Latest news

Birrarung Council Appointed

Dear River Lover,

The Birrarung Council has been appointed. 

Yesterday, the government announced the appointments to the Council. The council is a new statutory body to provide advice to Government to ensure the ongoing protection of the river and deliver on key priorities under the Water for Victoria plan and the Yarra River Protection Act 2017. The council was created by this act. 

We are pleased that two of our own are a part of the Birrarung Council:  Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly, and board member Warwick Leeson. 

The board is led by chair Chris Chesterfield and other members are Allan Wandin, Ronald Jones, Margaret Gardiner, Bronwyn South, Prue Digby, Kirsten Bauer, Erin O’Donnell, and Alexandra Lee. 

One of the innovative and important components of the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murron) Act is that it gives Traditional Owners a permanent voice in the planning and management of the Yarra river. It is also the first act in Victorian history to be co-titled in Woi-wurrung.

Please see the Premier’s media release at

We wish the council the best in all its efforts. 

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Report commissioned from Ethos Urban now released

The Yarra Riverkeeper commissioned the report Protecting the Yarra River Corridor Through Better Planning from the highly regarded Ethos Urban group of urban planners. That report is how available here. The intention is to help the reader to better protect our Yarra corridor through advocating for better planning and to let people know what the issues are that Yarra Riverkeepers see as the critical for the future health of the Yarra. It is a good read and an excellent toolkit.

Protecting the Yarra River Through Better Planning Report by Ethos Urban 1

Ethos Urban report 1 Protecting the Yarra Corridor


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Microplastics Report 2018

Dear Riverkeeper members, colleagues, and supporters,

We wanted to update you about exciting news about the release of a report from the EcoCentre about a research project that was done in part with the Yarra Riverkeeper Association. We’ve attached the report to this letter.

On the 17 July 2018, the report was published by the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio MP.

This report – which is a part of our ‘Clean Bay Blueprint’ project – details the results of monthly microplastic trawls conducted by the EcoCentre and the Yarra Riverkeeper Association. The trawls have been running from January 2015 to October 2017.

Link to the report:

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Rowers Yarra River Clean-up – June 17th 2018

Rowers, join forces to clean-up the Yarra River in this inaugural ‘Rowers Yarra River Clean-up’ event. Join us at either Hawthorn or Power House Rowing Clubs for a morning where we give back to our precious Yarra River.

The sessions will kick off with brief presentations by Yarra Riverkeeper representatives (9:00 – 9:30am). We’ll then get our hands dirty along the banks of the Yarra (9:30-11:30). At Power House you’ll also have the opportunity to hop on a kayak, generously provided by Sea Kayak Australia (first come – first served), and clean the reed beds around Herring Island. The clean-ups will be followed by morning tea and a sausage sizzle, and drinks will be available at bar prices.

Bags, litter grabbers and some gloves will be provided on the day. Please BYO water bottle and gloves if you have them.

We look forward to seeing you there!



First Burnley Clean-up of 2018

The Yarra Riverkeeper Association is organizing a clean-up between the river and Burnley Harbour on Sunday 4 February from 10am to 12:30pm. We hope you can come along. Details and bookings: here. IMG_20171127_112150

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Yarra Bill passed unopposed!

Last Thursday afternoon was the Third Reading of the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murron) Bill. For those who do not appreciate the full complexities of the Parliamentary system (as I did not), after the third reading of the Bill, it is put to the vote. The bill was passed unopposed. I was present in the public gallery for the vote. The Bill requires a Yarra Strategy Plan to be commissioned (from Melbourne Water as the lead agency) and this plan begins with building a 5o year community vision for our river. The Bill is innovative and is a new way of thinking about the green places that thread through our city. Among its innovative features are that it includes traditional owner ‘caring for country’ management for our river in an urban context. The bill is the first in Australia to include ‘language’ and the preamble is in Wurundjeri. The Bill receives royal assent on 26 September 2017 and comes into effect on the 1 December 2017. The Act will consider the Yarra and its parklands as one single living entity and it will co-ordinate the work of government and government agencies along the river.

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Second Reading of the Yarra River Protection (Willip-gin Birrarung murrain) Bill

The Second Reading of the Yarra River Protection (Wilip-gin Birrarung Murron) Bill was introduce by the Minister for Planning, Richard Wynne, in the chamber of Victorian Legislative Assembly on Thursday 22 June. The Wurundjeri, the First Nation People of the Yarra and its catchment, were welcomed on to the floor of the Lower State House and spoke in Woi-wurrung as a prelude to the introduction of the Bill. They received a standing ovation from both sides of the Chamber. I was lucky enough to be present at this historic moment with my predecessor as Yarra Riverkeeper, Ian Penrose, the President of the Yarra Riverkeeper Association, Christopher Balmford, and board member Warwick Leeson (who managed to get a seat in the Speaker’s Gallery).

It is in the Second Reading that the details of the Bill is announced.

It is rare for non-elected people to be allowed onto the floor of the chamber, even rarer that they speak, and the standing ovation was contrary to the custom not to clap in the chamber. This was the first time that Woi-rwurrung (the language of the Wurrundjeri) was spoken on the floor of any chamber in the state legislature,

So, the Bill is now well and truly launched and we are expecting that it will be passed by the Upper House before the end of the year.

The Bill is important as it acknowledges the role of the traditional owners in ‘Caring for Country’ — in caring for the river and its parklands and riparian corridor as one living, integrated natural entity, and uses this lens to protect the river for all the people of the Yarra catchment and beyond. The health of the city of Melbourne depends on the health of its much-loved river and the parklands along its length. It is where people come to ride, row, paddle, sometime swim, run, walk, and reflect.

The Bill creates the requirement for a long-term vision for the Yarra in the form of a Yarra Strategy Plan, includes the community in the creation of that vision, requires that strategy plan to be revised every 10 years, and establishes the Birrarung (the Wurundjeri word for the Yarra) Council. The council is required to report to the Minister on the effectiveness of the plan. The Bill establishes the Greater Yarra Urban Parklands, acknowledging that the river is far more than the water in the channel. The Bill sets out a range of protection principles for the Yarra to which responsible public entities must have regard in doing in work relating to the river and its parklands.

This is innovative, landmark legislation that establishes principles for sustainability and river management and then gives those principles teeth though auditing and public reporting. It includes both First Peoples and the community in the management of the river.

Here is a link to the speech given by Aunty Alice Kolasa on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, yesterday:

Here is a link to the Explanatory Memorandum:

And here is a link to the Bill itself.

The Bill is the result to more than three years work by us (among many others). We sowed the seed with lobbying before the last election.

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