could be caught in the banks of the river and the Aboriginal people were careful to give the land an opportunity to rejuvenate, never taking more from the land than it could afford to give.

The Yarra River remains an icon in Melbourne. Today, you can find cyclists and joggers enjoying the paths that run along the Yarra, relishing in its picturesque setting. By night, boats and ferries take advantage of the river’s stillness, offering scenic river cruises through the city centre.

Caring for Victoria’s natural environment, including the Yarra River, is essential to ensuring our precious resources will be around long enough to be enjoyed by future generations.

You can learn more about the Yarra and its role in Victoria's history here.