The most romantic river in Melbourne?

The most romantic river in Melbourne?

17.12.2013 - Posted by Leonie Duncan

Uncle Larry Walsh reckons the Maribyrnong is the most romantic river in Melbourne.

Uncle Larry is a Taunwurrung elder and was one of four storytellers who shared river stories at the most recent Melbourne Conversations session, hosted by Melbourne City Council and entitled 'Water Stories – Past and Present'.

And he has plenty of stories to tell.

Larry began by sharing how, at 14, he took a job at the meatworks by the lower Maribyrnong. It was the 1960s and this part of the river was still used as drain for industrial waste. But it was further upstream, along the open grass plains that were full of birdlife come the spring floods, where Larry reckons the young fellas and lassies would go for their parties. He had also heard about the previous generation travelling up the river to Avondale Heights, where the river changes from freshwater to saltwater, for river-side dinner dances in the 1940s and 50s.

Later in life, Larry was working with a group of young indigenous people to revegetate part of the Maribyrnong River valley in association with Parks Victoria, at the former industrial site now known as Pipemakers Park. He recalls the young people asking him why he liked this degraded river so much. So he took them up upon the escarpments to see the view across the valley.

According to Larry, this view is at its best on a clear night in autumn when the moon is full and the mist rolls in: “One of the most romantic views you’ll see,” he says, “If you happen to have someone with you, they’ll get closer to you.” Larry says others would describe it as one of the most spiritual of views – the aboriginal inhabitants would have looked upon it in awe, reckons Larry, and said “This is what Bunjil created for us.”

I found it a real treat to hear from Uncle Larry, along with the three other storytellers, Tony Birch, Joy Murphy and Gary Presland. In my many years of capturing river stories (most recently on the Palm Tree Creek and Robinson Creek wetlands in the Fitzroy Basin), I have found it hard to find indigenous people willing to share stories from a personal perspective. This session was a great opportunity to hear a fascinating mix of personal, historic and dreamtime stories. For those who missed out, check out the podcasts for yourself at: Melbourne Conversations: Water Stories – Past and Present.

Uncle Larry Walsh (source Museum Victoria)